Blues lead guitar - lesson 1

Blues in the key of A - backing track lesson 1.
This is the first lesson in the Blues soloing series. The diagram below shows the "first position" version of the scale. There are five different main shapes for a certain scale.

Blues in A jam track (using a single scale)

"Shuffle Blues"

A blues scale diagram

Jam track info

Instruments: Bass, drums and rhythm guitar
Chords: A7
Tempo: 110 BPM


The A Blues scale can be used over the whole track, which only include one chord (A7). Dividing scales into shapes is a standard method for approaching them and helps the process of establishing a visual acquaintance. The shape presented above is called the first position of the Blues scale and is recommended to start with. It has easy fingerings (it is the only shape for this scale that includes four and not five frets), and is included in many common blues licks. Besides from paying the notes indicated by the dots, try to make use of techniques such as slides, bends, vibrato and hammer-ons.
One thing to take notice of is the notes on the 5th string, 6th fret and 3rd string, 7th fret. These are so-called blue notes, which mostly is used as passing notes, meaning a note that you don't stay on for a longer time.
Notice also that you can move the whole shape on octave up the fretboard. From the 5th position to the 17th position, that is. This will expand your sound color palette.


Chord and scale - This particular blues jam track is based upon only one chord, the dominant A seventh. The dominant seventh is the most common chord type in blues. The Blues scale (a.k.a. the Pentatonic Blues scale) is as its name imply a perfect choice to use for blues lead guitar.

A7 chord chord intervals and notes.

1 3 5 b7
A C# E G

A Blues scale degrees and notes.

1 b3 4 b5 5 b7
A C D Eb E G

There is not a perfect match between a A7 chord and the A Blues scale, but it will still sound great to use the scale over the chord. One thing to consider is the 3rd interval and how it differs between scale and chord. The scale includes the minor 3rd (m3) whereas the chord include the major 3rd (M3). It will not always sound great to play the b3 over the A7 chord (I chord) and one way to tackle this is to bend the b3 note. It can be a half tone or a quarter tone bend, both will work. See how this can be done by the following licks:

Tab blues lick

Tab blues lick