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Blues Guitar Lessons: Blues Melody

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In this lesson,
I'd like to take a few
minutes to introduce you
to a couple of new members of the family,
if you will.
When we talk about playing blues melody,
the family of notes that we've been
using is the blue note pentatonic.
[SOUND] We know what those notes are,
the root, [SOUND] the minor third,
[SOUND] with the blue note phrasing,
[SOUND] which really incorporates
three different sounds.
Minor, [SOUND] the note in between and
the combination of minor and major.
We've got the fourth,
we've got the flat five,
which I can approach from below,
slide into it,
just nail it,
we've got the fifth
and we've got the seventh
And there's a lick that contains
them all in rapid succession.
So that is the essence of the down home,
traditional blues melodic sound.
You hear a lick or
a melody that's based around those notes,
right away you just, that's blues,
there's no doubt about it.
But that's not the end of the story.
There's a couple of other members of
the melodic family that helped to expand
the range of the melody, give you more
possibilities for how you can color it.
And they are like colors.
And they smooth out some
of the melodic lines.
And I've been sneaking them in
from time to time, inadvertently.
I'm so used to them now that
that I just kind of hear it and
want to go there, even though we
haven't officially introduced them.
So from now on, you're gonna know who they
are, and I won't have to worry about it.
So, the two notes that
I'm talking about here
are specifically the sixth and the ninth.
So if we look at where those notes
sit in relation to everything that we
already have.
[SOUND] There's one.
[SOUND] Now the ninth, what's the ninth?
Well, the ninth is the note an octave
above the eighth, which is the octave
[SOUND] I'm sorry, not on octave above
the eighth, a step above the octave.
[SOUND] Confusing myself here.
So [MUSIC] one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight.
That's an octave,
[SOUND] another step is the ninth.
However, you don't have to play the ninth
in that octave up there and then,
you know,
it's like you can't play it down here.
That's not the rule,
the rule is it's called the ninth
because of its use in the harmony.
We hear the ninth chord.
That's why we use the same name
because it helps relate the note to
the chords that we're playing behind it.
Ninth chord,
[SOUND] there's the ninth note.
So, whether it's a step above the tonic or
a step above the octave, same note.
So what that note does is
kind of smooth the gap between the root
and the third
and by the same token, the sixth.
Now we already know the sixth as we know
the ninth, because we've been
playing it in the harmony.
The sixth chord and
even the thirteenth chord, remember that.
So now we're gonna use the sixth and
the ninth in our melodic lines.
And the way that I think of them is that
you've got the core family of blues notes.
That's the blue note pentatonic,
which is not really five notes,
it's a couple of extra notes, but they're
all based directly on that pentatonic.
So think of them as sort of
variations on the pentatonic.
Now we're gonna add these color notes,
the sixth and the ninth.
Now some players use the color notes a lot
and they're integral to their sound.
Other players hardly ever use them at all.
If you think of the real down
home blues, you know,
we don't hear a sixth or
a ninth anywhere in the neighborhood.
It just doesn't sound right for
that kind of an expression.
But when you hear
A little bit more uptown type of sound.
There's the [SOUND] the ninth,
[SOUND] there's the sixth.
And so those notes are really common in
the playing of players like B.B.
King, T-Bone Walker,
who are considered to be more
uptown style blues players.
Now, it's not a matter of
the old sound and the new sound.
Albert King,
who was the same age as B.B. King,
essentially, played almost
exclusively the minor pentatonic.
He was, in his own way,
as down home as Muddy Waters.
But he just didn't use the sixth and
the ninth the same way that his buddy B.B.
King used it, so that's a choice.
But we're gonna figure out how to
integrate those notes into our phrasing,
and the key point that I'd like to
make in this lesson is that we're
not introducing a new scale.
We're not gonna come up with some sort
of a master scale that's like what they
call the composite or
the hybrid blues scale which,
when you line up all the notes that you
could possibly play in a blues solo,
it winds up being
something like that.
It's almost a chromatic scale.
In other words, almost every
single note within the octave.
Unfortunately, it's almost useless
[LAUGH] if you group it that way because
that doesn't tell you anything
about what choices to make.
There are just so many choices that you
might as well just not make any at all.
Just forget it, right?
So, the way that we're gonna approach
these different notes is that we're
adding color to the blues tonality.
And when you learn what those colors or
those emotional qualities are and
you combine them with the emotional
qualities of the core scale,
that's when you start to
widen your melodic approach.
And so we're figuring out ways
of becoming more melodic,
of expressing the harmony in different
ways, of really matching the sound
of the harmony when the chords
contain the sixth and the ninth,
we can now [SOUND] come up with those
phrases that reflect the same qualities.
And so, it gives you greater range.
You can go from the down
home to the most uptown,
even into the fringes of jazz using
these these extra notes here.
So without further ado,
let's get down to it.
In the next lesson, we're gonna introduce
a good friend of mine, a personal friend.
And I'd like it to be one of
yours as well, the sixth.
So come back in a second and
we'll do that.