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March 07, 2010

Use the Major 6th when improvising blues

Here is a quick tip for those who are stuck in the pentatonic or blues scale, when playing blues leads. Try using the Major 6th (often guitarists will call it just the 6th, even though there is also a minor 6th, which is not used nearly as much in blues).

Let's say you are playing in the key of A. If you play the A minor pentatonic backwards, the next note you arrive at is G. That's a good one when playing blues, because it's the minor 7th note, if we're talking intervals. It's a very strong note to end licks on.

Now, to find the 6th, just play the next available lower note - F#. This is the major 6th from the A major scale. It works great, because that note can be used in most minor and major scales, so it won't sound very out there. In fact, if you listen to blues players like BB King and Clapton, you hear they do it frequently.

It's probably not as strong as the minor 7th for ending licks on, but it works great as a lead-in note, or as a part of a good phrase. I use it all the time.

BB King example

Listen to the three notes at 0:13-0:14 into the video. That 2nd note is the 6th.

Clapton example

Listen to the notes at 2:34 into the video. Can you identify the 6th?

The 6th gives a slightly different sound to playing blues. I think it sounds happier, so to speak, or at least less static than the usual minor blues pentatonic. Use it to your advantage!

You can of course use the 6th in any kind of music; it's not just for blues. Try it when playing rock or funk or whatever style you play - it really works for almost anything.

Interval Reference

Wikipedia - http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interval_(music)

In case you are interested in lessons from me on this subject, I do offer web cam guitar lessons.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com


Posted by Robert Renman on March 07, 2010

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