Blues School: Mixolydian Scale-Chords, Theory & Ear Training

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A useful harmonic-melodic conception of the basic major Blues chords (I7-IV7-V7) is as three sets of matched “scale-chords” or “chord-scales”…

Let’s explore this concept in the key of C…

The C7 chord (I7 in the key of C) is paired with the C Mixolydian scale


The F7 chord (IV7 in the key of C) is paired with the F Mixolydian scale


The G7 chord (V7 in the key of C) is paired with the G Mixolydian scale


Now let’s play each pairing over a typical twelve bar blues form, paying attention to the unique sound-feeling that each pairing creates, individually as well as with the harmonic context of the entire form…


Time and time again, you are going to rediscover that scales and chords are intimately inter-related. Knowing your chords helps you know your scales and vice versa! Understanding such scale-chord relationships… theoretically, by sound-feeling, and visio-spatial layout on the keyboard… lays a solid foundation for fluent improvisation… and pays huge dividends when sight reading, transposing, and playing by ear!

You still have HOMEWORK to do: Using your knowledge of scales and chord structure (and your ears of course), play these scale-chord pairings in all twelve keys. In doing so, you are going to build an enormous chord vocabulary that integrates the aural, visio-spatial, kinesthetic and lays a solid foundation for fluent improvisation.

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