Pentatonics VS Blues Scales

In this lesson we discuss the concepts of scale toneschromatic approach notes, and how these relate to the practical use of pentatonic scales and blues scales.

Watch the Video Lesson:

    I will start by saying that this lesson is not about the intricacies of the blues scale in terms of blues as a music style. We will just deal with pentatonic and blues scales as melodic structures, in a way that can be useful in any style of music.

Chromatic approach notes:

    An important concept that you need to understand in order to differentiate between these two types of scales, is the concept of chromatic approach notes. These are simply notes that do not belong to the tonality of a passage of music, but are useful as ornamental notes, as long as they are resolved to a more stable note.

    All the notes of the scale have various degrees of energy because of their interaction with the underlying harmony, but they all sound more or less stable. However, if I play a totally foreign note, a chromatic note, it sounds dissonant. This does not mean that it is a wrong note. It just produces a lot of energy that needs to be resolved if you want to achieve balance. The way to resolve it is to move to a stable note next to it.         The most common way to do this on the guitar is to use chromatic notes as passing notes between scale tones, on each string:

Example: Pentatonic Scale with Chromatic Passing Tones
Example: Pentatonic Scale with Chromatic Passing Tones

    In fact, there is no such thing as a wrong note in music. Any note can be used, as long as you know how to manipulate it and determine if using it is appropriate for the style you are playing.

The Blue Note:

    One of all these chromatic notes has become so popular in modern music, that its considered a standard addition to pentatonic scales. It is called the blue note, and it's the chromatic note between degrees 4 and 5 for minor, or 2 and 3 for major pentatonic. The Result is a scale that has 6 notes instead of the 5 in a regular pentatonic scale. This is called a Blues Scale:

Blues Scale Example
Blues Scale Example

    So there you have it. The difference between a pentatonic and a blues scale is one chromatic note. In the video you can watch an example of improvisation using both, so that you can hear the difference in a musical context.

    If you like practicing scales over Backing Tracks, there is a section in the Backing Track Library with tracks that work well with both Pentatonics and Blues Scales.


    That's it. I will be posting a lot more on the subjects of both Pentatonics and Chromatic Approach Notes, so stay tuned.

    Thanks for watching, and remember: Enjoy your practice, and be effective!



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