iFiddle Blues Scale Magic

In partnership with iFiddle Magazine, I’ve produced this lesson on two different, two-finger, two-string fingerboard patterns (I call “EZ-Zones”) that allow you to play 10 different Pentatonic scales very easily.  Pentatonics are great for getting started with anything from creatively spicing up your fiddle tunes, to outright improvisation in styles like Jazz and Blues.  Check out this video for an introduction to the topic, then take a look and listen to the materials below for more.
Here are the first 5 EZ-Zone finger patterns for the 5 easiest Blues scales on violin: Em Bm Gm Dm & Am.  The green dash line encompasses each EZ-Zone (either 0-1-3 or 0-low2-3).  Notes outside the green dashed EZ-Zones are also in the key and you can venture “outside the box” if and when comfortable.  I recommend just staying within the EZ-Zones at first, mainly to foster the skill of creating without over-thinking.  The “blue notes” are in-between extra notes you can throw in for more spice.  As mentioned in the video above, notice that A Blues has two EZ-Zones.  I also recommend that you spend some time just wandering through the notes of each fingerboard chart to get your muscles used to them and unthinking.

AtoodzEbluesFBwEZZnTxt.001AtoodzBbluesFB.001AtoodzGbluesFB.001AtoodzDbluesFB.001AtoodzAbluesFB.001
The first song in this lesson is Clinch Mountain Back-Step.  It’s melody is made completely of the A Blues scale, so it is fine to stray from the melody as written to do your own thing with the A Blues scale at anytime you feel!  I suggest doing this mostly towards the end of a phrase for best effect.Clinch Mountain BackStep

Note: I realize that in the video, I stated that Clinch Mountain was in a minor key.  That was only half right.  As you can see in the chart above, the A chords are major, but I’ve heard this tune with A minor chords as well.  Either way, the A Blues scale sounds cool with it all!

Here’s a simple medium tempo version of Clinch Mountain for you to practice with.  Feel free to do your own thing using the A Blues Scale over the top if you want to.

Here’s a version of Clinch Mountain that I call the “Pot Luck Pickin’ Party” version.  It might be a bit on the wild side for those of you who are more of Bluegrass traditionalists, but shows the possibilities.  Again, feel free to go nuts with the A Blues scale!

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Our second tune in the lesson is from the original Fiddle Jam Book (distributed world-wide by the Hal Leonard Corp. and sold in physical and digital forms right here in our School Store).  “E12” is a standard 12-bar Blues.  See the E Blues fingering chart above for the notes that will fit this tune.  Educationally, the thing to understand in this portion of the lesson is that the chords in E12 are all major, but the scale used in minor… and it clashes in a cool sort of way!  This is common in the Blues idiom.

Here’s the E12 example track with me jamming over the top.  You can listen to this to hear the possibilities, or jam along with me if you’d like.

Here’s E12 with just the backing band:

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Before we get to the third tune in this lesson, “Moonlight Drive,” you’ll need to understand how to find the relative major of the minor/blues scales.  “Relative” simply means that the two scales share the same notes… but a different “tonic” or starting/resting note.  To find any relative major pentatonic of any minor pentatonic, simply go up a minor 3rd (or a step and a half), or up to the second note of the minor blues scale.  All you need to do is play the same exact notes and fingerings, but alter your ideas to start and end on the new tonic.

Here’s the 5 relative majors of the Blues scale EZ-Zones above.  C (=Am), G (=Em), D (=Bm), Bb (=Gm), and F (=Dm): Again, notice that they are actually the same exact fingerings as their Blues scale counterparts above, but the “starred” tonics are different.

AtoodzCMajPent.001

G Maj Pent

Atoodz FB Graphic DmajPent1wEZZ.001

BbMajPent

F Maj Pent

Our third tune is one I put together just for this lesson.  It is in the style of Jean Luc Ponty’s “Sunset Drive” off his “Taste for Passion” album.  I titled it “Moonlight Drive.”  As you can see in the chart below, it is mostly A minor but has a C major section (measures 9-12) where you can try ideas that use the same exact fingerings as A Blues but simply “center” your ideas on C instead of A.

Moonlight Drive crop

Here’s the backing track for “Moonlight Drive.”  Again, use nothing but A Blues (which is the same as C major Pentatonic except C is the tonic).  Have fun!

Here’s a quick demo I did of me playing over this track (I added phaser for maximum Ponty-esque effect!):

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Advanced concepts also mentioned in the video lesson are:

  1. That you now also know two sets of “parallel” pentatonics (not same notes this time, but simply the same tonic).  These are G/Gm and D/Dm.  The cool thing about these is that you can really feel their differences in flavor, and can mix and match and even mix them both together at the same time for a cool bluesy/slide-y/swampy sound.  I encourage you to mess around with this concept.
  2. Since you now know G, C & D major pentatonics, which are the I IV V of the key of G for those who might be more theory-savy, try a “level 2” skill by switching scales to match each chord on a simple 3 chord song in the key of G.  This approach might help you sound more authentic is styles like Cajun/Zydeco.  This can take quite a bit of mental and ear focus, but no worries if you get lost though, as you can always abort to the Blues scale of the overall key at any point too!

I hope all this helps and you enjoy jamming with these EZ fingered scales!

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have!  Want to check out what the Fiddle Jam Institute has to offer?… compare our free and tuition-base memberships here… or ready for full access to all Fiddle Jam Institute lessons?… get your All Access Pass here!

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3 Responses to iFiddle Blues Scale Magic

  1. Helen March 2, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Geoffrey these tips and shortcuts to the blues scales are gold!! I can’t wait to to get improvising. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience 🙂

  2. Fitz January 7, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    looks cool to me! ;~)

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