I love playing blues. The swing feel and an expressive solo brings my soul to a different dimension and let my thoughts fly away. Exactly what you need after a hard work week. Wait wasn’t blues not all about hard work and… OK, let stick to techniques.

While taking several courses I decided to take some notes for future reference. So here is a beginner take on blues soloing “past” the very first steps.

Minor pentatonic scale

The basic way to solo is, of course, playing pentatonic scale. Here are the three shapes with the root on the 6-th, 5-th and 4-th stings for convenience.

In the very basic form, the I-chord pentatonic may be all you need for the whole song, but that you get you so far. The next step is to use arpeggios and modes.

Major blues

Dominant 7 arpeggios

Since blues is all about dominant chords, a great way to extend the choice of what to play would be playing a dominant arpeggio.

Parallel modes

Mixolydian goes very well with major blues. Hereby the shapes for the mixolydian mode with the root on 6-th, 5-th and 4-th strings:

Major blues mainly utilizes parallel modes. In other words you use the same shape of Mixolydian mode (or dominant 7th arpeggio) and move it to the corresponding root.

Example: major blues in E

E7 A7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 B7

So you can play the same mixolydian mode over the coresponding chords:

  • E7 – Mixolydian
  • A7 – Mixolydian
  • B7 – Mixolydian

Minor blues

Minor 7th

Of course you can use the minor 7th arpeggios to solo over the corresponding chords. Hereby the arpeggio shapes with the root on 6-th, 5-th and 4-th strings:

Relative modes

In contrast to the major blues, minor blues is about relative modes. So for every chord corresponding mode shall be used. So for a i-iv-v progression we’re lookign at Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian modes.

Example: minor blues in E

Em7 Am7 Em7 Em7
Am7 Am7 Em7 Em7
Bm7 Bm7 Em7 Em7

So you play mode corresponding to the chord (i, iv or v)

  • Em7 – Aeolian
  • Am7 – Dorian
  • Bm7 – Phrygian

Instead of conclusion

The information on this post if far from covering all possibilities, but at least gives a good starting point to depart from the very basic way to play solo in blues. I will write more when I get there! 🙂

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