Here’s how to play the E & A blues scale on guitar. Also, we’ll talk about the difference between pentatonic scales and blues scales.

Yours truly! Will Ripley (Campfire Guitar Star)

Pentatonic Scales

Now that you’re starting to get familiar with terms like “fifths” and “octaves”, we’re about to open the door to “Pentatonic Scales”. They are like normal scales with less notes!

Typically, scales have 7 notes.  Pentatonic scales have 5 notes.  That’s what makes Pentatonic scales special!

Penta = 5           Tonic = Tone

Pentatonic scales (especially minor pentatonics) are the framework for some of the most famous Rock, and Blues songs.  That riff you thought sounded so powerful, that solo you can’t get out of your head, good chance it’s based on a pentatonic scale!

Here on the left we have an E Minor Pentatonic Scale. If you need a refresher on how to play scale charts, check out the lesson on the major scale.

Now take a look at the A minor pentatonic scale here on the right.  The Emi and Ami pentatonic scales, although they feel a lot different, are exactly the same scale, just played in a different key using and therefore, using different fingers.

In the Emi scale, all of your open strings can be played, in the Ami scale, your first finger is playing all the notes on the 5th fret taking the place of the nut.

Practicing These New Scales

Aside from practicing these over and over like crazy (which I recommend) with proper technique, a metronome and developing the 3 pillars of scales: Clean notes, consistency and speed – we can also use the internet as a great tool.

Searching for “backing tracks” on the internet or jamming along in the same key as your favorite songs, is one of the best ways to start putting your pentatonic scales to use.

You can try searching “Emi backing track” or “Ami backing track” or “Emi blues rhythm track” etc on YouTube and put your new knowledge to work! You’ll probably notice that the notes you’re playing on the guitar sound “right” against the backing track! Welcome to the land of improv!

Blues Scales

By now, we’re getting to know the sounds of different scales.  With the “Blues scale”, shown in the chart here, the sound is in the name.  Adding 1 more note to each octave of the pentatonic scale will make it perfect for a moodier, bluesy sound. Because the scale goes through 2 octaves, it may feel and seem like we’re adding 2 new notes to the pentatonic scale, but trust me – it’s just 1 extra note!

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Thanks and keep on rippin it! – Will Ripley & Mike B