How to Mix Up the Blues Scale Options on the Guitar

Blues-based music on the guitar usually applies all three of the scales (that is, the major and minor pentatonic, as well as the full dominant scale) by mixing them up on the fretboard. To begin this mix, combine the major and minor pentatonic scales, as shown here.

[Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

You can see an example in Mixing Major and Minor Pentatonic.

Notice that the mixture of both major and minor pentatonic scales includes all the notes from the dominant scale, too. So you’ve covered all your bases! You can move these scale patterns around the fretboard to play over other dominant 7th chords. For example, move everything up one fret to play over Bf7. Move everything down two frets to play over G7. You get the idea.

The following songs provide perfect examples of mixing major and minor pentatonic scale patterns over a chord with a dominant 7th tonality:

  • In “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, most of the guitar solos, including the famous opening to the song, are based in the pentatonic mix except that it’s moved up one fret to Bf.

  • “Crossroads (Live at Winterland)” by Cream, featuring Eric Clapton, is based in A and uses both A major and A minor pentatonic, sometimes mixed together, and other times used independently.

  • In “Sunshine of Your Love,” also by Cream, Clapton alternates between D major and D minor pentatonic scales.

Some other songs that feature lead guitarists either mixing or alternating between major and minor pentatonic scales include

“All Right Now” by Free (A)
“Flirtin’ with Disaster” by Molly Hatchet (E)
“Get Back” by The Beatles (A)
“Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes (B)
“Red House” by Jimi Hendrix (B with guitars tuned down one half-step to Ef)
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