Tip #52 – Framing with a 16-Bar Blues

Opposite to shortening the standard blues structure, there is also the option of lengthening it. By adding another 4 measures, you get a full 16-bar blues that has a sense of completion and symmetry more commonly found in classical-based music.

Below are some variations of the harmonic progression in a 16-bar framework that you can play around with:

Once again, this is just a beginning frame. You can most certainly experiment with substituting chords and changing other factors. Like how an artists needs a canvas to first structure their genius, so does a composer.


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Tip #51 – Framing with an 8-Bar Blues

Continuing with the topic of blues, there is an other option – an abridged version – of the 12-bar blues structure. In the progressive development of rock music in the 50’s and 60’s, many artists began writing songs using the commonly available blues chords and harmonic movement… but in a short 8 measure cycle.

Below are some various harmonic progressions that are commonly found in sounds that are built off of the 8-bar blues structure:

Once again, this is just a beginning frame. You can most certainly experiment with substituting chords and changing other factors. Like how an artists needs a canvas to first structure their genius, so does a 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.

Tip #50 – Framing with a 12-Bar Blues

Maybe you have already heard the term “12-bar blues” before. On the other hand, maybe not. Anyways, as a little tip: you can use the 12-bar blues form as a beginning step to form the structure and harmonic progression of you musical composition.

The reason why it is called 12-bar blues is because… it takes place over 12 bars of measures and is commonly found in the blues style. Shocking, I know.

Below is the most common use form and harmonic progression of the 12-bar blues. Notice how each of the chords in the measure spaces are dominant chords, regardless as to if they are the I, IV, or V of the key.

Once again, this is just a beginning frame. You can most certainly experiment with substituting chords and changing other factors. Like how an artists needs a canvas to first structure their genius, so does a 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.

Tip #49 – Bending Through a Melody With Blue Notes

Let’s start by answering a question that you probably had: “What is a blue note?”

And the answer is actually not set in stone… because there are two alternating definitions of “blue notes.”

The first definition comes from the idea of what scale degrees are changed from a major scale to a regular minor blues scale. Those would be the:

| b3 – b5 – b7 |

So, by this first definition, anything out of the ordinary from the major scale of the key that acts as a flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degree qualifies as a “blue note.”

The other definition goes smaller, into quarter-tones. This states that blue notes are even further out of tune with the standard major scale, being quarter-tones apart (either higher or lower in pitch) from the said flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees.

If the instrument you are writing for has the capability of hitting quarter-tones (with bends, slides, tunings, etc.), play around with incorporating those notes from around the flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees. If not, just use the simpler definition of blue notes to achieve a bluesy sound.


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Tip #48 – Using the Mock Blues Scale

Incorporating this mock blues scale, while interesting, is like being sold by a gimmicky infomercial. However, it is worth talking about.

Basically it would be something like this:

HEY THERE!! ARE YOU A COMPOSER THAT USES THE MAJOR SCALE A LOT? DON’T YOU WANT SOMETHING MORE INTERESTING OUT OF LIFE? CAN’T HELP YOU THERE TO CURE THE BLUES, BUT BOY CAN I SHOW YOU HOW TO CHANGE YOUR OLD MAJOR SCALE INTO SOMETHING NEW! SOMETHING TRUE! SOMETHING BLUE!! WITH THESE THREE EASY PAYMENTS OF LOWERED SCALE DEGREES, YOU TOO CAN HAVE THIS BLUES SOUND!

(end scene)

So, what I’m getting at is that to build a mock blues scale, take a major scale and lower the same degrees found in the blue scales. That would give you the scale degrees of:

| 1 – 2 – b3 – 4 – b5 – 6 – b7 – 1 |

With it, the original melody would transform as such:

Which can either work really well… or poorly. Either way, it is still an option for interest with any composer.


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Tip #47 – Working the Major Blues Scale and Replacements

In a previous post, I talked about the idea of using the minor blues scale over a harmonic progression. Now, what if I told you that there was a major blues scale version? What kind of melodic treatment would be used over the harmonic progression f you decided to take that route with a major blues scale?

A major blues scale is like the minor blues, but starts on the flattened-3rd scale degree of the minor blues. So, the new scale degrees become:

| 1 – 2 – b3 – 3 – 5 – 6 – 1 |

And they work great of major triadic or dominant chords!

However, it should be noted that unlike the minor blues scale, the root is based of the chord, NOT the key. So, using a blues chord progression in A Major, the root of the scale would change with each sounding chord.

By now you must be thinking: “But wait! If the major blues scale is determined by the chord and not the key… and the major blues scale is a ‘mode’ – essentially, of the minor blues that is determined by the key, can’t different versions of the minor blues scale work? As so, being dependent on the chord?”

While it is not in common practice, it sure works! To use these replacement blues scales, take the original major blues scale and start on the 6th scale degree to get the minor blues version:

As mentioned above, this is not typical practice of the blues, but it does offer interesting variety for sure! Experiment around with it!


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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.