In this lesson we take a look at the use of the blues scale in improvisation. Example licks are provided with tab and audio.
Read on to find out how to play blues guitar licks in every fretboard position…
Blues Guitar Licks In Every Position
Most electric guitar players use blues scales in improvisation. Many rely on a few ‘go to’ guitar licks in one or two ‘safe’ fretboard positions.
This approach can lead to repetitive playing. If you only know one scale shape for each scale, then your hand will fall into the same old patterns for every solo you play. You’ll find yourself playing the same licks using the same scale shape.
One of the keys to effective improvisation is being able to access scales at any position on the guitar neck. This means, for example, not having to move to a new fretboard position in order to play a blues scale in a certain key.
There are no real short cuts to this: it simply requires putting in the time and learning multiple scale shapes.
In this lesson we’re going to concentrate on the blues scale. Five scale diagrams are provided, together with a blues lick drawn from each shape.
Study the scale shapes (paying particular attention to any you don’t already know), then play the licks. Learn where the root notes and blues notes are located in each scale shape, then try joining the scale shapes up to create longer licks and lines.
Blues Notes & Root Notes
The blues notes in a blues guitar scale are the flattened fifth notes. These ‘flat 5’ notes give the blues scale its distinctive sound.
The blues note of a C blues scale is highlighted in the tab below:
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Blues Scale Diagrams
The blues scale diagrams included in this lesson show how the blues scale can be played in different fretboard positions.
The red circles represent the root notes of the scale, the blue circles represent the blue notes / flat 5ths.
Play each scale up and down. If you don’t already know all of the shapes, learn one new shape and practice it thoroughly before learning the next one.
Pay particular attention to where the blue notes fall in each shape. Knowing where the blue notes are located is useful when improvising blues solos and composing new riffs.
You can find out more about blues scales here.
Blues Licks For Guitar In Each Position
Each of the following licks is in A. The number at the side of each scale diagram represents the fret at which the pattern should be played for an A blues scale.
Blues Guitar Lick 1
This blues guitar lick is based on blues scale shape 1.
Blues Guitar Lick 2
This blues guitar lick is based on blues scale shape 2.
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Blues Guitar Lick 3
This blues guitar lick is based on blues scale shape 3.
Blues Guitar Lick 4
This blues guitar lick is based on blues scale shape 4.
Blues Guitar Lick 5
This blues guitar lick is based on blues scale shape 5.
Once you have mastered the licks, try dropping them in to your own solos. You can also try altering the timing of the notes, joining the licks together or otherwise adapting them to create new licks.
We hope that you have enjoyed this lesson. Having a few guitar licks at your disposal is always a good idea, and being able to play scales all over the neck is extremely beneficial in improvising.
Learning where the blues notes are located in each scale shape will really help you to be able to play the licks that you hear in your head.
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