Advance Blues Solo Techniques

Many jazz students start out improvising by playing the blues. With the standard blues chord progression, where one single blues scale can be applied all the way throughout the whole 12 bar. It is one quick and nice way to make your solos sound hip.
However, after doing the same thing for some time, students normally will start to question, “what else can I do over a standard blues progression instead of just a blues scale?”. It is the purpose of this post to answer this question.
First listen to this solo by a great bass player, Oteil Burbridge.

Oteil Burbridge Blues Solo
Notice how he ventured way out of the usual blues scale to create some really interesting colors in his solo? Before we go on further, here is the transcription of this clip.


The first thing a student must know is that over a blues progression, there are already two basic blues scale to be used, as shown below for the F blues.


The first two bars show the F minor pentatonic blues scale. And the following two bars show the D minor pentatonic blues scale. Both scales can be applied over the standard blues progression, switching between the two will create some interesting effects on your solos. Refer to the transcription above for example, look at the solo from bar 17 which is basically using mostly the notes from the F minor pentatonic. However, in bar 21, notice the sudden change to the D minor pentatonic  scale. Listen to the clip for a better picture of the effect.

Bars 37 to bars 39 might sound very interesting, but one glance at the transcription shows that its just a basic use of some chromatic notes. Chromatic notes can be used almost anywhere in a piece of music, but be careful which note the solo line end on. For example, the string of chromatic notes stretching from bar 37 to 38 ended on a nice Eb, which is one of the notes in the F minor pentatonic scale.


Another interesting thing happened in bar 22. You can think of it as using the Eb minor pentatonic blues scale, which is a half step up from D minor pentatonic. Take note that you can always modulate a semitone up from your original key in your solo, but be sure that you find a way to resolute back.


So these are just a few tips for you to add some flavor into your blues solo. I’m sure you can find more stuffs in the transcription I provided. Create some lines based on this ideas, and practise them with an open ear to get the sounds into your head.
Have fun and enjoy…….. 🙂

Check out these other transcription of great jazz guitar playing:

Pat Metheny Mp3 and Transcription ( And Then I Knew )

Tuck Andress I Wish Guitar Transcription


  • Ortli

    Reply Reply January 25, 2009

    Nice! Thank you! Do you have the whole transcription of his F Blues Solo (I know that it ist from Bass Day ’97)? I transcribed the first 8 chorusses, that was a lot of work…
    Do you have other Oteil Burbridge transcriptions? That would be great! I transcribed his Bass Intro on Red Baron (played live with Victor & Regi Wooten at Bass Day ’98). Are you interested in that?



  • George Candreva

    Reply Reply August 10, 2009

    I’d like to see a “real funky” piano solo transcription (with left hand comping included) of “Watermelon Man” by my friend Herbie Hancock. Something juicy, please!

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