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Guitar Lessons • The Combination Scale • Theory, Scale Positions and Fingering • Video Lessons

Updated on February 6, 2017

Learning Blues Guitar

I have been teaching guitar professionally since 1992, when Don’t Fret Guitar Instruction was established. Over the years, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops. Past students include four members of PROTEST THE HERO.

With this book, my goal is to relate the scales with chords and rhythms as opposed to just learning solos or licks and having no idea how to apply them. Good rhythm playing and knowledge is crucial to good soloing and vice versa. This comes through understanding the relationship between chords and scales. This book provides that important foundation.

The book is unique in the fact that each chapter is based around a different key signature and an open (contains unfretted notes), pattern of the pentatonic scale. There are five chapters covering the key signatures of E, A, D, G and C, and the five open ‘box patterns’ (scale patterns) of the pentatonic scale. Eventually all the box patterns are covered, from the open strings to the fifteenth fret.

There is no endless scale practice or useless licks to learn. Instead, each chapter begins with a chord progression, moves into various rhythm patterns derived from the chord progression, and then culminates with solos based on the scale and key covered. These solos tie in with the chord progression and rhythm patterns to form a complete lesson for each chapter.

The book is progressive. Upon completion, the student will have a solid foundation in blues guitar, and will understand the rhythm, lead connection.

The book is best studied from beginning to end, without slighting any material. All theory is explained in the simplest terms. There are fretboard diagrams for the scales, chord grids, and photos of hand positions as well as videos posted on YouTube to aid in the learning process.

It is best, but not necessary, to have a knowledge of barre and open chord shapes before beginning this course. All the chords have fretboard grids associated with them.

Good luck and have fun. Music is a celebration. Enjoy!

Lorne K. Hemmerling

BB King Videos

B.B. King: Live [Blu-ray]
B.B. King: Live [Blu-ray]

Throughout the show special guests Terrence Howard, Solange, and guitarist Richie Sambora stop by to jam and pay tribute to this renowned blues master. Don’t miss legend B.B. King performing in his element in this amazing concert! Song List: Everyday I Have the Blues, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean , How Many More Years, Downhearted, I Need You So, I Got Some Help I Don’t Need, Thrill is Gone, Nobody Loves Me But My Mother, Let the Good Times Roll, Thrill is Gone, When The Saints Go Marching In, Key to the Highway



The Combination Scale is just what the name implies: a combination of the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales. When these two scales are combined, the result is very similar to the Dorian Mode. The Dorian Mode, as well as the Mixolydian Mode is prevalent in all blues styles, and used extensively by players such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and BB King

C Major Pentatonic Box Pattern #2

C Major is relative to A minor (they share the same key signature, in this case: no sharps or flats). This scale is exactly the same as A minor Pentatonic Box Pattern #2. Try playing this over a C Major chord. It has a sweet happy sound, as opposed to playing it over an A minor chord, which lends a dark, bluesy sound. Scale spelling is: C, D, E, G, A, C (one octave)

C minor Pentatonic Box Pattern #1

As stated in The Pentatonic Scale, this box pattern is the king daddy of all scales for guitarists. Here is where things get a little complicated. C minor is NOT relative to C Major, it is relative to E♭ Major. C minor and E♭ share the same key signature: three flats (B♭, E♭ and A♭). Scale spelling is: C, E♭, F, G, B♭, C (one octave). However, this scale is so versatile it can be played over a C Major, C7, C9, C13 etc., despite that fact that these chords contain a natural E as opposed to E♭. Of course, it sounds excellent over a C minor chord, and is the home base scale for a minor blues progression.

C Combination Scale (Basic)

Below is the C Major Pentatonic scale combined with the C minor Pentatonic scale to form the basic C Combination Scale. As stated above, this is very similar to C Dorian. In fact, there is only one additional note: E natural. Many standard blues licks come out of this scale. Scale spelling: C, D E♭, E, F, G, A, B♭, C (one octave)

C Combination Scale (Extended)

By adding the one note (G♭) from the C minor Blues scale, we can form the extended C Combination Scale. In theory, all of these notes will fit over a dominant C chord (C7, C9, C13 etc.), but care must be used when deciding what notes to pause on or to resolve phrases . Scale spelling: C, D, E♭, E, F, G♭, G, A, B♭, C (one octave)

Here is a solo over a three chord progression in C using the Combination Scale. If this solo is played without accompaniment, the chord changes can still be heard, because most of the notes outline the chords. This is the mark of a good solo: well placed notes and phrases. Try slurring the triplets with pull-offs and hammer-ons, as well as picking the individual notes.

Blues Solo In C with Combination Scale

Here is the same solo with chord stabs and a standard blues ending. The chords at the end which are out of the frame are C sharp 9 to C9.

Great song. Extensive use of the Combination Scale.


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    • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

      Lorne Hemmerling 5 years ago from Oshawa

      You are very welcome! Always great to get feedback!! Until I thought of the modes as totally different scales, they had me mystified. When you play them, don't think of the parent scale, just listen close to the sound of each one. It will be one of those 'yikes, now I get it moments' :•)

    • profile image

      Lucky D 5 years ago

      Thannx for that, I play keyboards, and understood it fine. Theory is theory, and now things like Dorian don't freak me out as much.

    • soundtrack junkie profile image

      soundtrack junkie 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      been looking for something like this... thanks