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Thread: Blues scale in major/minor keys

  1. #1
    Registered User netmuzik's Avatar
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    Blues scale in major/minor keys

    Is there no difference between the blues scale in a minor as opposed to a major key? Do they sound exactly the same, just over different chords?

    For instance, in C Major, the scale would be:

    C Eb F Gb G Bb

    What about c minor? Sorry, I only learned how to treat the blues scale in a major key setting and am unsure about minor keys.

    How is the scale typically treated in a minor key? For instance, in most music, the seventh scale degree of a minor key is raised, giving a major V instead of a minor v. In minor blues, is the v just left as is, or changed to a V and set against the blues scale (similar to what happens in a major key)?

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    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Hi Netmuzik,

    In the Jazzhandbook which you can find at http://www.jazzwise.com/catalog/arti...articles_id=10 there is a document about the blues scale. I think there is something in it about minor scales. I can't open it right now to check. Maybe there are some problems with the website or maybe it's just my internetconnection that doesn't work that well right now.

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    Piano/Compose/Arrange engelbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by netmuzik View Post
    Is there no difference between the blues scale in a minor as opposed to a major key? Do they sound exactly the same, just over different chords?

    For instance, in C Major, the scale would be:

    C Eb F Gb G Bb

    What about c minor? Sorry, I only learned how to treat the blues scale in a major key setting and am unsure about minor keys.

    How is the scale typically treated in a minor key? For instance, in most music, the seventh scale degree of a minor key is raised, giving a major V instead of a minor v. In minor blues, is the v just left as is, or changed to a V and set against the blues scale (similar to what happens in a major key)?
    Dan Greenblatt, my sax player, in his book The Blues Scales: Essential Tools for Jazz Improvisation, maintains that there are two blues scales: major and minor. They consist of exactly the same notes, but differ in their roots.

    The "standard" blues scale — 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7 — he calls a minor blues scale. As you cite above, in C this is C Eb F Gb G Bb.

    Now take the root a minor third up from C, Eb, and run the same notes — Eb F Gb G Bb C. This is a major blues scale.

    You can see also that the relationship of C to Eb is one of relative minor and major.

    In a major blues key, one can play both the major and the minor blues scales. In C, the major blues scale (which is the same as the minor blues scale of the relative minor of C, Am) is C D Eb E G A. The minor blues scale is, as stated above, C Eb F Gb G Bb.

    In a minor key, however, only the minor blues scale — the "standard" blues scale — will work. This is because the major blues scale contains a major third, which by definition doesn't exist in a minor scale.

    So the answer to your question is that your "standard" blues scale works in both major and minor blues.

    Now I hope Dan doesn't sue me for revealing what's in his book ...
    Jerry Engelbach, piano/arrange/compose
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    Quote Originally Posted by netmuzik View Post
    How is the scale typically treated in a minor key? For instance, in most music, the seventh scale degree of a minor key is raised, giving a major V instead of a minor v. In minor blues, is the v just left as is, or changed to a V and set against the blues scale (similar to what happens in a major key)?
    in measure 10, where the V7 chord is played, players sometimes use the notes that fit that chord. see, for example, dave liebman's solo on mr. p.c., where he plays a C# (third of the chord) and an F# (thirteenth) over the A7 chord (key of D minor):

    http://www.transcriptions-pool.de/suchen.php

    jerry--that info on "major" blues scale exists elsewhere (hal leonard essential elements play-along, for one). and of course, monk uses it (straight, no chaser--head).

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    Piano/Compose/Arrange engelbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randalljazz View Post
    in measure 10, where the V7 chord is played, players sometimes use the notes that fit that chord. see, for example, dave liebman's solo on mr. p.c., where he plays a C# (third of the chord) and an F# (thirteenth) over the A7 chord (key of D minor):

    http://www.transcriptions-pool.de/suchen.php

    jerry--that info on "major" blues scale exists elsewhere (hal leonard essential elements play-along, for one). and of course, monk uses it (straight, no chaser--head).
    Thanks, Randall.

