Using the E Minor Blues Scale in Guitar

Many well-known blues and rock songs utilize riffs and solos that employ the blues scale – an extension of minor pentatonic with one additional note known as the ‘blue note’ – in their solos and riffs.

As this additional note can produce harsh and dissonant sounds if overused, its use should only be done sparingly and strategically to add distinctive chromatic flavor to your playing.

Scale Shapes

Understanding scale shapes is one of the cornerstones of improvising guitar. These repeating patterns on the fretboard offer pathways that can help build melodies and create urgency within your playing, not to mention add more dimension to make your sound unique and interesting.

The E Minor Blues Scale begins on the fifth fret of the low E string and comprises these notes:

This scale can be thought of as an expanded version of the minor pentatonic scale, using similar shapes and positions but adding one additional note – blue note. This note creates tension through dissonance. While adding emotion, too much blue tone will sound harsh and harsh.

Remember when using the e minor blues scale that its use should always depend on context. For instance, soloing over major chords won’t work too well with this scale due to it sounding out-of-key; therefore, think of this scale more like an alternative diatonic scale for adding flavor and variety into your playing.

An effective exercise for developing scale shapes on guitar is playing each of them up and down the neck of your instrument. Do this by positioning your index finger on the 5th fret of the low E string and using middle and ring fingers to play each scale shape back and forth two or three times; for maximum effectiveness it would be wise to repeat this cycle two or three times for each scale shape.

Step two in practicing scales involves practicing with backing tracks. There are plenty of free backing tracks online, and they can greatly assist your rhythm and improvisation skills as well as familiarizing you with tempo/beat of tracks – both essential elements in developing good control over scales.


As with other blues scales, intervals (steps between non-adjacent notes) are at the heart of this scale and contribute greatly to its unique sound. While its intervals differ somewhat from those found in natural minor scales such as natural minor, the ones found here include whole steps, half steps and step-and-a-half intervals – something made possible because it includes the extra b5 note found within chromatic scale.

Take time to understand intervals so you can effectively use them in your playing. Intervals allow for greater sound variety and are essential when it comes to improvisation; having a solid grasp on them will enable you to play melodies and licks over various chord progressions, adding bluesy flair to your music.

Beginners can gain the best insight into this scale’s intervals by listening to a well-structured backing track. These tracks can be found online, and provide an effective means for learning rhythm comprehension, improvisation and general musical abilities. A good backing track should contain various tempos and beats to facilitate synchronization development.

Once you have mastered the fundamentals of this scale, try adding skips and jumps between non-adjacent notes into your playing to give more personality to it and make it more engaging for listeners. This step is crucial in developing musicality and will set you apart from other musicians.

One important consideration when learning this scale is to keep in mind that bluesy ‘b’ notes should not be played as single notes; rather, they should be used sparingly to add some bluesy flair and character to your melody. Overusing this kind of note could become tiresome and overwhelming quickly – take care not to overuse it!

The E minor blues scale is an elegant blend of five individual notes that can be played over an expansive array of chord progressions. By exploring various positions on your fretboard or keyboard, you can learn to master its distinctive bluesy tonality.


When applying the E minor blues scale into a chord progression, there are a few basic strategies. You could utilize power chords containing all six notes of the scale; or use major and minor pentatonic chords (or combinations thereof), depending on what key the progression takes place in and what sound you desire overall.

Early black musicians who pioneered blues had little formal music training, so their note selection was often dictated by emotion rather than formal training. Due to its characteristic sadness and darker sound, minor blues scale chords became predominant for most blues musicians at this time.

One reason the blues scale is used so frequently across musical genres – such as rock and jazz – is that it provides an effective tool for creating melodies and solos. Derived from minor pentatonic scale, but featuring an additional note known as the blue note to provide its distinct sound.

The blues scale can be played over any major chord, though it works particularly well when played over an E major chord. It is often utilized as part of major chord progressions when V chord is involved, adding bluesy character without clashing with chord tones.

As it’s essential to remember, the blue note is more than a passing note in any scale. When playing melodies over blues scales, adding in blue notes periodically keeps sounds from becoming too bland or monotonous and keeps melody moving along smoothly.

When playing the E minor blues scale on guitar, having a fretboard diagram handy can be extremely beneficial in visualizing its notes and their octaves. To make reading this chart simpler, we have added a color-coding system whereby each note in the scale has a distinct hue; starting from darkest blue on top of the fretboard until lightest blue at the bottom.


The blues scale can be thought of as a minor pentatonic scale with the addition of an additional dissonant note known as the ‘blue note’, which creates an uncomfortable dissonance when used too frequently or loudly. Utilizing this note sparingly will add tension and emotion to your playing, but too often or loud use may result in harsh and harsh-sounding sounds; for effective blues playing you must know how to manage tension; including chromatic notes like blues scale is one way of accomplishing this goal.

To gain an understanding of this scale, try playing it both ascending and descending order. Use a pattern similar to when learning minor pentatonic scale; your index finger for notes on first fret, middle finger on second fret, ring finger on third fret. When you feel comfortable playing these shapes on their own, try practicing along to a looping backing track or metronome at an appropriate speed to hone your timing and integrate this scale into chords and phrases more seamlessly.

An excellent exercise for honing the E Minor Blues Scale is to play both in open and closed positions. This will help cement its shape in your mind while providing you with new sounds to explore when improvising. Try playing it with bass notes in the background too – this will give you a feel for how it sits over root notes.

If you want to push your studies further, add the blues scales into some major scales as well. This will demonstrate how to combine different scales together and craft more interesting lead lines – for instance playing an E minor blues scale over a G major chord can bring out major third of G major scale which you can combine with E minor blues scale and create that familiar’sweet three’ sound characteristic of traditional blues music.