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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
Grade: 5th
Concept: Pitch
Artistic Process: performing, responding, creating
Materials: recording of a blues song(s), Teacher Worksheet, pitched instrument
Time Required: 25 minutes


1.   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

2.   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.

3.   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 (PDF)

  • How many notes are in each scale?
  • Are the scales different? How?
  • Why do you think these types of scales are called the blues?

4.   As a class, turn a C-Major scale into a 7-note blues scale by adding sharps and flats.

5.   Sing a blues scale as a class and have students add their own blues lyrics. (Example: “I’ve got the blu-oo-oos.”)

Going Deeper

  1. Research blues composers and the root of the blues.
  2. Ask students to transpose the blues scale to other key signatures.

Discover more about the blues through Carnegie Hall’s Interactive History of African American Music.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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