L4: 7th Position Blues

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The following screen shots of UkeBuddy.com’s scale finder show the C major pentatonic, C minor pentatonic and C blues scales. Each of these scales can be used freely in conjunction with a 12-Bar Blues chord progression in C (in other words, there are no wrong notes in any of these scales when playing improvisatorily against this chord progression). In this section we’ll be focussing on 7th position, assigning your four fretting fingers to the area between the 7th and 10th frets. You can still include notes from outside this box (shifting to open and 3rd position), but the 7th-10th frets will be your home base. In this position you should be able to stretch your pinky out to the 11th and 12th fret to reach those notes if you choose. Once again, you may ignore the 4th string entirely if you choose, since it repeats the notes available on the 1st and 2nd strings (then again, you may start finding these note positions useful).

C maj pent

C min pent

C blues

In a blues context, if you ever feel like you’ve hit a ‘wrong’ note when improvising on these scales, just remember you’re only a note away from a ‘right’ one. Take the opportunity to milk the dissonance as ‘bluesy’ or slide up (slide down, hammer on, pull off, etc.) to the next note in the scale. As long as you keep a straight face (or even better, maintain a slightly pained expression all the time), no one will know it wasn’t intentional.

CHALLENGE

Earn your Soloing Level 4 patch by demonstrating 3 of the following:

  • After printing out some staff/tab paper (pdf), write out the combined C major pentatonic/minor pentatonic/blues scales up to the 12th fret as one scale. Write the appropriate fret numbers on the tab below the staff (numbers need only appear on strings 1, 2 & 3).
  • Play this scale up to the 12th fret from the bottom note to the top and then from the top note to the bottom. Tempo (speed) does not matter, but keep a steady beat. You will need to shift at some point between the three positions you’ve learned so far (open, 3rd and 7th). Where these shifts occur is up to you, as there are many options.
  • Write a 12-bar blues melody in 4/4 time using the notes from the C minor pentatonic scale that incorporates notes primarily from 7th position. You may use half, quarter and eighth notes freely, but only two whole notes. Work on this until you’re sure you like it. Keeping a steady beat, play your composition.
  • Record/video an improvisation using this scale primarily in 7th position over a 12-bar blues progression in C. You may use a backing track, like this one, or have a friend play the chords for you to improvise over (they should be able to maintain a steady beat).