Jon MacLennan


#1 MUST-KNOW Scale For Blues Guitarists

Do you find yourself wondering how to get a bluesy sound out of your guitar?
Are you trying to learn to play like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, or Eric Clapton?

Well if so this lesson can help!

In this guitar lesson, I am going to share with you the #1 scale that you need to know for playing blues guitar. 

Blues Scale Theory

The scale we are going to cover here is the blues scale, so let's first start by talking a bit about the theory and how this scale is constructed. The blues scale is a six note scale, and to form this scale we can start on any note, and play a sequence of other notes after it and this will build the scale. The intervals of this scale go like this: 

  • 1 (root note)
  • b3 (minor third)
  • 4 (perfect fourth)
  • b5 (diminished fifth)
  • 5 (perfect fifth)
  • b7 (minor seventh)

Now it's important to note: that when guitarists typically refer to the blues scale what they actually mean is the minor blues scale. So this is what we are building here, and when you use these notes in your melodies and in your guitar solos, you are going to create tension and evoke a “bluesy” mood.

Now a really cool thing about this scale pattern is that you can play it over both major and minor chords!

It has a slightly different effect over each chord quality, but I like to think of it as more of a flavor that you can add to your music.

So when I want a bluesy sound in my solos or improvisations this is going to be my go-to scale. For more on this check out my lesson on "Is The Blues Scale Major Or Minor?"

Here's How To Start Playing The Blues Scale On Guitar

The example I'll use today is a 2-octave pattern in the middle of the guitar neck. We are going to start the scale on the note A. So all six notes for the A minor blues scale are going to be: A, C, D, Eb, E, and G.

To play these on your guitar start on the 5th fret and play: 

6th string frets = 5, 8

5th string frets = 5, 7

4th string frets = 5, 7

This is how to play the blues scale one octave. So starting on A on the 5th fret of the 6th string, and then moving up the octave to the note A on the 7th fret of the 4th string. Essentially we followed the above formula of intervals beginning on A and working our way all the way up to the next A note one octave higher.

Here's what it would look like in a guitar tab:


So now you can play the blues scale in one octave, and you've got that pattern under your fingers. Next let's continue this higher and get the second octave. Next play starting on the 3rd string:

3rd string frets = 5, 7

2nd string frets = 5, 8

1st string frets = 5, (8)

Now technically this went one note beyond the second octave as the second octave is the 5th fret on the 1st string, and we continued up to the note C on the 8th fret, I put that in parentheses above. The reason for this is because of something called a "position" on guitar and this helps you organize areas of the neck on the guitar. Just know that this pattern is going to serve you in a lot of songs.

Alright, now you have a two-octave blues scale in the key of A down. Here's what it looks like all together.

6th string frets = 5, 8

5th string frets = 5, 7

4th string frets = 5, 7

3rd string frets = 5, 7

2nd string frets = 5, 8

1st string frets = 5, (8)


Quick tip: As you are learning this note the little pattern here, on the middle strings you play 5,7 and on the 6th, 2nd, and 1st you play 5,8.

The more little unique ways you can visualize or see things like this on the guitar neck the better these new concepts will stick.

Ascending the neck would look like this:

Descending the neck would look like this:

I would recommend practicing both ways, so ascending and descending the scale.

Once this pattern feels comfortable you now have what is called a moveable scale pattern.

So you could start this on the 5th fret and play the A minor blues scale, but if you start it on the 7th fret they you now have the B minor blues scale. So essentially the same pattern can be moved anywhere on the neck.

3 Tips For Using The Blues Scale In Your Playing

  1. When you're starting keep it simple. Practice ascending and descending slowly and make sure you are hitting the notes clean.
  2. Try playing it with different rhythms. Above we used quarter notes, but you could try triplets or swinging 8th notes, which is common to many blues songs.
  3. Practice playing the scale with down picking with the strum hand, and also alternate picking. This will help you build the muscle memory and improve your technique.


Learning the blues scale is a must if you want to play blues guitar. You will use this scale in so many blues songs, like "Crossroads," "Call Me The Breeze," or "Life By The Drop" just to name a few. When you start using the scale your ears are going to start to notice it in the music you love. This scale is not only common in blues but also a ton of other genres as well like: rock, country, R&B, pop and more.

By working on this scale and adding it into your playing you can create an entirely new way of expressing yourself and playing your own music creatively.

Have fun! 

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