You will often hear blues players stay in only one blues scale as they improvise over a I7–IV7–V7 progression. In this lesson,
we will look at improvising techniques that combine different ideas to create stronger musical lines. With a little bit of
cerebral energy you can rise above the crowd of players who are wearing out one standard blues pattern.
Over a I chord in the key of A (A7), combine the A Blues scale with the F# Blues scale, which is three half steps, or a minor
3rd, below A. If you delete the flat 5 from each of these scales, the A Blues scale becomes the A Minor Pentatonic scale, and the
F# Blues scale becomes the A Major Pentatonic scale.
Combining these two scales results in a nine-note composite scale.
Notice that by using the patterns above for A Blues and F# Blues scales, we can play both scales in the same area of the neck.
This is helpful for creating composite scale licks.
By using other blues scale patterns, you can combine the E and C# Blues scales to play over the V7 chord, (E7). Against the
IV7 chord (D7), use the B Blues scale or D Major Pentatonic scale, which is a major 3rd down from D.
Remember, you can still play the A Blues scale over the entire I–IV–V progression, but by adding the blues scale a minor 3rd
below all three chord names, you create more possibilities for licks. Sometimes, in a slow blues tempo, you can play the
parent blues scale for each chord: A Blues over A7, D Blues over D7 and E Blues over E7. At a medium or fast tempo, this
does not work as well because it sounds like you are changing keys on each chord change.
Here’s a twelve-bar blues solo in the key of A using composite blues scales. The noteheads are different for each scale (see key to the right.) Click to download an mp3 audio example of this solo.