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Blues Guitar Lesson • How To Use The Combination Scale. Chords, Solos, Tab, Videos, Jam Tracks

Updated on March 22, 2020
Review by Karen: Starts at the beginning and breaks the blues down in a well articulated way. It exponentially grows from there.
Review by Karen: Starts at the beginning and breaks the blues down in a well articulated way. It exponentially grows from there.

Learning Blues Guitar

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


The Combination scale is just what the name implies, a mixture of the Major and minor Pentatonic scales. This pairing of the two scales results in many more note choices over the standard twelve bar, three chord progression, adding chord tones, chromatic runs, etc, but care must be taken. Unlike employing the minor Pentatonic scale for the whole progression (where all notes tend to sound right), a misplaced note with the Combination scale can sound awful and out of key. For example: the one, four, five chords in G are G7, C7, and D7, in their simplest form. When using the Gm Pentatonic scale (G, B flat, C, D, F, G) over this progression, it is hard to play a bad sounding note. Using the G Major Pentatonic scale (G, A, B, D, E, G), for the entire progression will not work, the B natural will clash with the C7 and sound totally wrong.

Chord Shapes

The Rhythm Chart

This is a standard twelve bar, three chord progression in 'G'. The symbol at the bottom of each chord (top of the D9), means to accent and play in staccato form. Accent means to strum louder, while the staccato mark means to cut the sound short (do this by releasing the chord immediately after you strum it).

Rhythm For The Solos

Jam Track (Two Times Around The Progression)

Employing the Combination scale may be more difficult, but with a bit of planning ahead, and using your ear, it is a great alternative to the minor Pentatonic scale. I have found that the easiest way to understand it, is to create repeating phrases. In this lesson there are four solos, each one builds on the preceding one. Use these as a foundation for creating your own. Eventually, you should be able to create them on the spot. For simplicity, I have put them all in the same key and time signature. Even though the progression would be said to be 'in the key of G', I have put it into the key of C Major, and written the accidentals into the body of the piece. Also note the time signature is twelve eight, very common for blues.

Blues Solo In G #1 With The Combination Scale

In the main phrase, there is only one note outside of the minor Pentatonic scale. Over the G9, this is B, the third degree of the G Major Pentatonic scale (also, the third of the chord). Over the C9, this is E, the third degree of the C Major Pentatonic scale (also, the third of the chord). Over the D9, this is F sharp, the third degree of the D Major Pentatonic scale (also, the third of the chord). This creates a repeating pattern in the solo and is similar to what a horn player might do. It is interesting to note here too, that many country players work in this structure, playing with the chord changes as opposed to remaining in one scale. The turnaround is a standard chromatic run, used in many songs.

Blues Solo In G #1 With Combination Scale Video Lesson

Blues Solo In G #2 With The Combination Scale

This solo is a little more involved than the first solo. One again, I have incorporated repetition. This is great way to create a solo and pique the listener's attention. Over the G9, I am using the G Combination scale, over the C9, the C Combination scale and over the D9, the D Combination scale. The transition from the E flat at the end of measure six, to the B natural at the beginning of measure seven, is an odd sound, but works very well, because B natural is the third degree of G9. The turnaround is the same as solo #1, but in a different position.

Blues Solo In G #2 With Combination Scale Video Lesson

Blues Solo In G #3 With The Combination Scale

The Combination scale allows you to insert many chord tones into your playing. Measure one is, with the exception of the B flat in the beginning, forms a G7 . The second note, G is the root, the third note D is the fifth, the fourth note B is the third, and the fifth note F is the seventh. This is a very unusual sound that may be quite foreign to the ear, if all you work in is the minor Pentatonic scale. Once again, I have employed repetition and phrases that are similar in construction and timing. In all of the solos, I have kept the timing fairly simple in order to really get behind the sound. You may want to vary the timing, once you learn the solo.

Blues Solo In G #3 With Combination Scale Video Lesson

Blues Solo In G #4 With The Combination Scale

Not as much repetition in this solo, and really opens up the previous ideas. So much can be created using this scale, the sound is so different from the basic Pentatonic. The phrases border on a jazz sound. The Combination Scale is very close to working with the modes of the Major scale, which is the basis of jazz improvisation. When the 'Blue Note' is added to the Combination Scale, (in the key of G minor it is D♭), the scale is close to a chromatic form. Once again, you must be cautious with your note selection. Some notes will simply not fit over the chords, and they will create an out of key sound, very dissonant.

Blues Solo In G #4 With Combination Scale Video Lesson

© 2013 Lorne Hemmerling


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    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      5 years ago from Oshawa

      Hi Anna. Everyone progresses at different rates. I have had students that showed great potential, then just kind of fizzled out. On the other hand, I have had students who showed little promise, but practiced constantly, and moved on to play fluently. It all depends on (as anything else in life), the amount of work going in. As far as an electric guitar goes, I would keep him on the nylon strings for awhile, then move to a steel string acoustic before an electric. Hope this helps!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've been playing with my 7-year-old son since he strtead having lessons at a Saturday morning music school. He's starting to get a feel for it and we can play some simple blues together. That's great fun. He has a 3/4 classical for now, but I expect he will be wanting an electric one day. How long before he overtakes me?I've been helping out his older sister with her violin practice, as much as I can as a non-player. Working with kids teaches you patience and not to push them too hard. Overall it's very rewarding. Eventually we could have a family band.

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      7 years ago from Oshawa

      Thank you for the compliment, my friend. I have been using Finale for years. Pretty expensive and a steep learning curve, but very powerful. Love the program! I take screenshots directly from Finale.

    • joshuaevitoff profile image

      J S Ephriam Vitoff 

      7 years ago from Nyack, NY

      Good stuff! What music software are you using to create and upload the sheet music?


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