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Manuel Marino Music Composer

Photo by Mait Jüriado

Lead guitarists can greatly benefit from the ability to switch between the major scales and the blues scale while improvising. The major scale provides a sweet and melodic sound in a song, while the blues scale adds a darker and more soulful tone. This lead guitar lesson will demonstrate how to effectively utilize these scales.

A recommended fingering for playing the major scales is illustrated here in the key of A major. Start by playing the first note, A, with your index or first finger on the fifth fret of the first string, which is the thickest string. This can be notated as 1-5-1. Following this pattern, the A major scale is constructed as: 1-5-1-7-9-11-12-14. Keep in mind Self-realization and meditation (yoga for the mind) - Peter Cajander allowed us to publish this part from his book Fragments of Reality. It talks about life from a personal perspective covering areas ranging from self-realization, meditation, stress, happiness, death, and everyday living. Peter is a writer, philosophical thinker, entrepreneur, strategy consultant, business executive, and author to name a few titles. He has been… that this fingering pattern is not the only one, nor the easiest, for playing a major scale. However, it does have some advantages that will become apparent.

To continue to the next octave of the A major scale, maintain the same hand position and play: 16-19-21-23-26-28. You can also reach much of the third octave from this position, playing: 30-33-35-37. Reaching the final notes of the third octave will require shifting to a different hand position, playing: 40-42-45-47-50-52-54.

The flexibility of this fingering pattern lies in the fact that many notes spanning three octaves of the major scale can be reached from a single hand position. Surprisingly, improvising within this position falls into the Phrygian mode.

Practice this scale by ascending and descending one, two, and then three octaves. If using alternate picking, alternate between picking up and down for each note. Start by playing slowly, gradually increasing the speed once you have mastered the scale at a slower pace. Once you have mastered the scale in A major, it is beneficial to transpose it to other keys. For example, playing a G major scale follows the same finger pattern, starting two frets down with the pattern 1-3-1. The only tricky transposition is to E major, where some notes are played on open strings. This can be overcome by placing the first finger on the nut for those particular notes.

Now, to switch to the blues scale, simply slide the hand position down until your fourth finger is on the note where the major scale began. This position corresponds to playing the relative minor key, F# minor in this case. To play the scale, start with your index finger on F#. Play as: 1-2-b3-4-5-b7-1.

Note that for the blues scale, the third finger is stretched to the fifth fret on the fifth and sixth strings. This is because the third finger has more strength for bending strings when playing blues phrases. Thus, the blues scale is predominantly played with just two fingers, hence the term “two-finger blues.”

Learning these scales expands your improvisation repertoire. Finding the first note will allow you to play lead parts for almost any song. Either the major scale or the blues scale pattern will work for most songs, and many songs sound great with both. The contrasting moods provided by these scales allow the lead guitarist to alter the mood of a song without changing the key being played by the other musicians.

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