Blue note

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As Blue Notes (English blue notes ) or Blue tones referred to sounds particularly true the Blues character of melodies dominate. In a narrower sense, it is understood to mean the minor third , the minor seventh and the diminished fifth ( tritone , "flatted fifth"), the intonation of which, however, differs from the notes of the same name in the western tone system. The third is commonly voiced between a minor and major third. The seventh as a blue note is intoned between the minor and major seventh or between the major sixth and minor seventh, close to the natural seventh typical of the blues . The fifth as a blue note is usually intoned between a diminished and a pure fifth.


The blue notes can be traced back to a pentatonic scale of African origin, which cannot be inserted into the classic European tone system and which is strongly based on the natural tone series . Their tones thus inevitably vary in height compared to the tones of our tone system, which is no longer exclusively oriented towards the natural tone series.


The blue notes are only used melodically and have no influence on the harmony of a blues piece, since no triads and therefore no harmony sequences can be formed on the blue notes with the sound material available in occidental music . The blue notes are therefore played using the normal chords taken from the major or minor key system , for example during an improvisation .

Since the blue notes fall out of the occidental tonal system, they were often explained and notated as a simple addition to a major scale: the minor third, the minor fifth and the minor seventh were added to a major scale . The ten-note scale created in this way, however, is hardly usable in practice because of its large number of chromatically consecutive tones.

\ new Staff \ with {\ remove "Time_signature_engraver" \ remove "Bar_engraver"} \ relative c '{\ time 11/1 c1 d es e \ parenthesize fis ges ga bes bc} \ addlyrics {_ _ "♭ 3" _ ​​" (♯4) "" ♭ 5 "_ _" ♭ 7 "_ _}

To the Blue Notes nevertheless note in our sound system and make practical playable that was blues scale from the pentatonic scale in the minor formed by supplementing the diminished fifth. This can now be used, for example, in improvisation over a blues.


Wind instruments as well as stringed instruments (especially the guitar ) are able to strike the blue notes between minor and major third, tritone and fifth and minor and major seventh by changing their position (wind instruments) or pulling strings (guitars). On keyboard instruments and other instruments on which a free intonation is not possible, the blue notes are played as follows: b3 as a minor third, b5 as a tritone and b7 as a minor seventh.

An exact definition of the pitch of the blue note does not make sense, as it is subject to subjective perception and its articulation for the special sound of many blues musicians such as the guitarists Albert King , Robert Johnson or Eric Clapton , the singers Bessie Smith , Ella Fitzgerald , Billie Holiday or the blues harp players Little Walter or Sonny Terry is decisive.



  1. ↑ In some cases (for example in Jost) the term is referred to in the literature solely on the neutrally voiced interval steps third and seventh.
  2. “In the development of Afro-American music, the collision with the European tonality caused the second , fourth , sixth and octave of the African ladder to wear off, as their difference was not too great. The third and seventh, however, have retained their peculiar character and have become excellent vehicles of expression. " Alfons M. Dauer Jazz - the magical music of Bremen 1961