In a standard 12 bar blues shuffle, “A” Major, on a six string guitar, in standard tuning. When you get to the IV, I know... I can play the pentatonic major/minor, I know I can do some mode positions or b minor scales, Some people say you have to stick to the major and minor blue scales, but that’s OK too...All of this is fine.

Is there a way I can comfortably/Musically stay on the IV for the duration of the song?

I don’t know if this would be a practical musical thing to do or if I just want to see if I can do it properly. I just have real problems with the IV and coming back to the 1...

Thank you both...

In the A Major blues shuffle we’re talking about I can solo with E major licks for the duration of the song, so I assumed I could stay in D (IV) because it’s perfect also. Obviously this is not correct. When I hear other great blues guitar it seems they hang around the four longer than I do/can or somehow transpose back to the one after a long day at IV.

From what I am now understanding ( IV & V ) perfect relates to the scale and not cord song structure.

So I can solo ANYTIME with “A” major and minor scales and “E” Major and minor scales but not on the IV, except for the duration of the four?

  • There's a myriad of things that can be done, notes that can be played. The question is unclear as it stands.Why would you want to 'stay on the IV' for the rest of the song, which doesn't 'stay on the IV'?
    – Tim
    Feb 1, 2020 at 4:38
  • @Tim - I think he's saying he gets stuck on IV and doesn't know how to transition away from it. Feb 1, 2020 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


In Blues in A, the IV chord is D. Over that, as you state, , maj. pent., min. pent., maj. blues, min. blues are the main notes most use (ignoring modes for now!).

Let's consider all the notes those entail. D, E, F, F♯, G, A♭, A, B, C. In fact, it's probably more simple to quote 'avoid' notes! They're B♭, D♭ and E♭.

A lot of those notes - which I'll call pivot notes - also belong to A, pents and blues.

In order, they are A, B, C, C♯, D, E♭, E, F♯, G.

So, those 'pivot notes', common to both D and A chords, will be : A, B, C, D, E, F♯, and G.

A choice of 9 notes which could be common to both chords, and could be the last note played over D, and the first over A. The best and most convincing to start the next A bar would of course be the note A, but with such a choice, the options are almost endless. That's even before B♭ gets re-instated as the last note played over the D chord, leading like a tritone sub. back to note A on chord A. The list goes on...

  • I think you mean Bb, Db and Eb as the 3 avoid notes?
    – mkorman
    Feb 2, 2020 at 15:08
  • @mkorman - did indeed! Well spotted!
    – Tim
    Feb 2, 2020 at 15:31
  • I really enjoy your (in the moment) inspirational direction with your instruction to the individual student question. I will definitely get on with studying pivot points.... Feb 2, 2020 at 17:20

Ideally your soloing needs to reflect the underlying harmony.

I'm assuming your basic 12-bar shuffle, the harmony of which is:

I7 - I7 - I7 - I7

IV7 - IV7 - I7 - I7

V7 - IV7 - I7 - V7

which in the key of A would be:

A7 - A7 - A7 - A7

D7 - D7 - A7 - A7

E7 - D7 - A7 - E7

Whatever you play at any given point in time needs to reflect the chord that you're on. This is sometimes called "playing the changes".

This means that in the first four bars you need to play licks/phrases that go well with A7, then in the next 2 phrases that go well with D7 and so on.

There are some tricks/shortcuts for beginners, which are "just play A blues licks all the time". This sounds OK ish, but not great (and you may hit wrong notes every so often). In order to sound great, you need to play the right notes at any given time.

What are the right notes? @Tim explains it quite well in his answer. If that's too complicated to begin with (I'm still absorbing some of that info into my playing myself), then you can simplify it as:

  • Play A licks and the A major/minor blues scales over the A7 chord
  • Play D licks and the D major/minor blues scales over the D7 chord
  • Play E licks and the E major/minor blues scales over the E7 chord

If you decide to stay in IV (so, D) for the whole song, your soloing will sound somewhat monotonous and not reflect the chord changes.

  • Someone's going to take the last part literally, and actually play blues scales over the chords! Blues scale notes may be a better option... +1.
    – Tim
    Feb 2, 2020 at 15:35

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