Junior High Band
Study Guides

Blues Scales

Download a Microsoft Word version HERE.

  1. To form a blues scale from a major scale do the following:
    • no change to the tonic
    • skip the 2nd
    • lower the 3rd 1/2 step
    • no change to the 4th
    • raise the 4th 1/2 step
    • no change to the 5th
    • skip the 6th
    • lower the 7th 1/2 step
  2. A shorter formula for the same process would look like this: 1 3b 4 4# 5 7b
  3. Notice that the 4th note is used twice - first natural and then raised.
  4. When improvising to a three chord blues progression, use only one blues scale - the one built on the tonic.
  5. Blues scales can effectively be used over minor chord progressions.
  6. Although there are 8 and 16 bar blues progressions, the most common progression consists of 12 bars in the following order: 4 bars I, 2 bars IV, 2 bars I, 1 bar V, 1 bar IV, 2 bars I.
  7. As you can see in line 6, the most commonly used chords in a blues progression are Tonic (I), Subdominant (IV), and Dominant (V).
  8. The blues scales are spelled as follows:
    • C blues = C Eb F F# G Bb
    • F blues = F Ab Bb B C Eb
    • Bb blues = Bb Db Eb E F Ab
    • Eb blues = Eb Gb Ab A Bb Db
    • Ab blues = Ab Cb Db D Eb Gb
    • Db blues = Db Fb Gb G Ab Cb
    • Gb blues = Gb Bbb Cb C Db Fb
    • B blues = B D E E# F# A
    • E blues = E G A A# B D
    • A blues = A C D D# E G
    • D blues = D F G G# A C
    • G blues = G Bb C C# D F
    • F# blues = F# A B B# C# E
    • C# blues = C# E F# Fx G# B
    • Cb blues = Cb Ebb Fb F Gb Bbb

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.