Guitar Lessons • The Blues Scale • Theory, Scale Shapes and Fingering, Tab, Chords, Video Lessons

Updated on August 20, 2018


The Blues scale adds a flat fifth to the Pentatonic scale. In the key of E minor, this note is a B flat. Rarely used as a note to resolve a phrase (ending a lick on the flat fifth results in a very dissonant sound), it's main use is that of a passing tone (moving into either the fifth: one fret higher, or the fourth: one fret lower). The Blues scale tends to have a meaner, darker sound than the Pentatonic. This scale is prevalent in all forms of music, not just blues, despite it's name.

Box Pattern #1

Just like the Pentatonic scale, the Blues scale Box Pattern #1 is the most played. Easy to execute and visualize, this position is the basis of many staple blues riffs and licks. Tunes that come to mind are: Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo (Rick Derringer and Johnny Winter), Walk This Way (Aerosmith), Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple), and Enter Sandman (Metallica). In fact, Metallica have utilized this scale throughout their career, taking it away from the blues genre and moving it into metal. Scale spelling in E minor Box Pattern #1 is: E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G.

Box Pattern #2

This position is harder to execute, due to the slight fret hand shift. I use the second finger to play the B flat and the B on the third string, in order to setup the second string with the first, third, and fourth finger. Also try fingering pattern: 2, 4, 1, 1, 4, 1, 4, 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, 2, 4, 4 (bottom to top, sixth string to first string). Scale spelling in E minor Box Pattern #2 is: G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat. Since this scale ends on the flat fifth, it is very easy to hear the dissonant sound.

Box Pattern #3

This is a little bit easier to execute than Box Pattern #2. The movement on the bottom three strings (E, A, and D), is very useful and easy to visualize. The same is true for the top two strings (B and E). Many solos contain the pattern on the top two strings, usually as a triplet sequence on the high E. Scale spelling in E minor Box Pattern #3 is: A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B.

Box Pattern #4

Pattern #4 in both the Blues scale and the Pentatonic, seem to be the hardest to remember. Students tend to have a hard time with this one. As in Pattern #2, it involves a slight shift with the fret hand. Also try fingering pattern: 1, 4, 1, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, 4, 4, 1, 4. Scale spelling in E minor Box Pattern #4 is: B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D.

Box Pattern #5

Pattern #5 also involves a fret hand shift to move back to the B on the fourth string. The five note pattern on the top two strings (B and E), is very common. Scale spelling in E minor Box Pattern #5 is: D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E, G, A, B flat, B, D, E. As in the Pentatonic, this pattern ends on the root E.

Sloe Gin
Sloe Gin
Voted by Guitar Player readers as 2007's Best Blues Guitarist, blues-rock guitar virtuoso, vocalist, and songwriter JOE BONAMASSA is set to release his seventh solo album, SLOE GIN, on August 21, 2007. Bonamassa's fourth release, the disc re-teams him with producer Kevin Shirley (Joe Satriani, Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Led Leppelin), who produced 2006's YOU & ME, which debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues Chart in June of last year.

Blues Scale Riff In Gm

This riff is actually based on three different Blues Scales. It starts off in Gm Blues, moves to Cm Blues at bar five, back to Gm Blues at bar seven, up to Dm Blues at bar nine, then back to Gm Blues at bar eleven. Even though it moves through the three scales, it would be described as being in Gm, or more commonly just G. This is a very common format for this type of riff.

Besides being a dynamite tune, the end solo is a fine example of the Gm Blues Scale in action.


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    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      8 years ago from Oshawa

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      8 years ago from Oshawa

      Hi Joe. Thanks very much for the compliment. Don't know how qualified I am to teach shredding. Many years ago, I got Luke and Tim from Protest The Hero started on guitar. They ran with it from there. I will check the archives and see if I can find anything. Guitar World put out a great article on How T Play Fast. I believe Jimmy Brown was the author. Very good primer. Here is the link:

      Also check out part 2. Hope this helps!!

    • profile image

      Joe D'Souza 

      8 years ago

      Great,Excellent Way to go. I would also like to know if you have anything on shredding exercises from basic to advanced.Please let me know.


    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      8 years ago from Oshawa

      Thanks very much, Xan. Pretty easy to do on a Mac. I am posting a hub on the combination scale. Please check it out if you get a chance!

    • profile image

      Xan Sillem 

      8 years ago

      Nice work on your videos

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      8 years ago from Oshawa

      Thanks lucy. I was in the pocket at that time. I could feel every note I played. Not every solo feels that way. Thanks again!!

    • lucybell21 profile image

      Bonny OBrien 

      8 years ago from Troy, N.Y.

      I enjoyed listening to your video. I played it twice.


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