Three Ways To Spice Up Your Blues Playing

Are you in a rut with your blues soloing? Want to spice thing up a little? Let’s look at three ways you can breathe new life into your blues licks. You probably already know the minor pentatonic scale, below is the pattern that we will be using for these ideas.


We will be looking at the key of “A minor” for this, but you can simply move these patterns to change keys without affecting the note sequences.

One easy thing you can do to spice things up is to incorporate the Major Pentatonic Scale into your playing. To do this, you just move the minor pentatonic scale pattern down three half steps; so, in this case, you will start on the second fret instead of the fifth fret.

A major pentatonic

Doing this will give your licks a more upbeat kind of feel. This trick is commonly used by country and southern rock players. When playing over a I – IV – V 12 Bar Blues you can play the major pentatonic over the I chord and minor pentatonic over the IV and V chords; this is a trick that Clapton uses a lot.

The second trick we will look at is adding the “blue note” to the minor pentatonic scale. The blue note is the diminished fifth or flat fifth of the scale. By adding this note to the scale you end up with a chromatic passage in the scale, meaning three notes in a row that are not separated by a half step. Below is the A minor pentatonic scale with the blue note added on the fifth and third strings.

A minor blues

All you have to do is just play the blues scale pattern, and you will immediately hear that sweet blues sound when you play the chromatic passage. Incorporating the blue note will give your playing a real authentic blues sound. This is a trick used by all the blues guitar greats and is probably the easiest way to add flavor to the licks you already know and love.

The third idea is to add the major third to the pentatonic scale. The image below indicates where the note is found in the minor pentatonic scale.

major third

Just playing the scale in sequence with the added major third does not sound that great. But if you take a lick and switch out the minor third for the major it can give it a new life. Try alternating between major and minor thirds within your favorite licks and see what you think.

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