A Modified B.B. King Blues Scale

EpiLP1985

They call me Derek.
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Messages
782
Reaction score
1,030
Lately I have been contemplating an area of focus with my playing. I am a hobbyist and not an ACTUAL musician but I’ve felt a bit stunted lately in my development.

I wanted to zero in on a few scales that I could get some serious mileage out of, mostly to enable me to play over a wide spectrum of chords progressions without memorizing a million things. Of course, the answer hit me right away: A modified B.B. King Blues Scale.

Frankly, I almost never stop listening to Live at the Regal, many of the 70’s Era B.B. King live performances and Peter Green. The Peter Green connection is strong here and this is where I decided to focus some of my attention. Peter Green uses the “B.B. Box” quite extensively but also uses a ton of Minor chord voicings and progressions in the Fleetwood Mac recordings.

The one known drawback with the use of the B.B. King Blues scale is the presence of the Natural 6th and how it creates dissonance when played over minor chords in progressions.

So, there are a few modifications that I have been messing around with. The goal is to add some extra content that I hear from B.B. King and Peter Green’s playing but also to give a player fluidity between major and minor so no dissonance occurs.

What we end up with is an Octatonic scale with a “dealer’s choice” note that flip flops when required. Let’s start with the standard B.B. King Scale in the key of A:

1 2 b3 4 5 6

Example 1.PNG

You’ll see the oft-quoted standard voicing of the “B.B. Box” starting on the 9th fret of the G string and running to the 12th fret of the High E string.

B.B. King would often add the chromatic passing note #4/b5 to this scale as well. So now we can amend the interval structure to:

1 2 b3 4 #4/b5 5 6

Example 2.PNG

Furthermore, my ears tell me that in the case of both players, I hear the b7 quite a bit as well, which obviously comes from having to play in minor progressions, of which Peter Green was fond. This is likely a result of playing in Aeolian (Natural Minor) but can be added to the B.B. King Scale as well. So now we can amend the interval structure to:

1 2 b3 4 #4/b5 5 6 b7

Example 3.PNG

So now we have an Octatonic (8 Note) scale but we still need to resolve the issue of the natural 6th. This is a simple fix: When playing over minor chords, simply sub the Natural 6th for the minor 6th (b6):

1 2 b3 4 #4/b5 5 #5/b6 b7

Example 4.PNG

So, what does all my rambling mean?

Well, first off, I’m not a music theoretician. I’m not even a musician. I’m an electrical engineer by trade and a bedroom hobbyist at best. I am a music lover with what I think is a good ear and I have a good sense of rhythm. Not the best qualifications in my opinion!

In my mind, if you play the Bog Standard B.B. King Blues Scale and add both the #4/b5 passing note and the minor 7th (b7) you enable yourself to play over Major and Dominant chords with a lot of flexibility. You also catch some of the characteristic voicings of some minor key modes such as Melodic Minor, Dorian, etc, while still retaining the major and dominant key mode characteristics with Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian.

If you then swap the Natural 6th for the minor 6th (b6) you open up plenty of options that reference some of the most interesting minor key modes like Aeolian, Phrygian, Phrygian Dominant and Harmonic Minor.

Hope this helps!
 

EpiLP1985

They call me Derek.
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Messages
782
Reaction score
1,030
One thing I forgot to mention is that not only can this single scale be very versatile and reminiscent of many others, the "B.B. Box" also allows you a "home base" box to a.) return to and b.) to easily transition between keys.

I played around with this last night and it is dead on for many of the "B.B. Box" and beyond licks you hear in many, many Fleetwood Mac recordings from Peter Green's tenure.
 


Latest Threads



Top