Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Intermediate
16:44

Learning Focus
  • Exercises
  • Scales
Music Style
  • Blues
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What is the bluesiest scale of all time? If you think it’s the blues scale, think again. Sure, the traditional minor blues scale is hip, and it’s certainly a great starting point. However, there are 3 additional notes commonly used in blues piano soloing that are missing from the blues scale. So if you want to get a professional blues piano sound, then today’s Quick Tip on The Mixo-Blues Scale for Piano—The Complete Guide is just for you! You’ll learn:

You might say that today’s lesson is like the missing manual for blues piano soloing.

The Bluesiest Scale of All Time

If you have ever taken a class or a course on beginner piano improvisation, chances are, you began with “the blues scale.” It is referenced here with quotation marks because there is not really just one blues scale. Nonetheless, musicians and jazz educators generally understand The Blues Scale with a capital “T” to refer to a minor blues scale formation: 1–♭3–4–♯4–5–♭7. For example, when playing a blues in C, such as “C Jam Blues,” that scale is C–E♭–F–F♯–G–B♭.

The minor blues scale offers several educational benefits for beginning improvisers learning to solo on the traditional blues form. For example, consider the following:

  1. It has just 6 notes
  2. It has no avoid notes (aka: weak tones)
  3. It allows beginners to experience early improvisational success

The third point in the list above is arguably the most important. That’s because fear poses a substantial challenge for many early improvisors. Therefore, a student’s feeling of accomplishment or failure when exploring improvisation may determine whether or not they continue to “face the music” so to speak.

In the early developmental stages of improvisation, it is irrelevant to the student as to how many blues scales there are and which one is the bluesiest. In fact, the bluesiest blues scale for the beginner student is the one that they can actually use most effectively. And that will probably always be “the blues scale.”

There is, however, life after middle school band. Therefore, a time will come when a student is ready to explore nuance and subtlety in jazz and blues vocabulary. This should come as no surprise. After all, our adult vocabulary has hopeful come a long way since “back then.”

Today’s lesson on the mixo-blues scale is designed to help piano students of all levels discover additional possibilities for jazz and blues improvisation.

What is the Mixo-Blues Scale?

The mixo-blues scale is a 9-note hybrid scale used in blues and jazz improvisation that combines the mixolydian scale and the minor blues scale. For example, the notes of the C Mixo-Blues Scale are C–D–E♭–E♮–F–F♯–G–A–B♭. To construct a mixo-blues scale, modify the tones of a major scale according to the following formula: 1–2–♭3–♮3–4–♯4–5–6–♭7.

C Mixo-Blues Scale

Another method for constructing a mixo-blues scale is to combine the notes of the major blues scale and the minor blues scale beginning on the same starting note. Can you see each of the blues scales below embedded within the C Mixo-Blues Scale above?

  1. C Major Blues Scale: C–D–E♭–E♮–G–A
  2. C Minor Blues Scale: C–E♭–F–F♯–G–B♭

What is the Mixo-Dorian Blues Scale?

The mixo-dorian blues scale is another name for the mixo-blues scale. For example, this 9-note scale beginning on C contains the notes C–D–E♭–E♮–F–F♯–G–A–B♭. While combining the mixolydian scale and the minor blues scale is sufficient to produce all 9 notes, the name mixo-dorian blues scale acknowledges that the dorian scale is also contained within. Both names are common among jazz musicians. Do you see the following scales embedded in the C Mixo-Blues Scale?

  1. C Mixolydian Scale: C–D–E–F–G–A–B♭
  2. C Dorian Scale: C–D–E♭–F–G–A–B♭
  3. C Minor Blues Scale: C–E♭–F–F♯–G–B♭

For a deep dive on each of the scales above, check out the following resources:

In the next section, we’ll explore piano exercises with the C Mixo-Blues scale for students of all playing levels.

Mixo-Blues Scale Exercises for All Piano Levels

Beginner, intermediate and advanced pianists can develop playing proficiency with the mixo-blues scale using the scale exercises in this lesson. Theses progressively-tiered exercises build increasing coordination in playing the C Mixo-Blues Scale over a C7 chord in the left hand. You can download the complete lesson sheet PDF and backing track from the bottom of this page after logging in with your membership. In addition, you can easily transpose this material to any key using our Smart Sheet Music.

Beginner Mixo-Blues Scale Piano Exercise

Intermediate Mixo-Blues Scale Piano Exercise

Advanced Mixo-Blues Scale Piano Exercise

Now that you are comfortable playing the mixo-blues scale, your ready to explore Jonny’s essential keys to improvising with this sound.

Mixo-Blues Scale Grips for Piano Improv

Scale exercises like those in the previous section are vital to getting a new scale under your fingertips. However, another approach is typically necessary for developing interesting improv lines. In this section, we’ll explore two improv grips that will enable you to digest the melodic potential within this 9-note scale. Grips are simply fixed hand positions that are used as launching points for discovering improv melodies.

When improvising with the mixo-blues scale, most pianists are not considering all 9-notes at once. Instead, they gravitate toward melodic ideas that revolve around the major blues sound or the minor blues sound. However, skilled improvisors are able to seamlessly transition between these sounds with impressive fluidity.

Since the notes C and G are contained within both blues scales, these notes will be the anchor points for each of our grips. Viewing both scales from these common anchors will allow you to also seamlessly transition between these sounds.

Major Blues Grips

First, we’ll explore two grips that draw on the sound of the major blues scale. These grips are named after their highest note. For example, the C grip contains the notes E–G–A–C. Secondly, the G grip contains the notes A–C–D–E♭–G. The G grip can also accommodate the E♮ as well. Similarly, the C grip can accommodate the E♭.

C Grip

G Grip

Minor Blues Grips

Next, let’s explore two additional grips that draw on the sound of the minor blues scale. For this sound, the C grip includes the notes F–F♯–G–B♭–C. Secondly, the G grip contains the notes C–E♭–F–F♯–G.

C Grip

G Grip

Alright, you’re ready to improvise with the mixo-blues scale over the backing track that is included with this lesson. Keep in mind, not every note of the mixo-blues scale works equally well on every chord in a 12-bar blues. Therefore, it is important to use your ears. If something doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not.

For deep dive on blues piano improv, check out the following courses:

Conclusion

Congratulations, you’ve completed today’s lesson on The Mixo-Blues Scale for Piano—The Complete Guide. If you enjoyed today’s lesson, be sure to check out the following related PWJ resources:

Quick Tips
Courses
Learning Tracks

PWJ has two complete Blues Piano Learning Tracks where you’ll learn accompaniment patterns, blues endings, improv techniques and “must-have” licks and riffs. Each learning track also includes full-length song arrangements.

Thanks for learning with us today! We’ll see you next time.

 

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Writer
Michael LaDisa

Michael LaDisa graduated from the University of North Texas with a major in Music Theory & Composition. He lives in Chicago where he operates a private teaching studio and performs regularly as a solo pianist. His educational work with students has been featured on WGN-TV Evening News, Fox 32 Good Day,...

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