We’ve Got the Blues
Aim: How do we recognize and notate the blues scale?
Summary: By listening to and looking at the qualities of various scales, students learn to identify the differences between the major, minor, and blues scales.
Standards: US 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9; NYC 1, 2, 3
Modality: performing, responding, creating
Materials: recording of a blues song(s), Teacher Worksheet, pitched instrument
Time Required: 25 minutes
- Listen to an excerpt from a blues song and ask students to discuss what they hear in the music.
“I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley
“The Sky is Crying” by Stevie Ray Vaughan
“Everyday I Have the Blues” by B.B. King
“Chirpin’ the Blues” by Alberta Hunter
- Explain that this type of music is called the “blues” and it has its own special scales, which are created by the addition of sharps and flats.
- Review C-major and C-minor scales, and then play an example of a blues scale. Have students compare the differences between the three.
Download Teacher Worksheet
- How many notes are in each scale?
- Are the scales different? How?
- Why do you think these types of scales are called the blues?
- As a class, turn a C-Major scale into a 7-note blues scale by adding sharps and flats.
- Sing a blues scale as a class and have students add their own blues lyrics. (Example: “I’ve got the blu-oo-oos.”)
- Research blues composers and the root of the blues.
- Ask students to transpose the blues scale to other key signatures.
Please note that the resources below link to content outside of Carnegie Hall's Music Educators Toolbox.