    I may have implied that Dan invented the idea, which he didn't. I was doing a little promotion ...

    His book is an excellent, well-explained and documented source for the info. He analyzed what people play and set it down as a primer, citing many examples.

    Your point about the V chord I partly agree with. The important note in the V chord (A13), of course, is the (C#), the leading tone (in Dm) that's not in the blues scale (it's in the melodic and harmonic minor scales) but is imperative in emphasizing the dominant.

    But Dave Liebman's mastery notwithstanding, I would be wary about counseling anyone who's just learning to play a minor blues to use A13, as the 13 (F#) takes us, however briefly, into D major.

    Breaking my own dictum ... another departure from the blues scale in a minor (or major blues) is to play the II chord as an altered dominant. And naturally, there's the convention of ending a minor blues on a Im6, in which the 6 is also not in the blues scale. Powerful sound, IIalt-Valt-Im69. The chromaticism of the altered chords have the "hardness" of the minor blues, even though some of the notes are not in the minor key.

    But anyone struggling to just figure out how to use the blues scale should ignore that last point for now.

    My answer only concered netmuzik's question about whether the "standard" blues scale was appropriate to play in a minor blues. It was far from complete. As we know, you can play almost anything at some point or other in a minor blues. It's a form that invites chromaticism.

    Cheers,
    Jer
    Jerry Engelbach, piano/arrange/compose
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    Registered User netmuzik's Avatar
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    Actually, the reason I asked this question is because the blues scale has some similarity to the minor scale. I fiddled around with it in a minor key, but couldn't do much to evoke that blues sound. It sounded too similar to the ordinary minor scale, just with a couple scale steps removed and one altered one (contrast this with the blues scale over a major key--two steps removed and three altered--makes quite a difference). Part of what makes the blues so distinctive, from what I've been able to gather, is that the scale has a minor quality to it, but is often played over major chords. In minor keys, of course, neither the tonic nor the predominant (iio or iv) chords are major, only the dominant is, by standard, major through alteration. I suppose some of these could be altered as well, but whatever.

    It's interesting that there is a major blues scale. I don't come from that background and haven't read much into this subject yet. I'm not looking forward to learning how to use all the modes either, but maybe if someone could direct me to the most commonly used ones in jazz, I would be grateful.

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    Registered User netmuzik's Avatar
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    Actually, the reason I asked this question is because the blues scale has some similarity to the minor scale. I fiddled around with it in a minor key, but couldn't do much to evoke that blues sound. It sounded too similar to the ordinary minor scale, just with a couple scale steps removed and one altered one (contrast this with the blues scale over a major key--two steps removed and three altered--makes quite a difference). Part of what makes the blues so distinctive, from what I've been able to gather, is that the scale has a minor quality to it, but is often played over major chords. In minor keys, of course, neither the tonic nor the predominant (iio or iv) chords are major, only the dominant is, by standard, major through alteration. I suppose some of these could be altered as well, but whatever.

    It's interesting that there is a major blues scale. I don't come from that background and haven't read much into this subject yet. I'm not looking forward to learning how to use all the modes either, but maybe if someone could direct me to the most commonly used ones in jazz, I would be grateful.

    Additions:

    Jerry, I wouldn't put myself into the struggling category. I have a pretty decent understanding of music theory; I had the highest score in my high school music theory class. You really don't have to worry too much about going too far over my head. The V13 is actually fairly easy to find in the classical literature, for instance. It's use may differ in blues/jazz, but it's still the same chord. There are some things I may not understand yet, but I generally pick things up pretty quick.
    Last edited by netmuzik; October 31st, 2008 at 09:43 PM. Reason: additions

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    Quote Originally Posted by netmuzik View Post
    . I'm not looking forward to learning how to use all the modes either, but maybe if someone could direct me to the most commonly used ones in jazz, I would be grateful.

