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Guitar Lessons • The Combination Scale • Theory, Scale Positions and Fingering • Video Lessons

As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.



The Combination Scale is just what the name implies: a combination of the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales. When these two scales are combined, the result is very similar to the Dorian Mode. The Dorian Mode, as well as the Mixolydian Mode is prevalent in all blues styles, and used extensively by players such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and BB King

C Major Pentatonic Box Pattern #2

C Major is relative to A minor (they share the same key signature, in this case: no sharps or flats). This scale is exactly the same as A minor Pentatonic Box Pattern #2. Try playing this over a C Major chord. It has a sweet happy sound, as opposed to playing it over an A minor chord, which lends a dark, bluesy sound. Scale spelling is: C, D, E, G, A, C (one octave)


C minor Pentatonic Box Pattern #1

As stated in The Pentatonic Scale, this box pattern is the king daddy of all scales for guitarists. Here is where things get a little complicated. C minor is NOT relative to C Major, it is relative to E♭ Major. C minor and E♭ share the same key signature: three flats (B♭, E♭ and A♭). Scale spelling is: C, E♭, F, G, B♭, C (one octave). However, this scale is so versatile it can be played over a C Major, C7, C9, C13 etc., despite that fact that these chords contain a natural E as opposed to E♭. Of course, it sounds excellent over a C minor chord, and is the home base scale for a minor blues progression.


C Combination Scale (Basic)

Below is the C Major Pentatonic scale combined with the C minor Pentatonic scale to form the basic C Combination Scale. As stated above, this is very similar to C Dorian. In fact, there is only one additional note: E natural. Many standard blues licks come out of this scale. Scale spelling: C, D E♭, E, F, G, A, B♭, C (one octave)


C Combination Scale (Extended)

By adding the one note (G♭) from the C minor Blues scale, we can form the extended C Combination Scale. In theory, all of these notes will fit over a dominant C chord (C7, C9, C13 etc.), but care must be used when deciding what notes to pause on or to resolve phrases . Scale spelling: C, D, E♭, E, F, G♭, G, A, B♭, C (one octave)


Here is a solo over a three chord progression in C using the Combination Scale. If this solo is played without accompaniment, the chord changes can still be heard, because most of the notes outline the chords. This is the mark of a good solo: well placed notes and phrases. Try slurring the triplets with pull-offs and hammer-ons, as well as picking the individual notes.

Blues Solo In C with Combination Scale

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Here is the same solo with chord stabs and a standard blues ending. The chords at the end which are out of the frame are C sharp 9 to C9.

Great song. Extensive use of the Combination Scale.


Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Prescott on March 13, 2012:

You are very welcome! Always great to get feedback!! Until I thought of the modes as totally different scales, they had me mystified. When you play them, don't think of the parent scale, just listen close to the sound of each one. It will be one of those 'yikes, now I get it moments' :•)

Lucky D on March 13, 2012:

Thannx for that, I play keyboards, and understood it fine. Theory is theory, and now things like Dorian don't freak me out as much.

soundtrack junkie from New Hampshire on March 13, 2012:

been looking for something like this... thanks

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