fun way to learn new scales...


Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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03/07/2013 7:51 am
Ok, so probably lots of you have heard how there's all these different scales and modes... and have seen books or magazines with all these scales written out in tab... maybe, if you're like me, you've sat down and tried to learn some of these scales only to find yourself just blindly fingering through them without a clue how to use them musically. Well, I stumbled across a fun way to start learning a scale simply by playing the scale first (pssst, I think the Lizard's lost it...) no, bear with me and you'll see what I mean.

Someone posted a while back "who cares if I can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?" and I said I did. Since this is a guitar forum about playing guitar, go ahead and take the Pepsi Challenge... pickup your guitar and see if you can do it cold... "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star..." just start with any note and work your way through it.

Now I'll bet most people were pretty quick to work their way through it, even if they didn't know what the notes were, or the major scale they were in, or any major scale patterns. Sure, you might have hit some bum notes, but I'll bet you slid your fretting finger immediately up, or down, into the right position to correct your mistake. But how can that be? You don't even know the notes you're playing or what scale you're in... "ah" you say, "that's nothing special, I just played it by ear".

Ok, sure. But maybe that ear can help you another way... it did for me, here's how:

I've played for decades knowing the basic blues pentatonic scale, and really most of my soloing was based on the idea of using a five note scale. A while back, I made a much more serious effort to learn lead guitar, and was introduced to the seven note major scale, to the point where I could do a decent job playing most Major scale keys all over the fretboard. I began to understand that a lot of those "cool guitar riffs" I'd heard were outside of that five note limitation, instead using seven note scales to create melodies or distinct tonal "moods". Because of this, when I would jam to a backing track or even just noodle around with some lead ideas, I started tending to base my ideas on using seven notes instead of just staying in my pentatonic rut.

I often jam along with my BOSS DR880 Drum Machine , that has 500 preset jam loops in many different keys. It has both bass and drum sounds, and a surprisingly good sounding guitar effects section. There are a bunch of good rock and blues presets, but there are some really wild ones too... techno, heavy rock, gospel, jazz etc, and for some of these its pretty challenging to come up with a lead solo idea. I stumbled across one such tricky preset a couple of nights ago, and thought "ugh, I'll never be able to come up with something to go along with that..." but then thought, "hey, that's it then... listen to it and TRY your utmost to make something work..."

The track was this really heavy rock sounding bass & drum track, and as I listened, it reminded just a bit of that deep, pounding bass & rhythm track in some of the early scenes of "Blackhawk Down". You know, the "military convoy drives through the desert" bahmp! bahmp!... da, bahmp! bahmp... you get the idea. So I thought that Arabic/sitar kind of thing and just started noodling. Low and behold I'm starting to come up with some ideas I really like, but its weird. I'm finding I'm either playing notes very close together, moving in half-steps, or suddenly moving three or four frets up or down. But its sounding cool, and I eventually get a repeatable riff that really works with the music. I have no idea what I'm playing, all I know is its in the key of D, and I'm definitely in the key of D with the riff.

So I go get a piece of fretboard paper, and just start playing through the riff, and moving around the fretboard. I jot down only the notes that sound "right". I figure its whacked, because I don't seem to be coming close to being in one of the five major scale patterns. For those of you that know what I mean, I was getting a feeling that if I was in fact laying out a scale, it wasn't going to be a diatonic mode. So, I just wrote down a bunch of spots on the fretboard that sounded "right" without worrying about what the notes actually were. This is what I came up with:


E ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B ||---|---|---|-x-|---|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G ||---|---|---|---|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|---|---|
D ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
3 5 7 9 12 15 17 19 21


I then went to this handy website and entered in all the fretboard positions that according to my ear, fit with the music:

http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/reverse_scales.php

Turns out, I had found all seven notes by ear, D, Eb, Gb, G, A, Bb, C, which for the key of D it identified as D Phrygian Major. Now that I knew what scale I was using, I was able to write it out on paper and start coming up with some ideas for patterns to make it a little more fluid. What was interesting to me in this whole experience was how actually using the scale first creatively really motivated me to figure out the details, and that even though I had never heard of this scale before, I was still able to identify it by ear. When I jotted down the notes on the fretboard paper, every single one was in the scale. Just thought I'd share this long-winded story for those of you who find learning scales boring... sometimes coming at it from a completely different direction can be really rewarding.
# 1
maggior
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maggior
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03/07/2013 2:18 pm
Hey SlipinLizard -

That's great! It reinforces my decision to buckle down and start expanding my scale knowledge. I know all of the pentatonic shapes, but only 1 major scale shape.

