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Ed Smith

Secret Scales Of The Blues (part I): Major Pentatonic #2


Secret Scales of The Blues (Part I): Major Pentatonic #2

If you want to approach the sound of blues greats such as Freddie King, BB King or Eric Clapton you’ll need more than the trusted minor pentatonic (or blues) scale...

Most instructional material on the blues talks about combining the minor pentatonic and major pentatonic scales in some way. However, superimposing both pentatonic scales onto one another and playing through the hybrid scale in itself does not make a particularly bluesy sound (even with an added b5!).


Major Pentatonic and Minor Pentatonic scale formulae reminder:

Major Pent (in C):   1(C)         2(D)         3(E)        5(G)           6(A)                                                                                                 

Minor Pent (in C):   1(C)         b3(Eb)     4(F)        5(G)           b7(Bb)                                                                                                   

To make this combined approach work, each of the three chords in the blues sequence (I IV V) needs to be treated individually, since each contains different notes that aren’t part of any single shared scale.

A possible approach to the I chord follows:

In an ascending run starting from the root of the I chord (the tonic) the next logical step in the blues is to b3 (the next note of the minor pentatonic/blues scale). Rather than being drawn up to 4 of the same scale however, there seems to be a stronger pull to the 3 – a note contained within the I chord (It makes more sense to think of the b3 in this context as being a #2). It seems from this point that a transition has been made from minor to major pentatonic, with the 3 being followed most satisfactorily by the 5 and 6:


 Major Pent #2 (in C):   1(C)       #2(D#)      3(E)        5(G)        6(A)                                                                                                   

This scale works well in its ascending form but seems to break down when played descending. Reverting to the minor pentatonic appears favourable when descending.

Experiment using the major pentatonic #2 scale for ascending runs and reverting back to the minor pentatonic when descending. Don’t just take my word for it though; take a listen to ‘Love Her With a Feeling’ by Freddie King, ‘A Man and The Blues’ by Buddy Guy or ‘I Was a Fool’ by Elmore James to hear the Major Pentatonic #2 being used for real.


 Guitar-Ed (2013)



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