The blues note is of course the b5, and if you’ve been following this series of blog posts, you’ll find it just after the 4, which we looked at in Blues Soloing Tricks: What to Do with the 4. I remember discovering the b5 through learning the blues scale (1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7), which is the minor pentatonic scale with the added ‘blue note’. I found it hard to use at first because it sounded so out, as if I were repeatedly hitting the wrong note. further down the line I discovered that perhaps scales weren’t the best way to get used to this striking sound, and had better luck with the following method.
The Technique Note
The blue note needs some taming at first, which is why I call it the technique note. If you just outright hit this note in the middle of a solo, it’s not going to sound that great; in fact, in isolation this is probably the most discordant thing you can play. The blue note needs plenty of context in order to blend it into the mix, and this can be achieved through techniques such as bending up or down to it, hammering-on to it, or pulling off to it, slides etc. So, wherever you can, incorporate the b5 with some kind of technique as oppose to landing right on it.
Take a look at our familiar diagram:
We now have 4 semitones in a row but if you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that each one has a specific function in a blues and how to bring out those sounds. If I’d given this diagram to you as a scale pattern and asked you to play something, the result would have been completely different, and probably not that fantastic. So, try bringing out that b5 sound by combining it with the other intervals, particularly the 4, that you now know how to use.
When you need some variation, move up the neck to this pattern:
The different locations of the notes should help you come up with different licks and runs that incorporate that blue note. At this point, you may have realized something else about the b5: don’t overdo it!
Finally, bring your creative blues soloing to the next set of notes above the 12th fret:
You’ll find two b5s in this diagram as I think they’re both useful for creating licks and runs, but remember to keep it tasteful.
The next lesson in this series on blues soloing tricks looks at how to incorporate the b5, or blue note into your playing.