Stepping outside the blues box

Stepping Outside The Blues Box

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A guest post by Morten Faerestrand from

In this lesson you’ll learn 4 simple things to expand your blues oriented vocabulary! The concepts are really simple, yet sophisticated enough to give your playing the jazzy blues feel similar to iconic players like Larry Carlton and Robben Ford.

Escape your blues scale prison!

The first idea is simply replacing all the minor thirds in the pentatonic scale with major thirds. (example #1 in the tab) This will make the scale fit perfectly with the dominant 7 chord, making it what B.B.King calls a “happy blues”. This tonality is also frequently used by the great John Scofield in his quirky, laidback-cool-avant-garde-jazz-blues style.

The second idea (example #2 in the tab) is playing a minor seven arpeggio from the fifth step of the chord, in the case of G7 that would be Dm7. This arpeggio consists of one tone outside of the G pentatonic scale, namely the A, which is the 9th og G7, and really gives it a sophisticated touch. This arpeggio makes a suspended kind of tonality because of the C tone in it, which is the sus4 of G, so a nice way of ending a phrase using this tonality is to resolve that C down to B natural, the third of G7. I would recommend playing this phrase as a “half-sweep”. (click here to learn more about the half sweep technique)

Thirdly, you can add one more octave to the Dm arpeggio (example #3 in the tab). This makes it a lick that really stands out as a huge statement, and could be played like a full on Frank Gambale style two octave sweep! You’re now really stepping outside of your blues box position, it’s kind of like leaving your hotel room to visit the room next door – the room is kind of similar, but if you’re not experienced, you may feel a little lost..

Which brings us to idea number four: Bringing you safely back home! (example #4 in the tab) The vehicle for this is a descending lick based on the G7 arpeggio, played diagonally across the fretboard.

About the author

Morten Faerestrand

Morten Faerestrand is getting a lot of attention for his fluid phrasing and creative harmonic ideas, and for his ability to break down complex concepts on the guitar and teach them in an easy to understand and practical way.

Morten has recorded with jazz greats like Kenny Barron and Frank Gambale, as well as on platinum selling pop/rock hits. He is the creator and CEO of, a truly unique site which offers university level online guitar lessons at an incredibly low price.