How Many Scales Do You Need?

Today is a little bit listening, but with a purpose, so maybe grab some coffee…

It’s not uncommon, if you’re kind of new to playing the blues, to think that the “same old” blues scale we all use a lot is not getting you what you want out of it.

In other words, people come to me and ask me to teach them other scales and sounds, and it took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t because they wanted to learn other scales, it was because they were not happy with the sounds they were hearing from their pentatonic and blues scales.

Believe it or not – those are two VERY different situations!

So, if you think that you need more notes, and that the pentatonic scale is not enough for you, I submit the following as proof to the contrary:

I’ve listened to, and watched that song a whole lot of times, and I have yet to find anything outside of the E minor pentatonic/blues scale.

Or how about something a little more on the traditional blues side like this:

Now, granted, Albert King played upside down so you have to use your ears on this one, but I can’t hear a single note outside of the minor blues scale, no matter how many times I listen.

So… the next time you feel like you need more notes to make your statement, spend some time listening and charging up your brain with ideas instead of running off to try to find more scales. The difference might surprise you.

 

34 Comments

  • Steve

    Reply Reply January 11, 2019

    Stevei was never lost when he played. his euphonious phrasing was a testimate to his love for his incredible gift. We probably wouldn’t be talking about the pentatonic scale today he reserected the blues and brought great artists back to life. If the blues is from the soul then Stevie Ray’s sound was truly from the heart.

    Mr. Hamlin your dedication to your craft keeps our journeys alive…

    Best Regards

    Steve

  • Alexander

    Reply Reply January 7, 2019

    Thanks again Griff, I took away from this is that you have to use that creative side of your brain 🧠 to use the pentatonic scale to get the sound and musical expressions you want. Your lessons always give me something to work on! Thanks again!🎸

  • Jan

    Reply Reply January 7, 2019

    Hello Griff

    First of all thanks for your help for the last three years.
    I cannot read your last two videos because there is a padlock in my browser. !
    « Simple ways to play tons of songs »
    I can hear the track
    Can I do somerhing ?

    Thanks
    Jan from France

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply January 6, 2019

    In playing I suppose my greatest gift was the way I felt on the willingness to express myself.-Eric Clapton

    By itself a letter is meaningless it doesn’t matter how many there are but when we use them to create word to express what we want to express at any given moment that’s when we touch the one listening to us

  • Bob S.

    Reply Reply January 5, 2019

    Looks like Stevie Ray was playing Voodoo Child on Austin City Limits. I couldn’t help but notice that the audience wasn’t nodding along with the music or shaking their bodies or appreciating what they were watching very much until the applause sign lit up after his number. Maybe they just didn’t know what to do with a Jimi classic. Pearls before swine, evidently. Albert’s rhythm player’s solo was awesome, as was Albert’s undeniable great style…..finger splint & all! At least Albert’s audience appreciated the virtuosity they were lucky enough to be seeing! Thanks Griff. As usual, you’re so dead bang on, having made your point with great examples. Cheers!

  • Phil Ricossa

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Point well taken—-unbelievable!

  • John D.

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Is that a splint on Albert’s third finger? Maybe I should break two of mine. Maybe one on the right, too. I would sound like Stevie and Albert combined.

  • michael hechler

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Thanks Teach, point taken 🙂

  • greggo

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    I’m not the biggest SRV fan but I must say that is the best version of VooDoo child I have heard since Hendix.

  • Dave D

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    It seems speed, Lots of notes and excessive overdrive dominate the guitar world today rather than soul, emotion and what the blues is meant to reflect in our lives! Griff is right, don’t worry about the speed or number of notes or different scales, instead let the music and the guitarist emotions convey the beauty of the song so it moves us! Play less with more feel and watch and hear your improvement! I have nothing against playing fast or a string of notes, but since working to play less with more emotion and let the song speak makes my playing so much more rewarding and pleasing! Just my thoughts through years of listening to other guitarist, and evolving as a guitarist.
    Dave

  • Tom

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    I like to work around the fretboard using various patterns of pentatonic and blues scales even going between the octaves. I just don’t do well when I try other scales. Or that proficient. I generally stay in the key and play wt the 5 boxes not necessarily playing to specific cords wt specific scale. If that makes sense. It works. Follow the feel of the music.

