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Three Essential Blues Scales Every Guitarist Should Know

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

Everyone loves to play the blues, but if you only know the minor pentatonic scale, your playing—not to mention your audience’s attention span—might suffer.

Here to demonstrate three essential blues scales is Tyler Larson.

“These are the only scales you need to be the complete blues guitarist,” Tyler says. “Okay, there’s a few others, but these are the three most important, in my opinion, that you should get your hands on.”

Yes, our old friend the minor pentatonic is here—how could it not be?—but so are a couple of others you might not know. Most players will be unfamiliar with the third scale, the altered dominant. It’s not terribly useful on its own but works well in conjunction with the other two.

Tyler demonstrates the root position of each scale. Once you get the intervals down, you can move them around on the neck to find the other positions. He improvises with each scale over the same progression to demonstrate how they work, and he combines all three scales at the end in one solo so you can see how they work together.

Take a look and visit Tyler’s Music Is Win You Tube channel for more.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.