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First of all I would like to say that I have absolutely no musical education whatsoever, I have been studying alone and in the past with a guitar teacher. However, I am really into blues, watching lot of blues guitar lessons etc.

So I am interested in the most basic E7-A7-B7 blues progression. I am studying both minor and major scales, however one thing is not clear for me.

I understand that aforementioned blues progression is in the key of E, which means I can use the E minor/major pentatonic scale. However, when it progresses to A chord, should I change to A pentatonic scales or continue in E pentatonic scales throughout? The same question comes up with B7 chord.

  • Check also this answer (and the other ones) to a related question. – Matt L. Nov 16 '14 at 20:17
  • Also, check out this blog post. – Matt L. Nov 16 '14 at 20:18
  • Continue in the key of E. Overall, the piece is in E. All the chords in a particular key (E in this example) will use the notes of that scale (E in this example). So basically, all the notes that are in the A chord and in the B chord are in the scale of E. This means you can keep soloing in E. – Valentin Grégoire Nov 17 '14 at 13:33
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You could use either.

When soloing you would want to center the notes you play around the chord being played. The E major and minor pentatonic scale contains the notes E, F#, G, G#, A, B, C#, and D. The notes in a E7 are E, G#, B, and D the notes of an A7 are A, C#, E, G, and the notes of a B7 are B, D#, F#, and A. Of all the notes used in the 3 chords, only the D# is left out, but it can easily be put back in just passing between the D and the E.

When you switch the scale you are playing to A major and minor when the progression goes to an A7 and to B major and minor when you are playing an B7 it obviously centers the notes you play around the chord being played and make the chord change pop more, but can be difficult for a beginner as the scale changes a lot.

I encourage you to do both as the solos you would make will sound slightly different and you may prefer one sound over the other.

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Also listen to blues artists that you like. Look at transcriptions and you will see the scale parts being used over the chord changes. You will notice in the key of E that the E pentatonic minor scale is used over all chords for tension. Start with a basic minor pentatonic scale in E first then try the major pentatonic to hear the difference of major/minor sounds over the progression. Pay attention to the 3rd and 7th of the chords when playing over them. For example: the third in E7 (G#) resolves nicely to the 7th in A7 (G). You can use that technique over all the chord changes.

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In E, the minor blues scale notes are E, G, A, Bb, B, D. In A, the minor blues scale notes are A, C, D, Eb, E, G. In B, the minor blues scale notes are B, D, E, F, F#, A.

You can see there are some common notes - A, D and E being them.Theoretically, if you only played these, they would work over all 3 chords. But the tune may start to get boring! Not all notes played over a chord HAVE to fit the chord, but the best one ought to be the one with the same name - the root, often played on beat 1. One on one, I call it. Other notes are usable, so you could just use the original minor blues notes all through, even over A7 and B7. Most will fit, and not sound too bad, especially if you phrase it right. However, using the better fitting notes as mentioned earlier, a better fit will be heard. I.e. the A notes fit A better than, say, the E.

There is the same idea available using the major blues notes. A lot of blues players will move between the two lots, but also tend to use the minor blues mostly, bending the G to G# on the E for instance, or even just tweaking it so it sounds like it was a G#, but actually only went half way there.

So, in summary - stick to the E notes all through, with careful omissions and timing, or, when you are feeling brave (adventurous !) change the set of notes to match the appropriate chord.

Cream's Sunshine of your Love shows this well, in that the riff changes when the chord underneath changes. Just like so many blues and pop numbers do.

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