In this installment on blues lines in the jazz language we concentrate on the background and make up of this hip technique of mixing languages. The key here is the combination of minor and major blues scales.
When analyzing the make up of some of the jazz-blues idioms that were illustrated in the previous column, one will quickly notice that there are more than just notes from the basic (minor) blues scale being used. Below, you can review the definition of this most common version of this scale:
Here is the one shape most popular among guitarists:
Here, you have two and a half octaves; below, you will find all shapes for the whole range of the guitar neck in a specific arrangement. A lot of players never get past these notes for improvising, having often learned them as well as the mere pentatonic minor scales early on in their development on the guitar. Let’s conduct an experiment:
Record a play-a-long track of yourself vamping a C7 chord. On playback use the C-minor blues scale (for example the shape displayed above with the lowest root note on the 8th fret) for playing along. This will most likely be familiar territory for you!?
Now, move that same shape down three half-steps and play the A-minor blues scale. How do you like it? It might sound a bit Country & Western to you; in fact, you are playing the C-major blues scale! So if this doesn’t turn your crank, don’t be discouraged until you try the following:
Above is one position of both minor (left) and major blues scales. The hollow dots represent the blue notes, without which you would get the mere pentatonic scales respectively. Play both these scales mixed up over your C7 track: Here is the key for that jazzy blues sound we have been after.
First, get familiar with the back and forth and the combination of these two tools. Then learn more of the blues idioms from before; or just analyze and understand the ones you already got down.
In conlusion, you can draw from the complete illustration of this minor/major relationship below. I would recommend spending some time with the play-along track in each of these positions; and, if you really like this sound, try to apply this to songs and playing situations you are comfortable with already…more on this in the next installment in this series.