I found this backing track here: https://www.learningguitarnow.com/free-blues-backing-tracks/free-blues-backing-track-slow-blues-in-a/

Now I try playing it with this scale: enter image description here

Will this work out? Because as a beginner I do not know if the backing track is in A Blues as well. It only says its in the key of "A".

How to figure out if this will work?

  • 1
    If it says the backing track is a "slow blues in A" then with all likelihood you'll be alright with the blues scale in A that your diagram shows. How to figure it out - well, use your ears. Play the tones in the scale over the backing track, focusing on the roots of the chords of the progression (A-A-A-A-D-D-A-A-E-D-A-A). If it sounds good, keep doing it. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:56

3 Answers 3


It should work fine. Just make sure your guitar is tuned well (use tuner). If you need a sanity check play the lowest A note on your guitar (open 5th string or 5th fret on low E string) and it should be the same note, the bass guitar plays at the beginning of the track.

Now, how to make a blues scale sound like a blues is another thing. Blues scale is only a selection of notes that fit well to basic blues chord progression and work well more or less throughout the whole progression. But these notes are more like a letters of blues alphabet and blues is a language that, as all languages, starts from words.

The best way to start playing the blues is simply by learning and copying existing vocabulary of phrases, licks ect. Then as an afterthought you might think about how they fit into blues scale. Sometimes they won't as the blues scale is not the only scale that works well in blues. But to sum it up: don't "use" scales - they're not for using, they just are. Learn the language instead. And if you're not sure if something sounds right or not, devote lots of time to training your ear, active listening, copying from recordings. It will get you much further at this stage than studying the scales.


Backing track says Blues in A. It should be using the dominant sevenths of each chord. The order ought to be

                  A7  A7  A7  A7

                  D7  D7  A7  A7

                  E7  D7  A7  E7

the E7 being the turnaround chord to get to the next verse.

The guitar neck pattern is the minor blues scale in A, so notes will fit.

Don't just play up and down the scale - it sounds awful - you want awesome!

Try to play the chord notes on the first beat of each bar to start with. Then add some of the other notes between. Use your ears more than anything else. You'll find some notes just won't sound good over certain chords, and others will sound bad in a good way.Short notes will fit almost anywhere, so it's the longer notes you need to be careful with - vibrato will sound good with them.

  • I think I have a good example of "Don't just play up and down the scale". Here is my first try on the backing-track: vocaroo.com/i/s1QLhj1KtjI3 As far as I am sane I was surely in the A Blues Scale but still it sounded "bad" at some places!
    – xetra11
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 8:31
  • @xetra11 I thought that was pretty good - dissonance is okay, as long as you don't hold it for too long before resolving to something else. Very brave of you to post it. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 16:03
  • That's a nice try for the first! Well done.On the A7 bars, if you hold on to a C note(e.g.3rd string 5th fret) It sounds better bent up, or wobbled strenuously, to C# (maj3), as it fits what the band is playing better. An old trick - it works!
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 16:21

I struggled with this, and "use your ears" isn't always the right answer if you're not Eric Clapton and unblessed with prodigious natural talent, rather just a willingness to learn.

There are lots of variations on the blues chord progression too. You need to know the chord progression and so which chords come along in which sequence. However I never knew a way to pick which notes would sound good. This guide (admittedly for bass guitar) shows you which elements of each chord to use heavily and which to leave alone, or to use sparingly. It was this article that demystified it all for me.

Jarek is right to say that you do need to learn the vocabulary of phrases and their rhythms to sound "authentic" but its good to start by sounding musically literate first. Its a huge confidence boost and every learner needs that.

See also here simple discussion of note choices in another answer for an excellent answer from Michael Martinez.

Bass guitar for dummies article on note choices for chord progressions

  • You're right, use your ears is not a great suggestion if we can't rely on them. But on the other hand I have quite strong opinion about pointlessness of studying any theory without being able to "aurally recognize" any of the material we're studying. Do I actually know lydian scale if I can't sing it in my head or recognize in recording? Ear training is the elephant in the room and it can be trained and perfected as any other ability. And somehow it is extremely neglected in something we could call modern rock, blues, pop education
    – Jarek.D
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:53
  • Agreed, but as a non-talented player, I think that "I'm making progress, and its coming from me" feeling is worth gold. Understanding follows with "so why does that work, exactly" later). I do think recognising intervals should be a practice topic in its own right. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:08
  • If you can't 'use your ears' what other senses can you use? It's of paramount importance that we listen - both to what we play and what others play. What goes on when trying to play along to a backing track. Don't tell me, or anyone, that we don't 'use our ears'!! Otherwise we're not listening to either the track, or what we're trying to play to it.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:38
  • I'm not saying that @Tim.Obviously no other senses would do instead What I'm saying is that's an easy response to give someone who has acquired a degree of competence and so doesn't have to wonder what choices to make, or has natural talent to make it easier. If you do not know innately, then you need some pointers to make things easier. Lots of people give up on instruments because no one shows them the bare bones and they give up hope. Its all about feeling confidence that you are making progress. Even if its only little gains, its still another valuable step down the road. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 9:57
  • "use your ears" is tantamount to saying "well you should just know". If you don't magically "just know" then you feel a failure. Some people need to take smaller steps, or understand the steps better as they take them, or need it explained in a different way. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 10:00

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