Descending arpeggios minor and major blues scales

Hi all,
I struggle with my fingers in my exercises for minor and major blues scales when playing over three octaves. Especially when going down and moving my fingers between the octaves. (Minor is ok but major!)
Does anyone have an idea for an exercise for descending minor and major blues scales ?
THX Christian

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Hey @christianschilk - great question!

For running blues scale, my main suggestion is to find the most comfortable fingering and stick with it. Practice this very slowly to begin with and gradually increase the tempo. This applies to running any scale.

Next, understand that the relative major and minor blues scales are ‘a mirror image’ and so any fingering that works for the minor blues scale will also work for its relative major blues scale, and vice-versa.

For example when playing the C minor blues scale up and down the piano over multiple octaves, I would play the white notes with my thumb, and the black notes with my third finger. The relative major of C minor is Eb, and so the Eb major blues scale follows the exact same fingering.

That works for running the scale up and down, but often there are other variables which will dictate the fingering that I use, a few examples are:

  • The Harmonic Situation. The previous chord and/or next chord might require that I start or end my blues scale line on a specific note with a specific finger. I’ve actually been dealing with this exact issue in the Xmas improv lessons that I’m working on. My right hand thumb needs to play the 3rd of an A7 chord as I can’t comfortably reach the 10th in my left hand, and so I have to tweak my right hand fingering over G Major Blues/E Minor Blues and use my pinky finger for the melody note which frees up my lower right hand to play the harmony. Just an example where the fingering I have worked on has to be changed for the situation.

  • Grace Notes & Crushed Notes. Often when I’m using blues scales (both major and minor) I will add grace notes and crushed notes (think b3 and the b5) and sometimes even double crushed notes where I slur up into the melody note. In these situations I will often move away from the fingering that I would use to run the scale up and down the keyboard and just use what is most comfortable. The same applies with turns ie. when playing neighbouring notes in quick succession; the fingering has to be flexible depending on the context.

In summary:

  • for running blues scales over multiple octaves, find the most comfortable fingering and then stick to that fingering for both the relative major and minor blues scales eg. C Minor Blues and Eb Major Blues, or D Minor Blues and F Major Blues.

  • A prerequisite to that step is to thoroughly learn the relative major and minor scale pairs.

  • Always keep in mind which fingers are supposed to land on the black notes in your chosen fingering and I find that helps, not just for blues scale but all other scales too.

  • In certain situations when playing tunes or when trying to execute a specific riff or lick, the most appropriate fingering might be completely different to when running the scale.

I hope that helps Christian, I have a few new blues improv lessons on “Jingle Bells” which will be ready soon and I think you will enjoy them. I will post them in the forum as soon as they are published.

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Hey Hayden,

I would like to thank you for the detailed and very helpful answer. For a long time I was looking for a coach who would also answer detailed questions. I think it is important that exactly these basics are automatically stored in “finger memory”. In this way, I might be able to playfully improvise at some point without mental effort.
I’m really looking forward to the improv lessons.
THX Christian

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