I had a similar experience this weekend where I was jamming over an instrumental electronic track by Paul Lawler. I discovered a Cm pentatonic sounded good over it. It sounded cool. Then by branching out, I found some other notes that fit in and sounded really cool.

Then it started to sound familiar... I had a "hey, wait a minute!!" moment and just played the major scale in C up and down the neck in time with the music. It completely fit...it was just the major scale!!


This reminds me of discussions I've had over the years with friends that are musicians. They always talked about developing your ear. Sure, part of music is intellectual and there is a science behind it. And yes, it's important to understand the science. But ultimately, it's about emotion and a "feel". Watch any talented improvisational artist (SRV, Carlos Santana, Keith Jarret, Joe Bonamassa, etc.) perform - I doubt that they are thinking "OK, I'm playing in the key of A using a major scale in the pyrigian mode...". It all happens too fast to think that way in the moment. For me, a "musician" is somebody that loses themselves completely in the sounds they are producing. A "musician" becomes completely detached from the mechanics of making music and is focused on...the music.

So I'd say you are experiencing what it's like to be a real musician - pretty cool!

Rich
# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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03/07/2013 3:35 pm
Originally Posted by: Slipin Lizard
Someone posted a while back "who cares if I can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?" and I said I did.
[/quote]
I use that as a challenge to guitar students also. I challenge them to play it in E-flat, B-flat, play it on different strings, use a different pattern to play the same notes, play it all on one string, tell me what the scale degrees are, etc. Then I say, "Now, harmonize it with a bass line." :)

That's the sort of exercise that will get you to understand how music works, as opposed to simply how to manipulate the guitar.
Originally Posted by: Slipin Lizard
So, I just wrote down a bunch of spots on the fretboard that sounded "right" without worrying about what the notes actually were.
[/quote]
An excellent experiment & creative exercise! Good for you. And notice another very important lesson: the sound comes first. Music theory doesn't tell you what notes to play or not to play; music theory doesn't tell you which notes you should like the sound of; or which note must come next in a song, melody or solo. There could be no music theory without first hearing tones, creating different tones, experimenting, observing how tones are different from each other, and by precisely how much, etc. It was invented after observing & experimenting with the sound of pure tones.

Music theory is not "a list of arbitrary, boring rules that boring, dead European guys force us to use or break."

Music Theory is the set of concepts that describes the nature of musical events.

It is the process of mentally identifying the sounds that occur in music. We do this in order to build a consistent set of ideas to describe what happens in music.

Music theory is how we mentally identify, organize & describe the sounds we make on musical instruments in playing music.
[QUOTE=Slipin Lizard]
Turns out, I had found all seven notes by ear, D, Eb, Gb, G, A, Bb, C, which for the key of D it identified as D Phrygian Major.

D Phrygian dominant, also known as the G harmonic minor scale.
[QUOTE=Slipin Lizard]
Just thought I'd share this long-winded story for those of you who find learning scales boring... sometimes coming at it from a completely different direction can be really rewarding.

Thanks for sharing. Well done. :)
Christopher Schlegel
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# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
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03/07/2013 4:01 pm
Originally Posted by: maggiorThen it started to sound familiar... I had a "hey, wait a minute!!" moment and just played the major scale in C up and down the neck in time with the music. It completely fit...it was just the major scale!!
[/quote]
That's a great moment to have. :) I love those moments.
Originally Posted by: maggiorAnd yes, it's important to understand the science. But ultimately, it's about emotion and a "feel".

You've got yourself a false dichotomy there. :) It's not one or the other: reason or emotion. It's both, put together properly. Integrated.
[QUOTE=maggior]
A "musician" becomes completely detached from the mechanics of making music and is focused on...the music.

