Blues


Blues Scale Fingering

QuestionQuestion
Sharlene H., Spain

  1. Is there anywhere in the program that explains how to count and play triplets? (of quarter, eighth or 16th notes)?
  2. When doing the blues improv in some keys, like Eb, the blues scale notes don’t seem to fit with I, IV, V. In other keys they do. Is there a reason for that or is it just our (my student and my) bad ears?
  3. When doing the Eb blues scale, does anyone have any suggestions on finger patterns? We are using the ones suggested by Neil, but found that it is a bit awkward getting back to F1 on Eb when going up the scale. Can anyone help or is it just something to ‘suck up”?

Answer
Maureen K., California

“Hickory” is the word we use for triplet feel. Can’t remember where in SM that word is introduced. (“Blueberry” represents a different rhythm used on a variation of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.)

Answer
Leeanne I., Australia

Hickory is first introduced in Blues & Improv.

Answer
Leeanne I., Australia

For the sound, check you are playing the correct notes. For fingering, I start with F4 on the Eb, then the thumb can go to the A, rolling over to F3.

Answer
Gordon Harvey, Australia

Re question 3, I haven’t checked back on Neil’s recommendations, but for the Eb blues scale I would use fingers 2, 3 and 4 on the black keys. I think of that scale as two groups of three blacks separated by a white. Using 2, 3 and 4 on each group of blacks and the thumb on the white feels pretty natural to me.
Re question 2, it could be that you and your student are moving too slowly just now. In any key there are notes in the blues scale that sound like they clash with the LH when taken in isolation, but once you get a nice flow going, they will sound fine. However, feel free to mention any specifics that you’re unhappy with.

QuestionQuestion
Ian M., Indiana

Gordon, If you go up more than one octave, you’re going from F4 to … Hmmm.

Answer
Gordon Harvey, Australia

Ian, yikes! I didn’t think of that! I think there would be two choices:

  1. Going up, switch from 3 on Db to thumb on Eb, then 2 & 3 on Gb and Ab; going down, thumb on Db, 2 on Bb. Both end up with the thumb on A.
  2. Going up, shift the hand on black keys. I think my preference would be going from 3 on Db to 2 on Eb, but you could choose other points. Going down would be a reverse of this.

Obviously both moves are awkward and would take some training.
This brings me to another question: how important is it to learn fingering for a blues scale? Obviously it would be great to be able to do fast runs, but that’s just one thing you can do with blues. For me, most of the benefit in learning the blues scale can be gained from seeing the map on the keyboard, allowing you to choose whatever jumps, leaps, chords etc you like. Could it be that focusing on drilling in a scale might discourage bigger-picture approaches? This is a genuine question to which I’d love responses, and is in no way a criticism of any approach.

Original discussion started November 18, 2019