How to Play Blues Scales on Guitar

Blues Scales Guitar

You may have come across the blues guitar scale in your guitar playing.

Or maybe you’re just looking to broaden your scale knowledge! Either way…

You’re going to learn how to play blues scales on guitar because they’re some of the most practical and commonly used scales in the guitar’s history!

Blues Guitar Scale Video Lesson

Playing the Blues Scale on Guitar

The blues guitar scale is often used in blues, country, rock, and even jazz guitar!

It is just like your regular minor pentatonic scale, but the blues scale has an extra note that is used to create tension in a song.

The Blues Scale Formula

The blues scale has six notes/intervals.

The blues scale formula is: 1 – b3 – 4 – b5 – 5 – b7

You can use this formula to make any blues scale. Just choose a root note for your 1, and follow the rest of the blues formula from there!

Notes in the Blues Scale (The Blues Note)

You’re going to be working with the A minor blues scale.

These are the 6 notes in the A minor blues scale:

A – C – D – D# – E – G

The Blues Note

The blues note is the flattened fifth in the blues scale. This is the note that gives the blues scale its name, and separates the scale from minor pentatonic.

The D# note is the blues note in the A minor blues scale.

A minor pentatonic compared to A Minor blues

With the exception of the b5 (D#), the A Minor Pentatonic scale has the same notes as the A Minor Blues scale. This is the same for any blues scale.

Here they are compared:

A Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 1
A Minor Pentatonic Scale (Has no Blues Note)
A Minor Blues Scale Position 1
A Minor Blues Scale (Has a Blues Note, the b5, indicated by the dark blue dots)

Side by side comparison:

A Minor Pentatonic Scale Positions PDF

If you don’t already know your A minor pentatonic scale positions, then here’s a PDF with the tabs for all 5 positions!

You’ll want to learn these before you learn the blues scale.

From there you can incorporate the blues note by learning where the b5 (the blues note) is in each shape.

Blues scale positions

These scale position diagrams will help you to understand the intervallic structure of the blues scale.

Make sure you know your 5 minor pentatonic scale positions first, as shown in the section above. Learning their positions will make the blues positions much easier to memorize.

Position 1

Position 1 is our root position. This is the most commonly used blues position.

The blues note, the b5, is indicated by the blue dot in all five of these positions.

A Minor Blues Scale Position 1

Position 2

Position 2 represents our major blues shape.

This scale is oftentimes started at the root note on the D string, and played without the Low E and A strings.

You’ll sometimes see this scale referred to as the D shaped blues position because of this.

A Minor Blues Scale Position 2

Position 3

Position 3 is the only position where you’ll see the blues note in 3 places.

It is also one of the easiest positions to memorize because the blues note is played in the same location on the Low E and High E Strings.

Because of this, you’ll just need to focus on remembering the blues note at the 13th fret of the D string.

A Minor Blues Scale Position 3

Position 4

Position 4 is actually quite similar to position 1.

Practice this position starting from the root note on the A string. This will help you to see the similarities between this position and position 1.

Once you’ve got it down at the A position you can start to incorporate the notes on the Low E string.

Note: Some blues charts may show the b5 being played on the high E string behind the 5th interval (the 11th fret high E in this case).

A Minor Blues Scale Position 4

Position 5

This is one of the easiest positions as a standalone minor pentatonic position, so you just need to memorize the positions of the 2 blues notes, and you’ll be good to go!

A Minor Blues Scale Position 5

Blues scale tabs and notation

These blues scale guitar tabs will make it easier for you to visualize and learn the scale shapes.

Practice playing them both ascending and descending.

Blues Scale Shape 1 Tab

Blues Scale Shape 2 Tab

Blues Scale Shape 3 Tab

Blues Scale Shape 4 Tab

Blues Scale Shape 5 Tab

Transposing the blues scale to new keys on guitar

Like any scale, you can transpose the blues scale, which means to move it to a new position/root note.

The interval structure will remain the same, but your notes will be different.

It’s really easy to do this! Practice by moving your whole first position shape down a half step. This will move you from the A Minor Blues scale to the Ab Minor Blues scale.

See? Wasn’t that easy?

How do you practice blues scales

While there are lots of ways to practice blues scales, I lay my two favorite ways below.

Learn blues licks

Practice blues scales by playing licks/phrases that use the scale!

Here are some of my favorite blues and rock guitar licks to get you started!

Practice them in different keys, This will give you a better understanding of the fretboard and the blues scale.

Practice to blues and rock backing tracks

Practicing to backing tracks is a surefire way to exercise your technique and apply your licks/scales.

Here’s an in-depth article about the benefits of backing tracks!

And here’s one of my favorite jam tracks.

The backing track is made by Quist. He makes awesome backing tracks.

A Minor Blues Guitar Backing Track

Blues Scales on Guitar Summary

Learn your minor pentatonic scale positions.

Start incorporating your blues note in those positions.

Practice the blues scale by learning blues licks, then playing them over backing tracks.

Lastly, remember to have fun with it! Write some music with the scale, jam with other musicians, and don’t make it too hard for yourself.