I know many musicians that like to explain it that way: being "detached". But it is mistaken & very misleading. What they should say is that they have mastered & automated the mechanics. They have practiced so much, they have made the physical process of playing any given scale over any given chord progression, in any given rhythm at the drop of hat completely second nature.

It is so automated in their subconscious, that their conscious awareness is allowed to think in larger units.

They don't think about each note as they play it. There isn't time to do that. What they do is think in a large unit that contains a whole group of notes they are already extremely familiar with.

So, for example when an accomplished guitarist, like Paul Gilbert, plays a lick like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrh6jgWLB3I

That fast lick or a whole solo on "auto pilot", he is not explicitly thinking, "Okay, let's see. A, down to G, F, E, down to D on the G string, back up to the B string ..." and so on. He'd never get the lick done at all, much less done blazing fast! :)

At one point a long time ago he did have to think that at least once. Then, he practiced it for 8-10 hours a day for a few years. With enough practice doing one of those giant licks only requires him to think, "A minor scale pattern down & up in 16th note triplets." If even that much!

At a certain point, whole phrases, fretboard patterns & even songs can become second nature because they are automated. The only way to memorize the fretboard and licks like that to competently play those scales (or anything on the guitar) is sheer repetition. There is simply no substitute for hours, days & years of practice. This is completely a matter of practice. Everyone has to go through this stage. For some it's longer; others, it's shorter. But the same thing has to take place: you must repeat the physical motions until it becomes second nature to you.

What's happening is your brain must build those new neural pathways, and your muscles will get more and more used to these new signals being sent to them and respond quicker ("muscle memory").

At first you have to fully focus on every little motion & movement. You have to think, "Put my finger here, don't mute the other strings, this is a ... what note? a C note, now, pick it carefully ... what's the next note ... "

Gradually, as you repeat these things, they become automated (shifted over to your subconscious), and you are able to think in larger units. Eventually, after enough practice, you don't have to focus on each & every note or movement. Instead, you can think, "C major scale in 4s" and your brain & hands will take care of the details.

Eventually, you can get to the stage of playing whole sequences of chords or notes or even songs on "auto-pilot". This is because it's been practiced enough to be automated.

So, you don't stop thinking when you play fast. You just think in bigger terms. You think in whole groups or phrases of notes, instead of each note one at a time. Make sense?

Now once a guitarist has accomplished a large group of mechanics, then he can do exactly what you correctly suggest is the next step: use these skills as tools to express thoughts & emotions. :) To tell a story with music.

So, it's not thinking versus emotions. It's thinking as the first required step, then using the results of your thinking to express emotions.
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# 4
maggior
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maggior
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03/07/2013 4:51 pm
Thanks so much for your response Christopher. It reminds me of a great Rush song - Hemispheres :-).

I'm glad I brought this up because what you say makes a lot of sense and is much more concrete than what my musician friends would tell me. So, unless you are a true prodigy, hard work is the true path. The best part of it is that with hard work, even a schmuck like me can learn to make good music.

When I get frustrated, I'll keep this in mind.
# 5
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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03/07/2013 7:08 pm
Thanks for the responses guys. Christopher, I think your posts should be put into a "must read" book for anyone learning guitar!
# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
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03/08/2013 3:15 pm
Originally Posted by: maggiorThanks so much for your response Christopher. It reminds me of a great Rush song - Hemispheres :-).[/quote]
Right on. That is indeed the basic idea behind that awesome Rush piece. :)

And don't kid yourself, even prodigies need to work on it. It seems to come easier for some people. But you still have to put in the time. I don't know how many times I've seen talented, promising young musicians end up going nowhere. And all just because they never pushed their raw potential into something actual, something real, they could use, or could benefit from.
[QUOTE=maggior]The best part of it is that with hard work, even a schmuck like me can learn to make good music.

When I get frustrated, I'll keep this in mind.

Well, I'm not going to agree with the schmuck part. :p But, you've got the rest of it exactly right. Even if you are born with all the talent & connections in the world, you still have to put in the work.

