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Learning Guitar - Lesson Three

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The Blues Scale
blues scale

Before we jump into playing this useful new scale, let's review the fingers we will use to play the scale's notes. This blues scale is referred to as a "movable scale", meaning that we can play the scale anywhere on the neck. For now, we will play the scale starting on the fifth fret, but feel free to play it at the tenth fret, at the first fret, or anywhere else.

As with previous exercises, the blues scale requires precise fingering in your fretting hand in order for it to be most useful. All notes on the fifth fret will be played by the first finger. Notes on the sixth fret will be played by the second finger. Notes on the seventh fret will be played by the third finger. And all notes on the eighth fret will be played by the fourth finger.

One of the best ways to start working on the coordination in your fingers is to practice playing scales. Although they may seem boring, they will help build the strength and agility your fingers need to play the guitar well. Keep that in mind while practicing this new scale.

Count up to the fifth fret of your guitar. On most guitars, the fifth fret will be marked with a dot on the fretboard. Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the sixth string and play that note. Next, put your fourth (pinky) finger on the eighth fret of the sixth string, and again play that note. Now, continue to the fifth string, and follow the pattern illustrated above, until you've reached the eighth fret on the first string (listen to scale). Take your time and learn this scale well... it'll be one that you use often.

Keys to Playing the Blues Scale:

  • Use alternate picking.
  • Once you've finished the scale, try playing the scale backwards. Start at the first string, third fret, and play all notes in exactly the reverse order.
  • The key here is accuracy, not speed! Try playing the scale very slowly, making sure that each note is ringing clearly.
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