C# minor blues pentatonic fingerings


Once you've got your visualizations down, your fingers will develop the reflexes and it will all fall into place.

I deal less in scales and more in positions. It's a good idea to fool around with each of the positions individually. I may have gotten this idea from guitar, where they fool around in one position for a while and then go and fiddle around in another one. Or I may have gotten it from observation - I don't remember ...

The notes inside each position can be played in any combination. There's no rule as to whether or not you have to play every note in the set either. As often as not, I'll leave out one of the notes or substitute an extension.


Essentially, I use three positions. Each of these positions yields a fair number of interesting phrase possibilities.

Each of the positions contains three main notes. There are also passing tones and extensions associated with the main set of three.

The 3 main positions for C# minor blues pentatonic

(The positions are named after the scale degree of the lowest note in the set.)

Basic 4th position = F# G# B

With most other keys I play this position with the thumb, index and ring, however in this key I'll finger it just as often with index, middle and pinky. Playing it that way means that you can use the thumb as a lower extension to E (or just think of it as "b3rd position" instead if you prefer).

4th position with [passing tone] and |extension|:
F# [g] G# B |c#|


Basic first position = C# E F#

I love first position! There are so many cool licks inside of it. I always finger this position in any key with the thumb on the 1, index on the b3 and middle on the 4.

First position with |extensions|:
C# E F# |g| |g#|


Basic b7th position = B C# E

I finger this one: thumb, index, ring.

b7th position with [passing tone] and |extension|:
B [c] C# E |f#|


How to get around the three positions:

Let's say you're messing around in first position but you're starting to feel that it's time to leave, you have two obvious choices - go up to 4th position or go down to b7th position.

If you're in 4th position you have two similar choices: move up to b7th position or move down to first position.

And likewise for b7th position, you can move up to first or down to 4th.

This provides the smoothest melody lines, however I often skip right over a position on my way up or down (as you'll see in the examples).

You should begin by practicing going back and forth between two adjacent positions, ie. fiddle around in one position and then fiddle around in the neighboring position and then back to the original position:


{b7th position} <=> {first position}

{first position} <=> {4th position}

{4th position} <=> {b7th position}


You'll probably find all kinds of cool licks in there. Soon you'll develop the facility to speedily move back and forth between all three positions and be making real musical statements over the entire keyboard's range.


These examples do not contain rhythmic information, but the riffs I've shown here all sound fine as eighth notes. Each example is followed by a midi recording of the riff.

Experiment with rhythms, it will allow you to create your own personal sound using these positions.
(For an explanation of Piano Tab, click here:


Example 1 (down going)

5(Ct)C#iEr - 4Bt -
4Gr - F#m - Ei - F# - E - C#t -
4(F#r)Gr - (F#)G - F#m - E - F#

Example 1 midi recording

Example 2 (down going)

5(F#i)(Gi)G#m - 6C#p - 5Br - G# - F# -
5C#tEiGr - F#m - E - C#F# - E - C# -
5(Ct)C#iEr - 4Bt -
4Gr - F#m - Ei - C#t - C#

Example 2 midi recording

Example 3 (up going)

4(Gt)G#i - Br -
5(Ct)C#i - Er -
5(G)G# - B -
6(C)C# - E

Example 3 midi recording

Example 4 (up going)

3Bt - 4C#i -
4Et - F#i - Gm - G#r -
4B - 5C# -
5Et - F# - G - G# - G - F# - E - 6C#p

Example 4 midi recording


All of the above examples are meant to be played fast. Don't worry about the thumb hitting black keys. Visualize the positions. As long as you respect the positions, your fingers won't get tied in knots.

Fingering should serve the music, not the other way around.

Based on what you now know about fingering this minor Blues scale you ought to be able to figure out the other "hard" keys for yourself. If not, just ask me and I'll work up a supplement to this lesson to include that key.


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copyright 2003 Jeff Brent

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