And don't forget the most important part of this whole process: to have fun learning & playing music. The end goal here is to make your life more enjoyable by playing some guitar. :)
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# 7
ChristopherSchlegel
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03/08/2013 3:18 pm
Originally Posted by: Slipin LizardChristopher, I think your posts should be put into a "must read" book for anyone learning guitar!

Now, that's a good idea. :) Maybe some day I'll compile such a book.

Of course, all you GT guys are already getting to read my book as I create it a little bit more every day. You are in on the ground floor!
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Rockin Rod
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03/15/2013 11:12 pm
Christopher,

Thanks for the direction. I thought it was just me.... :rolleyes:

At first you have to fully focus on every little motion & movement. You have to think, "Put my finger here, don't mute the other strings, this is a ... what note? a C note, now, pick it carefully ... what's the next note ... "

Gradually, as you repeat these things, they become automated (shifted over to your subconscious), and you are able to think in larger units. Eventually, after enough practice, you don't have to focus on each & every note or movement. Instead, you can think, "C major scale in 4s" and your brain & hands will take care of the details.


Of course I knew better, but the encouragement and direction really helps and means a lot. Thanks!

Rockin' Rod


Originally Posted by: CSchlegelThat's a great moment to have. :) I love those moments.

You've got yourself a false dichotomy there. :) It's not one or the other: reason or emotion. It's both, put together properly. Integrated.

I know many musicians that like to explain it that way: being "detached". But it is mistaken & very misleading. What they should say is that they have mastered & automated the mechanics. They have practiced so much, they have made the physical process of playing any given scale over any given chord progression, in any given rhythm at the drop of hat completely second nature.

It is so automated in their subconscious, that their conscious awareness is allowed to think in larger units.

They don't think about each note as they play it. There isn't time to do that. What they do is think in a large unit that contains a whole group of notes they are already extremely familiar with.

So, for example when an accomplished guitarist, like Paul Gilbert, plays a lick like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrh6jgWLB3I

That fast lick or a whole solo on "auto pilot", he is not explicitly thinking, "Okay, let's see. A, down to G, F, E, down to D on the G string, back up to the B string ..." and so on. He'd never get the lick done at all, much less done blazing fast! :)

At one point a long time ago he did have to think that at least once. Then, he practiced it for 8-10 hours a day for a few years. With enough practice doing one of those giant licks only requires him to think, "A minor scale pattern down & up in 16th note triplets." If even that much!

At a certain point, whole phrases, fretboard patterns & even songs can become second nature because they are automated. The only way to memorize the fretboard and licks like that to competently play those scales (or anything on the guitar) is sheer repetition. There is simply no substitute for hours, days & years of practice. This is completely a matter of practice. Everyone has to go through this stage. For some it's longer; others, it's shorter. But the same thing has to take place: you must repeat the physical motions until it becomes second nature to you.

What's happening is your brain must build those new neural pathways, and your muscles will get more and more used to these new signals being sent to them and respond quicker ("muscle memory").

At first you have to fully focus on every little motion & movement. You have to think, "Put my finger here, don't mute the other strings, this is a ... what note? a C note, now, pick it carefully ... what's the next note ... "

Gradually, as you repeat these things, they become automated (shifted over to your subconscious), and you are able to think in larger units. Eventually, after enough practice, you don't have to focus on each & every note or movement. Instead, you can think, "C major scale in 4s" and your brain & hands will take care of the details.

Eventually, you can get to the stage of playing whole sequences of chords or notes or even songs on "auto-pilot". This is because it's been practiced enough to be automated.

So, you don't stop thinking when you play fast. You just think in bigger terms. You think in whole groups or phrases of notes, instead of each note one at a time. Make sense?

Now once a guitarist has accomplished a large group of mechanics, then he can do exactly what you correctly suggest is the next step: use these skills as tools to express thoughts & emotions. :) To tell a story with music.

So, it's not thinking versus emotions. It's thinking as the first required step, then using the results of your thinking to express emotions.

