How the Blues Scale Is Made

Welcome to the seventh video of the Blues Guitar Quick-Start Series. In this lesson, we’ll be taking some time to dive into the theory of how the blues scale is made. If you don’t have any knowledge of music theory already that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to go through this lesson to continue through the blues series, so you can feel free to skip past it.

As we had talked about earlier in this lesson series, the blues is a hybrid between major and minor tonalities. Blues is kind of in its own world, so it’s important to understand why exactly this is. The way we’re going to do this is by building the blues scale from scratch so that we can get an idea of exactly how it’s made.

We’ll start by looking at the major scale. We can then take that major scale and turn it into a minor scale. From there, we can turn the minor scale into the minor pentatonic scale. Finally, we can add the flat 5 to our minor pentatonic scale and we’ll end up with our blues scale.

Let’s start with the major scale, which is where all of our chords and scales come from. We won’t get too far into the theory right now, but just know that the major scale is the starting point when building a blues scale. Since we’ve been in the key of E, we’ll begin by looking at the E major scale.

The E major scale is spelled E F# G# A B C# D#. To turn that scale into a minor scale we’ll need to change three notes. So we’re going to lower the third, sixth, and seventh notes by a half-step (one fret). This gives us the notes E F# G A B C D, which is the E minor scale.

Next, we’ll take our minor scale and remove two notes to turn it into a minor pentatonic scale. So we remove the second and sixth notes. That leaves us with the notes E G A B D, which is our E minor pentatonic scale.

The last step is to add the flat 5 and make an E minor blues scale. To find the flat 5 we find the 5th scale degree and lower that by a half step. In this key, the flat 5 is a Bb. So our blues scale will be spelled E G A Bb B D.

Don’t let all this theory overwhelm you. You may need to come back to this lesson down the road once you have a little more knowledge of music theory. In the next lesson, we’re going to get creative and learn how to choose your notes in the blues scale.