The “Major 6” Blues Colour
We’re going to start this Colouring The Blues module with a look at the 6th, that is adding the 6th note of the Major Scale into our Blues sounds (the Minor Pentatonic). We’re going to explore the colours on their own first and then put them together in some scales - but it’s much easier to “get it” by exploring each colour tone one at a time.
I suggest when learning new concepts that you use a key that is most familiar for you, and for most people (including me!) that is the key of A.
The playing and hearing is much more important than the theory but let’s just have a little look at what’s going on (if this makes no sense but you’d like it to - then have a look at Practical Music Theory). The 6th note of the A Major Scale is the note F# so let’s first look at the ‘function’ of that note against each chord of a 12 Bar Blues in A:
A7 - F# is the Major 6th (or 13th)
D7 - F# is the Major 3rd
E7 - F# is the Major 2nd (or 9th)
The 6/13 sound of the F# over the A7 is cool. It’s slightly kinda country sounding, in a good way, to me it always says ‘classy blues’ when I hear that sound.
As the Major 3rd of D7 there could not be a better note to play over the D7, it’s the strongest chord tone in the chord and targeting it when the band move to the D7 will make you sound like a real pro.
Playing it over the V chord (in this case E7) is cool but not super exciting to my ear, just a taste thing because it’s a ‘good note’ and nothing wrong with it.
On The Fretboard
Below you’ll see a neck diagram that shows the location of the 6th in Pattern 1 of the Minor Pentatonic. Eventually, you will want to explore the 6th in relation to all the Minor Pentatonic patterns you know, but always best to try new things in a familiar environment.
<< NECK DIAGRAM MISSING >>
The placement on String 2 is the easiest to start exploring, primarily because it falls so easily under the fingers where they would normally sit. The one on String 4 is super cool too, but you have to move Finger 1 back to reach it which will throw you out of position and might upset your mojo, so you’re likely to find the String 2 position best for getting going with it.
Note too that you can bend the 6 up a semitone (to the b7) which sounds real cool. Easiest on String 2 again just because of how the fingers fall but just as cool on String 4 if you’re confident with Finger 1 bends. Can also be cool to drop back and bend to it (from back at the 5th fret) with Finger 3 but this obviously takes you back into Pattern 5 (which you feel confident in from the last module right?).
With all conceptual stuff, it’s best to play it in rather than think it in, so below is a 12 Bar Blues in A backing track to explore it with (I have 4 albums of awesome Blues backing tracks available that are specifically designed for trying out this kind of thing in a jamming context!).
I suggest you try the following.
- Play the backing track and explore just that 6 on String 2 and see what it can do. Don’t think too much just explore it and see what it does for you.
- Play it again now and really listen where the chords change and try to target the 6 when it goes to the IV chord (Bars 5 and 6).
- Have session where to consciously try using string bending, slides, different fingering options and get as creative as you can. Try anything!
- Explore using it within the other Minor Pentatonic Patterns (below).
- Explore other keys, but I suggest getting super confident in A first.
More Minor Pentatonic Patterns with 6th
<< TABLE 2 x 2 with other 4 patterns >>
If you want to get super hip with your bad self, then you could try replacing the 7th’s with the 6ths in the Minor Pentatonics, a kind of Hybrid Pentatonic I call Minor 6 Pentatonic (but it could have other names). I first found it when I was transcribing a bunch of Robben Ford solos and it was something he seemed to use a bit but no idea if it was a conscious thing or not. It’s a real cool ‘modern blues’ approach that is fun and can be a useful rut-buster if you can get your head around it.
- LESSON STEPS -