# 9
The Duke of New York
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The Duke of New York
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03/16/2013 11:09 pm
Chris, I am slightly more than halfway through your GF2 course. I must say you are one of the best guitarist/instructors living today. You are a prodigy of musical knowledge and ability. I am very motivated to keep practicing every single day and have basically given up TV at night so I can devote all my time to this adventure. You are a reason why I am so dedicated to this goal of mine. You are truly inspiring and it makes it easy for me to connect with what you are trying to get accross in your lessons.

I am currently on Chord Inversions and will be here for a bit it seems because it is not so easy to remember all the different positions you show in your lessons, let alone get the proper fingering down quick enough, but I will keep at it every day.

Thank you,
Jim.
# 10
PeterNY
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03/17/2013 7:39 pm
My first instrument was the piano, and I remember that if you wanted to play a C scale, you just ripped along the white keys. There was no memorization and no thought process. You just had to remember to tuck your right thumb under your fingers whenever you reached an ascending F or C, and you were half way home. (The right fingers jumped OVER the thumb on the way down.) As the book levels advanced, I progressed through the key signatures and learned them one black key at a time.

I found the guitar to be an interesting beast. Most players came from the same school of rock/blues, and I reacted with horror at the pentatonic scale. Okay, you've eliminated the F and the B notes from the C major/A minor scale. That will work wonders for the first four bars, but what happens when the harmony goes from C to F or Am to Dm? Don't you think you're going to need that F? How about when you hit that all powerful dominant G or dominant harmonic minor E7? How are you going to fill out your lines without that B note?

Fortunately, I found a nurturing teacher, who after starting me off with the classical finger styles of Sors, Carcassi and Giuliani, then impressed upon me that the western scale was a human convention and that other than tweaking the minor scale for harmonic and melodic purposes, there existed only one scale with different starting points on the neck (keys) and different starting points within the scale (modes). Eventually, I stopped thinking about scales and concentrated on harmonizing the notes from fake books with the chords written above them. That made all the difference, as I can take any lines of standard notation and make them my own as I solo from start to finish off a lead sheet.

After a year and change of playing guitar, my teacher encouraged me to improvise by pulling the score away from me when I played. This was tough love, but I improvised more around the chordal harmonies and hardly ever around the scale. Things got ever rougher. Soon he demanded that I use all 12 chromatic notes in my improvisations. "No leading tones or passing tones! I want all those off-key notes coming at me on the down beats, and I want the line to sound musical not free form," he ordered.

Again, the scale provided little refuge for my playing, and I learned to cheat the key by using the off key harmonics from Matt Dennis' classic jazz book Super Chords for the Great Standards. This is not an endorsement of the book. Although it is a single staff fake book, it is keyboard centric, and so piles of flatted/sharped fifths and ninths come at you in all directions as if you had a free left hand to play them, while your right hand worked the melody. I had to simplify many of those "super chords" to two or three harmonizing notes underneath—or sometimes on top of—the melody line.

Okay, I'm not putting down scales, because having them tucked away in your fingers avoids those awkward clams that bite you in the ear every now and then. It is said that Andres Segovia practiced his scales for two hours a day. He was a pretty good guitarist. On the other hand, if I had to play scales two hours a day, I would burn out in a week. Moral of the story - scales are a means; great music is the end.
# 11
Toddst
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03/21/2013 4:31 pm
SL, thanks for sharing. Your post got me thinking about different ways to get comfortable with the scales. I already knew the 5 positions that GT has on the scale finder plus the blues scale and a couple others as well, and I was pretty comfortable linking the scales together along the fretboard. The next step was to get good at finding these positions in all keys anywhere on the fretboard quickly. So one thing I've been doing lately is to concentrate on one area of the fretboard at a time and go through the scales in all the keys while remaining in that same general area. For example, decide that you are only going to play at or near the 12th fret. Then go through all keys A-G in that same general area. It forces you to 1) know all the basic scale patterns 2) memorize where the root of each scale is located 3) while also testing your fretboard note knowledge. To take it a more interesting step further I plug my MP3 into the amp and shuffle through my songs, playing a lead over each song, while only in the 12th fret. Then I'll move on to another area of the fretboard. By doing this I am also getting better at honing in on the key of the song fairly quickly. The only thing I'm not sure of at this point is whether the key is in the major or minor version the scale shapes that I am playing (for example: A minor or C Major, D minor or F Major, etc). Any help there would be appreciated.

