IV-chord Adaptions and Considerations

Playing in realtion to the chord being played by the band is what keeps us musical. The 12 bar blues gives us a good starting ground and a pretty safe path. This is especially true in second position and when using the blues scale or the pentatonic scales. I have previously written about using the V-chord to sound more professional and the IV-chord can offer the same opportunity. In this article I give you ideas on how to adapt to the IV-chord and take advantage of opportunities that otherwise pass you by.

The IV-chord and the blues scale in second position

First a look at the blues scale and the chord tones of the IV-chord. In G-major the blues scale is:

G Bb C Dd D F

The scales tones are:

C E G Bb

There is quite some overlap but not a lot of blue notes. The only clear blue note overlap is Bb which is the minor 7th. The flatted 5th and the 3rd is not in the blues scale. This means that our options for blues notes are limited for the IV-chord, which could make use of the Eb and Gb as well. Unless you are an overblow player or play a natural minor harmonica, Eb is out of the question for the lower octaves. In the higher octave it can be played by blow bending hole 8 (8+’). Gb is a good option to add playable by 2′ and 9+’.

There are also two notes in the blues scale best avoided for strong beats and long notes and those are D and Dd which would be a 2nd and a minor 2nd. These notes are dissonate but not in the bluesy way we are looking for. They are best used as passing notes.


So, to summarize it all here are my suggestions for adaptions for the IV-chord.

  • Avoid D (1, 4, 8) and Dd (1′, 4′) for strong beats and long tones.
  • Add Gb (2′, 9+’) to your notes to choose from.
  • Add E (2+, 5+, 8+) and Eb (8+’) to your notes to choose from.

By doing this you can play bluesy without straying to much from the blues scale for the IV-chord. Let me know how you get along and don’t forget to sign up below to get the Welcome package and get exclusive material!

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