As a follow-up to our recent introduction to 12 bar blues piano, let’s take a look at another scale that you will want to be familiar with. We already mentioned one, which is the blues scale. The other scale that you will want to have a handle on when it comes to improvising over those dominant 7th chords is the Mixolydian scale.
Now, we acknowledged that when playing 12 bar blues piano that the key that you are in determines what blues scale you play. In other words, if you are playing the blues in the key of C, then the C blues scale will work well throughout the entire form. This means that the C blues scale will sound good over the C7, F7, and G7. That’s right. You don’t have to play the F blues scale for the F7 or the G blues scale for the G7. This is one of the interesting things about the blues scale. You see, each tone of the C blues scale has a different relationship with each of the other chords. For example, when you play the C, that tone is the 1 of the C7. However, when you play it over the the F7, it becomes the 5. Over the G7, it is the 4. Some of these relationships sound more consonant than others. Some sound dissonant. Since music really involves “tension and release,” this blues scale really serves us well! Explore the other tones of the C blues scale and see how they relate to each of these three chords. Of course, play and listen!
As mentioned above, another scale you will want to become confident playing is the Mixolydian scale. You’ll want to know this scale for each of the 7th chords you are playing, including the:
C Mixolydian scale C7
F Mixolydian scale for F7
G7 Mixolydian scale for G7
To arrive at any of these, simply play the major scale that corresponds to each root and then lower the 7th of the scale one half step. That gives you the Mixolydian scale for each of the 7th chords:
C7 = C D E F G A Bb C
F7 = F G A Bb C D Eb F
G7 = G A B C D E F G
Using this scale in conjunction with that blues scale really adds lots of interest to your soloing. You are highly encouraged to explore your potential creating ideas using all four of these scales, and as you do so, remember…
PLAY WITH PASSION!