Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Blues Scale & Cool Stuff You Can Do With It

Most of us who took piano lessons as kids are all too familiar with scales, and most of us hated practicing them with a passion. But understanding scales and what they do is critical to the process of improvisation as well as key orientation and just a general understanding of what's happening in the song we are playing.
The word "scale" comes from the Latin word "la scala" which means "the ladder". So a scale is a ladder of notes that starts at the bottom -- called the root note -- and proceeds upwards to the top of the ladder -- called the octave note.
There are several kinds of scales, the most common being the major scale, followed by three different types of minor scales. After that there are several specialty scales, including the blues scale used widely in jazz, R&B, blues, and quite a bit in pop music.
The "blues scale" is really a combination of the major diatonic scale (the "regular" scale we all grew up with) plus three additional notes:

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