Tip #46 – Adding the Minor Blues Scale

Say you have a cool harmonic progression and what a “bluesy-sounding” melody. Where do you start? Do you go right to bending certain pitches to create “blue notes;” do you use stock licks from your favorite artists that emulated a blues style; do you throw in flattened scale degrees…?

Today we are going to talk about achieving the “blues” sound over a harmonic progression by using the minor blues scale in the melody.

First of all, the minor blues scale is made up of the following scale degrees:

| 1 – b3 – 4 – #4 – 5 – b7 – 1 |

Next, the root is based on the key of the chord progression, NOT the chord itself. In the example below, while the key signature is not defined, one can assume that based on the harmonic progression that the composition is in the key of A Major. Knowing that, a person should use the A minor blues scale over each of the chords.

This may look weird on paper, having a flatted-3rd over a major/dominant chord figure – but take a listen to it! With the lowered scale degree, it certainly sounds out of place, but in fact bluesy! Of course, these are still tension tones (including the #4 scale degree) and should be treated with good resolution… or not, you are the composer!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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