How to master blues rock scales

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The Blues scale and the Dorian mode

When ever you play solos in a Blues/Rock context you can use the blues scale and mix it with the "Dorian" minor scale. The Dorian scale is just your old regular Minor/Major scale that we've been focusing on in the last couple of articles. But every step in the Major scale has a name of it's own. IF you start on a C and play 7 notes up and down, you'll hear what we call the C-Major scale.

This scale is also called the "Ionian" mode. But if you play the same scale starting on the second note, the D, and play 7 notes up and down, you are now playing the D-dorian scale. I'm not going to go into the deeper logic and meaning of this in this article. For now, it's enough to know that if you want to play in D-Dorian, you play your old, C-Major (Which is also an A-Minor Scale. For now let's focus on the practical side of it.
You probably already know the basic blues scale and chances are you've seen this pattern before:

This shape has it's root note on the low E-string. So if you play this thing starting on the lowest note, you play the root first. If you play the 10th fret on the low E-string you play the note "D". So when you place this shape in the 10th fret you're playing the D-blues scale. The traditional D-Dorian shape would look like this:

Notice how these notes are all part of the A-minor / C-major scale. When we mix that with the D-blues scale we get this shape:

Try for a minute to play the blues scale and then shift to the dorian scale to hear the difference.

The blue note

The only note that's not part of the C-major scale is the "blue note" G#. All other notes fits perfectly within the scale that we've been talking about for the last couple of days. Mixing these two scales with each other, will give you a perfect tool for playing Rock/Blues solos. You use the blues shape as your "home base" and then you pay frequent visits to the Dorian shape.

Now let's take our four note per string shapes and mix those with the blues scale. Under the tab "Resources" on this website, you will find all 6, three notes per string blues scale shapes. The cool thing is that these simple shapes fit perfectly over our four notes per string shapes. Let's stay in the 10th fret and work with the top two B & E string to see how it looks:

I'm sure you recognize the four notes per string scale pattern. The blue notes represent the blues scale. Also you see the "blue note" G# on top of it all. Mess around with these two shapes for a minute to get a feel for it. When that feels comfortable, take that shape across the fretboard like this:

Huge rewards await you

Under "Resources" I've laid out all the other patterns for you. Take each one of these and practice going from the blues scale to the dorian scale within each shape. Make sure that the pattern you're working on feels like "home" before you move on to the next. The three note per string blues scale has some weird stretches and those can be very uncomfortable to play in the beginning. But just pretend that there's no other way and keep stretching your fingers. Don't let yourself off the hook. The reward for being able to play these and do it with the four notes per string concept, are huge!

Sweeping, legato, Alternate Picking Lick

This is a weird but very effective way to play a diminished triad. Once you get a hange of it, it feels easy to play and it sounds cool with all those slides in there. Don't let the many different techniques scare you, it's really not that difficult. Practice the first six notes over and over again before you expand and do the rest.

Not much have changed

Notice how you're still just playing the old A-Minor / C-Major scale with the addition of the G# note. "By why learn these blues shapes then? Why not just play the patterns I know already and add the G#?" - Because each shape has a unique and different sound. Think of each scale as a tool that you can use to express yourself. After all, the Harmonic Minor (used extensively in Neoclassical music) is still the A-Minor / C-Major scale but with a slight change of one single note. But it sounds radically different from, let's say, Pop music, which is still based on the the Minor / Major scale!

The big differences is to be found in the details. And this is our advantage, because we can use the same scale to produce a variety of sounds. This means that there is less to learn, and you can have more fun, faster. The next article is going to deal with Melodic Rock, and how you can use these two scales to master this style as well.