12 Bar Blues [Substitutions]

The first choice of scale to use over a 12 bar blues chord progression is the blues scale, however there are a number of other possibilities. Firstly, we are going to generate other chords and then integrate them with the regular I IV V chords, then we will start to look at possible scale applications. Below is a 12 bar blues with chord additions and a solo.

Jazz 12 Bar Blues

Let´s work through some of the scales you could use as an alternative to the blues scale, remember, just as you spent time creating all those licks from the blues scale, apply the same motivation towards creating licks from other scales. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that licks are what it´s all about, taking for granted that many jazz musicians use licks, it is important to make sure that the spontaneous playing is not sacrificed for licks.

For the C7 chord try using the C mixolydian or the C lydian dominant.

When the C7 changes to F7 in bar 5 because of the impulse of the C7 to go to the IV chord F7, you can add tension in the 4th bar and momentarily treat C7 as the V chord of F7, kind of like the V to I in a II V I progression and play C altered scale resolving to F mixolydian in bar 5.

In bar 6, you can play F# Diminished scale.

Bar 7, back to C Mixolydian.

Bar 8, treat A7 as the V chord in a minor II V I in the key of D minor and use the A altered scale to resolve to a D minor scale and proceed to play a major II V I type pattern in the key of C.

In bar 11 there is a I VI II V chord progression, you could blanket with the blues scale or make the changes.