  • Jeff

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Let’s see if I have the blues rules down.

    1 Bad Luck and Trouble’s my only friend

    2 If it wasn’t for Bad Luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.

    That just about covers it, I think.

    • David

      Reply Reply January 4, 2019

      You’re right that does about cover it, very clever, at least he’s got, one friend.

  • DaveyJoe

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Sorry…can’t read Jezz.

  • John Sobuto

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Thanks for the chance to hear what we all attempt to play.

  • Tony Edd

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    5 note leads…..thats where the soul takes over…..if we let it

  • Gary Hylton

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Hi Griff,

    Pattern 1 of the pentatonic minor scale has worked for me going on 62 years. It is the feeling, timing, and nuances that keep it alive and well.

    Thanks Griff for helping those of us who play guitar – play a little better!

    Old School a.k.a. Woodstock

  • Terry b

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Thanks again griff, your timing on this was perfect for me. Was just having one of those practice weeks where one session went well and the next was like I just couldn’t find the groove. So thought I needed to explore other ways to get some better or more notes into my blues playing. This showed me I needed to “stop trying so hard,to try so hard”( from the disorderly orderly movie) and just relax and play without over thinking it.

  • Mark d

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Great article Griff I’ve said it before in the Forum that I had read once that the bars hold the Tiger The Space Between the Bars bars hold the music! Tasty pauses single notes vent to the right pitch are awesome. It’s nice to be able to shred but it is absolutely not necessary thanks Griff you shined a big ol light on My Guitar World 🙂 keep them coming!

  • Denis BOUCHARD

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Hello,
    The proof, again and again, that a big lot of notes do not give realy the music feeling.
    Thank you for all.

  • Greg B.

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Excellent! I agree with all the comments and admire both artists! Griff, your blogs and lessons have been very helpful, I’m a living room guitar player, but have added a lot to my musical tool box thanks to you. I find that I think to much when I play, but when I’m in the zone the magic happens.

    Again, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us it makes a difference!

  • Ken m

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Great examples , saw something the other day , some fella was rating the top ten guitarist in all time and SRV didn’t make his list . Go figure . To me every song that jimmi did and was performed by SRV he managed to do better . But when u can start with something Jimi did and embellish it that’s not bad . But at least we have that totally different style and genious he left for us . Just my opinion

  • Tom

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    A great reminder it’s about how you attack the notes just as importantly as which notes you choose. Thanks Griff!

    • Tony Edd

      Reply Reply January 4, 2019

      attack and massage and pause

  • Mike

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    WOW! I really miss those two. Thank goodness for video and Griff.

  • cowboy

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    a little timing and a little “sugar” (as Griff says) can do wonders for just a few notes…this is where the skill really lies…getting the most out of a few notes…later.

    cowboy

  • Joe Lamere

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Man, That was a good cup of coffee!!!!!

  • Ed Tucker

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    And, Albert had a broken finger too! 🙂

  • Roy

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    “So… the next time you feel like you need more notes to make your statement, spend some time listening and charging up your brain with ideas instead of running off to try to find more scales. The difference might surprise you.”

    Indeed so! Thanks for the reminder.

  • pete

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    I guess we all have our heroes and Stevie Ray is certainly one of mine. This is one of his finest performances in my opinion, demonstrating his incredible technique and as Griff says sticking largely to the blues scale. It comes out in Eb because he tuned heavier strings down a half-step, and he used to use the shoulder side of a Fender Heavy pick, I believe. If you listen to Jimi’s original and then this it’s amazing how much he has captured what Jimi was saying. Interestingly a lot of the melodies within his impro seem to follow the original. He must have worked on it a long time to get it like that, but to do it that well in a live performance shows talent I could only vaguely dream about.

  • William Roth

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    Point made . But the personality of both of these players screams out
    wit h every note. It is not so much what you play, but how you play it . Keep up the great work!
    Thanks

  • Jezz

    Reply Reply January 4, 2019

    We all get stale and just bang out the same old patterns, the real art is to keep your imagination alive. Still working on that one but it is good to be reminded of it every now and again
    Thanks griff

    • DaveyJoe

      Reply Reply January 4, 2019

      Gotta agree with ya Jazz!

      1/4/19

      • DaveyJoe

        Reply Reply January 4, 2019

        I meant JezZ.

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