Using the Mixolydian Scale Effectively in a Blues Progression

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Using the Mixolydian Scale Effectively
in a Blues Progression
Podcast #10 - Additional notes
© Copyright Darren Dutson Bromley 2012
Playing the Blues.
There is nothing better than playing the blues and a good understanding of its structure,
licks and scale possibilities are essential. It's also a really good place to start when
developing skills using Mixolydian scales.
Generally when we think of blues we assume a twelve bar structure. What goes into those
twelve bars varies, it can be a simple three chord progression to a much more complicated
sequence using many chords. This week we'll focus on a relatively straight forward
progression using chords I, IV and V.
When harmonised the Bb major scale looks like this:
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
G
A
Bb
Cm
Dm
Eb
F
Gm
Adim
Chord I is Bb, chord IV is Eb and chord V is F.
These are usually played as dominant 7th chords. The reason for this is a complicated one
and is to do with combining these chords with the notes of a minor pentatonic scale which
is a scale often played over these chords.
Bb Minor Pentatonic:
Bb Db Eb F and Ab.
In traditional harmony it is only chord V which can be a dominant 7th.
In the key of Bb chord V is F7 which contains the notes F A C and Eb, all these notes
occur within the Bb scale. Chord I and chord IV if extended to include the 7th would both
be major 7th chords.
Bbma7 contains the notes Bb D F and A
Ebma7 contains the notes Eb G Bb and D.
The difference between a major 7th chord and a dominant 7th is, in a dominant 7th the
actual 7th is a tone below the root while in a major 7th it is only a semitone.
Eb to F is a tone, hence F7 being a dominant 7th (F A C Eb). A to Bb is a semitone hence
Bbma7 (Bb D F A)
To turn Bbma7 to Bb7 we need to flatten the 7th so we arrive at the notes Bb, D, F and Ab.
To turn Ebma7 to Eb7 we do the same and get Eb G Bb and Db.
So where do these notes come from? They don't come from the major scale but actually
from the minor pentatonic scale which is associated with it.
Bb minor pentatonic scale contains the notes Bb Db Eb F and Ab. This scale contains all
the 7ths for each of the chords and the chords borrow their 7ths from this scale.
Bb7 = Bb D F Ab
Eb7 = Eb G Bb Db
F7 = F A C Eb
Here is a blues progression in Bb using the above chords.
Often the scale played over this progression is Bb minor pentatonic scale or Bb blues
scale. The difference between these two scales is just one note, the blues scale also
includes a flattened 5th, this turns the scale from being pentatonic (5 note scale) into a
hexatonic (6 note scale).
Using Mixolydian scales.
As the chords used in this progression are all dominant 7th chords we could use a different
set of scales over it.
Thinking about each chord individually Bb7 could be considered to be the root, 3rd, 5th
and flattened 7th notes of a Bb major scale.
Bb major
Scale
Bb
Bb7 chord
Bb
C
D
D
Eb
F
F
G
A
Ab
(b7)
As the 7th is altered in the chord it could be altered in the scale so it matches.
This is Bb mixolydian. Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb, basically a Bb major scale with a flattened
7th note.
Applying this concept to the other chords we get:
Eb major
Scale
Eb
Eb7 chord
Eb
F
G
Ab
G
Bb
C
Bb
D
Db
(b7)
Eb Mixolydian would be Eb F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
F major
Scale
F
F7 chord
F
G
A
A
Bb
C
C
D
E
Eb
(b7)
F Mixolydian would be F G A Bb C D Eb F
When using these scales over a blues sequence, each scale must correspond to the chord
been played. When Bb7 is been played you can play Bb mixolydian, Eb7 play Eb
mixolydian and F7 play F mixolydian. This takes practice but it is well worth the effort. The
most important thing is to make sure you know where you are in the sequence at all times.
Here is a solo based around the Bb blues changes using mixolydian scales.
See you next time

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