Sounding Unique in the Blues (Part 1)

Sunday, August 1, 2010


If you’re tired of using the blues scale over dominant chords, there are other soloing choices that will help you stand out from the crowd. In this blog, I will discuss one of the first and simplest ways you can begin to branch out from the blues scale – the use of a modal scale. Let’s start with an E7, which is the first chord in a 12 bar blues in the key of E. The most commonly used scale for soloing is the E blues scale (Measure 1). To evoke a happier more upbeat sound, you can employ the E Mixolydian mode (1 2 3 5 6 b7), as demonstrated in Measure 2.

This scale works over E7 because it includes the most important notes that define E7 – the 1, 3, 5 and b7. The presence of the major 3rd in the scale is why it sounds happier than the blues scale, and the major 6th further contributes to it’s brightness. In contrast, the blues scale has a minor 3rd, G, and no major 6th, creating a sadder/bluesier feeling. Measures 3 and 4 above demonstrate how I improvise a line drawing from both scales. Practice using A mixolydian for A7 and B mixolydian for B7 when soloing over a 12 bar blues in E. You’ll notice that although your note choices have increased, you are still playing pretty much “inside” the harmony. In future blogs, I will introduce other scales and concepts you can employ to sound more “out” and adventurous. Do you want a song or solo transcribed / tabbed out for you? Contact me at for info - rates are competitive and delivery is quick!