Learn to choose the right scale for your guitar solo with these 5 cunning blues licks

Choose the scale for the sound you’re after with these five licks written specially to give a certain sound...

Minor pentatonic scale over dominant 7th chords

The mixture of minor scale notes with the notes of dominant 7 chords will give you an edgy, bluesy bite to your solos. Nearly every player from Buddy Guy and Albert King to John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa uses this trick at times.

‘Blues box’ shape over dominant chords

This BB King trick mixes the best bits of the major and minor pentatonic scales in a simple run. There’s no 3rd interval, so add a minor 3rd by bending the 2nd up a semitone, or add a major 3rd by bending up a tone.

Major pentatonic scale over dominant chords

This scale adds classy sounding 9th and 13th intervals to dominant 7th chords without the need to play the chords themselves. Listen to the melodic, soulful lines in Freddie King’s classic blues instrumental, Hideaway to hear this in action.

Mixolydian mode over dominant chords

The Mixolydian mode adds two notes to the major pentatonic scale: the 4th and the minor 7th. The minor 7th is a crucial note creating the ‘devil’s interval’ when played against the major 3rd. From T-Bone Walker to Brian Setzer, no selfrespecting rockabilly or jazz-blues player could solo without it.

Dorian mode over chord IV of the I-IV-V progression

Here, we’ve used the C major pentatonic scale over the first chord, C7, but when the chord changes to F9 in bar 2 the lick changes to the C Dorian mode. This kind of approach is great for up-tempo funky blues tracks like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather.

For more like this, try…

Learn 5 essential blues guitar rhythm grooves with this easy lesson

15 easy blues guitar chords every guitarist needs to know

18 ways to improve your blues guitar tone

5 essential blues guitar turnaround solos

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