    http://www.outsideshore.com/primer/primer/

    http://www.petethomas.co.uk/jazz-modes.html

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    Piano/Compose/Arrange engelbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by netmuzik View Post
    Jerry, I wouldn't put myself into the struggling category. I have a pretty decent understanding of music theory; I had the highest score in my high school music theory class. You really don't have to worry too much about going too far over my head. The V13 is actually fairly easy to find in the classical literature, for instance. It's use may differ in blues/jazz, but it's still the same chord. There are some things I may not understand yet, but I generally pick things up pretty quick.
    Net,

    No offense intended. I didn't know where you were in your progress, so I said "anyone struggling." I figured that if you weren't struggling, you would understand what I had written, or I wouldn't have written it at all.

    I do strongly recommend the Dan Greenblatt book. It's not just for beginners; I picked up some good information from it.

    Cheers,
    Jer
    Jerry Engelbach, piano/arrange/compose
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    Given that I don't really want to play hard core blues music, and just to implement a bit of it into rock/pop soloing; which blues scales are the most essential the learn(assuming the most commonly played keys are A, C, D, G and E)???

    I learned the C minor(C Eb F Gb G Bb) blues and am familiar with this one. I actually thought it was the C major blues at the time, but now I realise that it's the equivalent of the Eb major blues! which mightn't be of much use.

    But given that blues is usually played in E, doesn't this mean that learning the E major blues scale would be the most useful... where one could transition from the E modal/pent scale to the E blues, all with E modal chord beneath????

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    Just some observations. Each modified and unmodded note should be considered from several angles. As it relates to each non modded tone chord or modded on, as it related to each of the chords, as it might be used in each of the chord for harmony changes, for chromatic usage in passing, neighbor, cambiata, appogiatural etc etc., modally, in altered chord... all the standard jazz functions iow...even other functions and I'm not just talking about functional or modified functional music.

    That's just some observations. They can offer wider ranges of expression but take familiarity and the combination end up creating a vast set of tools, esp at different volumes, registers, harmonies, orchestrations etc et etc tempi, rhythms etc etc... and it cost something to be free, your freedom can be a source of great restriction, habit.

    It's kinda like there is no Answer, just bunches and bunches of little answers because we rarely face the world in all it's complexity. ordinarily we are cosseted in a social matrix as in, "all the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players" but there is a vast world of experience which lies outside, as in " if the doors of perception were cleansed things would appear as they really are, infinite." There's a giant black hole in the centre of our galaxy which we can't see because it is surrounded by a vast cloud of millions of pulverized stars. At any second all the life in a galaxy can be annihilated if a quasar goes off, while we concern our selves with a our social dependencies. etc

  12. #12
    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Guys, ease down a bit. We can disagree without insulting each other. Let's go back to the topic, I'm eager to learn everything I can about the blues scales.

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    Registered User Zephyr's Avatar
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    Ah, it's wblakesx again. That's his style....
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    Do be do be do - Frank Sinatra

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    Piano/Compose/Arrange engelbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FoodSexMusic View Post
    Given that I don't really want to play hard core blues music, and just to implement a bit of it into rock/pop soloing; which blues scales are the most essential the learn(assuming the most commonly played keys are A, C, D, G and E)???

    I learned the C minor(C Eb F Gb G Bb) blues and am familiar with this one. I actually thought it was the C major blues at the time, but now I realise that it's the equivalent of the Eb major blues! which mightn't be of much use.

    But given that blues is usually played in E, doesn't this mean that learning the E major blues scale would be the most useful... where one could transition from the E modal/pent scale to the E blues, all with E modal chord beneath????
    FoodSexMusic,

    Actually, in jazz — and jazz blues — the most common keys are Bb, C, Eb, F, G, and Ab. The flat keys predominate because almost all the horns are C, Bb, or Eb instruments.

    But in E, the most obvious pitch collection for blues would be E G A Bb B D. Another is E F# G G# B C#.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "E modal chord."

    Cheers,
    Jer
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