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Mandolin Lessons: Blues Scale

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Let's talk about the Blues.
The Blues.
I woke up this morning, we all woke up
this morning.
That is the Blues, everybody has had them.
And Blues is really a, a style of music.
But it's also an attitude and it's a
emotional feeling
as much as it is a technical thing as much
it is a scale or set of chords.
You can play the Blues just by playing 1
And howling.
Moaning your problems.
Whatever it is.
There's too may people on the road today.
My girl left me.
And that is the Blues.
We all know the Blues.
Finding it,
to me it's all about connecting your
melodic mind to the instrument.
And I'd love to start by just simply
playing an open G string
and doing some call and response.
You answer me la, ba wom, wom, wom.
Now you play that.
Ba, wom, wom, wom.
Ba, ba, ba, ba, bom, bom.
We gonna work our way up the finger board.
Just imagine somebody's
droning a low G
under all that.
all of that, what we just did, was all in
the key of G.
It was all a G, G Blues.
There was no, no chord changes yet.
We just had a nice little drone going.
So, the main points I want to make is that
with the,
with the Blues how much you can get out of
how little.
And that's probably the key to playing the
Blues is to
is to not try to get too many notes in
And it was kinda remarkable how much you
can get out of just G and B flat.
>> And there's.
Kind of a mystery note, the B flat note.
Between the B flat and the B,
the minor 3rd and the major 3rd is this
kinda hidden Bluesy
sound which is neither B flat, neither B
flat nor B natural.
B flat is almost a little too flat.
And B natural is a little too sharp.
if you had a fiddle you'd actually put
your finger right between that.
So, on the mandolin, we've gotta somehow
you know, pretend that we're doing that.
[LAUGH] And that's, you know, a product of
mostly hitting the B-flat, maybe rolling
it a little into the B.
I think you're all familiar with the
by doing a slight hammer up to the B and
not staying on it for
very long gives us a hint of that, you
know, expanding that B-flat note.
So that's just in terms of inflection.
And going for that vocal sound, that's
really what, what you really wanna do,
is you wanna be singing.
What you're playing.
And I recommend that you, you really
approach the Blues from that perspective,
from that being a vocal experience.
If you start to get technical about it,
okay, which notes are you playing?
Well, I really, you know,
it's possible you can play all chromatic
notes in the Blues, but the basic idea.
I love to play B.
Flat, B and C and D and F and G.
Those are, those are the notes I use a
It's really a pentatonic scale.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
It's a minor pentatonic, minor pentatonic
with a major 3rd sometimes.
But you will have noticed me at some point
play, play the E.
Trailing off of the F natural.
So it's not always just, not always just
the F, it can be the E also.
would never play scales when playing the
blues, you would never play.
You know?
It's silly, it's academic.
The Blues is a vocal thing.
So always go for that sound.
Really learning melodic phrases either
from songs or
from electric guitar players, B.B. King
riffs or great slide Dobro players or
slide guitarists and really try to emulate
that sound on the mandolin.
Sliding backwards from the 5th,
and then up.
Into the 3rd and then landing on the root.
Classic bluesy sound.
Sliding up to the 5th,
and then hitting the 7th.
And then landing on the hybrid.
Another classic Blues sound.
Here comes that the 4th note of the scale
is that C.
So here you're going root, Flat 7, 5, 4.
And then you resolve it from the 3rd,
sliding in the 3rd and, and
ending on the root.
Very bluesy sounding.
Playing the high root and the, we're all
familiar with that sound.
So now we've introduced the flat 5 to this
scale, you know?
Is it a scale or is it an attitude and
that's always the question I'm gonna ask
Playing the flat 5 and the root.
And you.
You know, you're just sliding up or
hammering up to the 5.
And again.
All right?
Again, I'm going for that B-flat.
But I want it a little bit higher.
I don't quite want the B.
So I'm going up to the B and
then back to the G from B flat.
And just don't stay on the B very long.
So really.
I've got sort of a, an arpeggio of a G7.
Are kind of like landing points or
target notes.
But again that B is it B, or is B flat?
So you use those as points of reference
and points of landing.
Whatever, after you've played a riff,
you're always coming down to one of those
You know, there's the 5th.
I'm approaching the fifth.
Here I'm on the root.
Here I'm on the 3rd.
Sliding into it.
But you know, it's possible to use a big
chromatic thing.
Very bluesy, 5,
flat 5, 4, flat 3, natural 3, root.
Flat 3,
2, flat 2, 1, there's all kinds of ways to
work stuff like that in.
Even the major 7.
But again, these are passing tones.
You're using chromatic tones as a way of
getting somewhere.
You could never land on a major 7th.
You know, [LAUGH] but you can fit it in.
Just a root flat 7 in major 7 root.
So don't be afraid to try experimenting
with all 12 of your chromatic tones,
but most importantly is keeping the vibe
of the blues and
the attitude of music and the bluesy
So, I recommend that you transcribe many
of these things that I've just done and
the beautiful thing about Bluegrass and
the Blues is just so connected, you know,
they're really, you know, cousins.
So, you've got a tune like Sitting on Top
of the World being done by
all the great black string band musicians,
and then, you know, the Bluegrass guys
bringing the tempo up.
But it still has that Blues quality.
I mean, it's a very hard driving, very
So you're playing off of the same kinds of
melodic ideas.
All right?
That sound right there is the sound of
Earl Scruggs used when he
wrote Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
So, but it comes right out of the Blues.