Jon MacLennan


This One Simple Idea Took My Blues Solos To The Next Level

Often when players begin learning to solo over blues progressions they start by learning the minor blues scale. Next, they’ll work out a few licks or make up some of their own and play them over some rhythm. 

This rhythm backing could be a blues shuffle into a looper or maybe even along with a backing track. 

In this post, I want to show you a simple way to take that information and get more from it by simply shifting how you think about licks on the neck.

So let’s say for example we were going to solo over a rhythm pattern like this:

This is a common blues rhythm used in countless tunes. Since this pattern is based on the A chord shape, we could use the A minor blues scale at the 5th fret like this:

These same strings and frets can be thought of like this as well:

6th string frets = 5, 8

5th string frets = 5, 6, 7

4th string frets = 5, 7

3rd string frets = 5, 7, 8

2nd string frets = 5, 8

1st string frets = 5, (8)

Here’s an example of a lick you can play over this rhythm:

Now the idea is to take the same lick however this time we are going to shift it down 3 frets.

So instead of starting on the 5th fret let’s now start on the 2nd fret like this:


Shifting down 3 frets gets an immediately different flavor to the lick. For me, this sound is a much sweeter sound than the typical A minor blues scale. The A minor blues scale lick has a grittier, bluesier sound, while this sound is more akin to B.B. King or even the Allman Brothers.

The theory behind this is that the patterns a player may be familiar with in the A minor blues scale can be shifted down 3 frets and this will resemble more of an F#m blues scale like this:

These same strings and frets can be thought of like this as well:

6th string frets = 2, 5

5th string frets = 2, 3, 4

4th string frets = 2, 4

3rd string frets = 2, 4, 5

2nd string frets = 2, 5

1st string frets = 2, (5)

What this means for you is that you can take any lick you know that uses the A minor blues scale and shift it down 3 frets and get a completely different sound using the same lick! 

This helps you get more out of what you already know.

Now the only disclaimer I want to give is that you may have to alter the ending of your licks sometimes depending upon the chord progression to have it resolve, but the core of this idea still remains true.

So give it a try and experiment to see what works, and see how you can get more from less.

I hope you find this useful!

And for a great example of how this can be done in a solo check out Eric Clapton’s iconic solo on “Crossroads” for many examples of a solo switching back and forth between these two sounds. Click here to go to that less now.

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