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I am currently learning the guitar, particularly solo-ing, and teaching myself by figuring out the Blues scale in various keys. At the moment I'm looking at the key of E.

The way I understand it (may be incorrect) the Blues scale is based on this formula:

1 b3 4 b5 5 b7

That should mean the Blues scale in key of E becomes:

E Gb A Bb B Db

However, in a lot of places, not the least being the very highly-rated Guitarist's Reference app on Android, the scale is said to be:

E G A Bb B D

Being a newbie I'm struggling to find the reasoning behind this, and how it applies to other keys. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.


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up vote 8 down vote accepted

That notation (1 b3 4 b5 5 b7) is used to relate a scale to the major (ionian) scale. It shows which scale degrees should be flattened or sharpened (and by how much) relative to the major scale.

So, you should start with E major scale, not E minor or E phrygian (natural notes from E to E: E F G A B C D). E major scale is of course 1=E 2=F# 3=G# 4=A 5=B 6=C# 7=D#. Because these are the notes that the famous W W H W W W H (W=whole, H=half, two frets and one fret on guitar respectively) formula produces when you start with E.

If you apply the formula 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7, you end up with E G A Bb B D, which is what you found. Because the flats in b3 and b7 cancels the sharps of G# and D#.

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AHA!!! Correct formula, wrong starting point! Thank you, that cleared it up perfectly. – codedog May 21 '14 at 0:41

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