Blues Improv

Blues guitar is all about improvisation! Here are some guidelines and tips to get you started on this journey :)

View the full lesson at Blues Improv | JustinGuitar

How do we know what notes to play over the backing track? In previous lessons, it would be in the C major scale, for example.

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The Minor Pentatonic. We practiced it in the last lesson. It looks like this and you can play it anywhere on the neck.

If you were playing the A minor pentatonic you would play:
6th string, 5th fret, 6th string, 8th fret
5th string, 5th fret, 5th string, 7th fret
4th string, 5th fret, 4th string, 7th fret
3rd string, 5th fret, 3rd string, 7th fret
2nd string, 5th fret, 2nd string, 8th fret
1st string, 5th fret, 1st string, 8th fret
And then back down again.

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Hello @lguitar43 and welcome to the Community.
In the previous module (module 12) you learned the A minor pentatonic scale.
In the notes for this lesson Justin has written:

For this solo, we’ll be playing in the Key of A mostly working with the A minor pentatonic scale.

The link within that sentence takes you back to that module 12 lesson.

Hope that helps.
Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide

is there a backing track for this?

Maarten, you’ll find a backing track in this related lesson from the Blues Lead programme Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1 |

Personally I found it difficult to play over these BTs when I first started, in fact still do. So you may find it easier to start off by just recording yourself strumming an A7 chord, with either a shuffle or straight rhythm. And over time you can build up to the full 12BB in A to get into improv using the A minor pentatonic. I am also sure that if you search around in YT you will find many BTs and be able to source something suitable.

Me, too! For me, the problem was the tempo of the backing track was just too fast. I could play the licks, but not fast enough to stay in time with the backing track. Justin’s backing track for the Pattern 2 Licks lesson (5 Blues Licks from Pattern 2 | is slower and therefore easier.

For me, the trick was finding a track with a good slow-moderate tempo to practice over. There are plenty on Youtube, but I found Spotify more convenient, actually. I have a playlist of A Blues backing tracks in different tempos, which I play through my amp, and improv over. It’s super easy to get going.

Another thing I had to do, at least for faster tempos, is to change some of the rhythms to suit my current abilities, usually changing triplets into eighth notes, stuff like that.

One last note: I tried creating a 12-bar blues with my looper and jamming over that. It’s fine (and gives a sense of accomplishment), but I found playing over a full backing track, with better playing than I can muster, to be better for practicing improvisation.

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Just wanted to share that, even though I have never been a fan of the blues, I am having a blast with this improv stuff… far more than I did with the C major one a few lessons back. I keep imagining myself in some smoky bar, way down South, floor sticky with beer, jamming with a band. Hey, I’m a monk, and I’ve got limited opportunities for entertainment, so just smile and nod and walk slowly away once you’ve read this!


Do you recommend starting off using the pinky finger for the 2 lowest/thinnest strings? or should I practice with the 3rd finger on the 2 lowest/thinnest strings? Thanks :slight_smile:

It would be great to know what the chords were played at the end of the improv.

Struggling with the improvising as usual, so nothing new there. But just loving this blues module. I do struggle to repeat anything I have played though because I can’t remember what it was I had played.

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Hi Emma,
Well if after one time it was already in your head and you play it every time, it is no longer improvising, right? :roll_eyes:…now you can keep on improvising :smile:,…enough loops and licks to learn in your fingers (but first in your head) … that randomly alternate and the improvisation gets a life of its own… :sunglasses:
Practice practice…and every time I think, ‘now I’ve got it’ I have to practice a little longer :grimacing:
Greetings and a lot of fun with tis,…

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Couldn’t agree more Emma, I’ve been having a blast with the blues module too. It seems everyone gets drawn into the blues thang! I’m planning to move on after posting up a song and an attempt at some improv :rofl: But I know I’ll be getting all bluesy again in the Grade 2 consolidation.

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