When I began to play in fourths tuning, many moons ago now, one of my major concerns was whether I’d still be able to play to a convincing blues solo without the nuances of standard tuning. If you’ve already tried to transfer your blues repertoire to fourths tuning, you’ll know that most blues licks can be reproduced but some do fall by the wayside. I was a little disoriented at first but in order to truly embrace fourths tuning, we need to look at new ideas which is how I came up with what is now my go-to blues box.
As you know, fourths tuning provides is with an interval-consistent fretboard which means that whatever the string pair, the intervals are always going to be in the same place. I started out with the minor pentatonic scale in F below:
It’s a very comfortable position for blues-type playing because you can easily clamp your fingers to either of the two root notes and reach all the other in the pattern, plus all the typical bends and slides are well within reach.
Next, I added in the blue note to make the blues scale:
The b5s are conveniently located to add that subtle bluesy edge to your minor pentatonic licks without it sounding too cliché.
Finally, I superimposed the major pentatonic scale as follows:
The most interesting notes here of course are the 2, 3 and 6 which are all within easy reach of our first finger anchored to the root on the C string.
How to Practice
Practice blending the three scales by deliberately choosing which intervals you want to hear. This is very doable in fourths tuning because a) the intervals are consistent and easier to locate, and b) you’re barely moving your fretting hand, so you don’t have to make any stretches or jumps, or even think too much about what it’s doing, leaving you to concentrate on getting the sound you want rather than blindly running up and down scale patterns as most players tend to do in standard tuning. Take it slow at first and don’t play the note you’re going to unless you know what interval it is. If you practice this regularly, you’ll create a better connection between your ear and your fingers, and be playing what you want to play in no time at all.