Todd
# 12
ChristopherSchlegel
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03/21/2013 4:50 pm
Originally Posted by: jpolitoYou are truly inspiring and it makes it easy for me to connect with what you are trying to get accross in your lessons.

That's great. Thanks for the positive feedback. Glad you are inspired to keep learning & playing music on your guitar. :)
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ChristopherSchlegel
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03/21/2013 5:25 pm
Originally Posted by: ToddstThe only thing I'm not sure of at this point is whether the key is in the major or minor version the scale shapes that I am playing (for example: A minor or C Major, D minor or F Major, etc). Any help there would be appreciated.

Context is everything. The only way to know what key (major or minor) you are in, is to identify the entire context.

Suppose you are playing around with these notes:

c-d-e-f-g-a-b

Those notes could suggest C major or A minor. You won't know until you've played them as a melody; in a specific order or pattern that suggests a root or home key. Many times that is even vague & hard to do without accompaniment that clearly outlines a chord progression to make the key explicit.

Let's say these chords are happening:

C major - A minor - D minor - G major (repeat)
Eventually ending on C major

Just about anything you do with those notes over those chords is going to clearly sound like you are in the key of C major.

But, if instead these chords are happening:

A minor - C major - D - minor - G major (repeat)
Eventually ending on A minor

Just about anything you do with those notes over those chords is going to clearly sound like you are in the key of A minor.

Notice that there is only one change in those groups of chords: the first two chords are reversed. But that means that the target, or end goal of each group changes distinctly.

But, what if these chords are happening:

D minor - C major - D - minor - G major (repeat)
Eventually ending on D minor

Playing the notes of the C major scale is going to sound like you are playing some kind of modal thing in D dorian. Again, this is because of the emphasis that gets placed on the D minor chord as the target chord that the progression aims at as its goal (& that is gets repeated).

One more example! How about these chords:

F major - G major - F major - G major (repeat)
Eventually ending on F major

This is another modal vamp. Even though you are playing the notes of the C major scale, those chords are setting the harmonic context. It will sound like you are playing an F Lydian or G mixolydian type of modal thing.

I have a tutorial on modes that might be beneficial:

www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=770

Hope this helps! Remember, context is everything. :)
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maggior
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maggior
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03/21/2013 6:16 pm
Wow...Ouch, my head hurts! That is really amazing how things change just by changing the order of the chords.

When I'm digging into theory again, I'll have to revisit this and get my head around it.
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Toddst
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03/22/2013 3:48 am
Chris, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Much of what you said is over my head. I'll need to do some further investigation, but that's a good thing. It forces me to expand my horizon!

Another question: While doing play along with my music (pop, classic rock) I have observed that the scale shapes corresponding to the keys of Bb Major/G minor and A Major/F# minor keep showing up in a lot of songs. I noticed that these keys put the most popular pentatonic scale shape 3, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3 at the 14th and 15th frets where a lot of intense soloing is done. Is this a coincidence or by design with a lot of artists?
# 16
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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03/22/2013 4:23 am
Originally Posted by: CSchlegelContext is everything. The only way to know what key (major or minor) you are in, is to identify the entire context.


Todd, this quote by Christopher is gold, its exactly right. I have a BOSS DR880 drum machine. I wish I could record this one example, but unfortunately I'm not setup for it right now. But, its a practical application of what Christopher is talking about. I won't go into too much detail, but its essentially this:

The DR880 provides both drum and bass sounds, which makes it great to jam along with. I had one pattern that was in Cmaj. I worked out a riff using the Cmaj scale. Its very melodic (you could hum it). I then put the pattern into a "song". I set the song up so that the bass line was in Cmaj for four bars, then it switches to Amin for four bars, then back to Cmaj, and just keeps looping like that. Now, if I played you the riff without the bass line, you might say "ah, you're in Cmaj" and you'd be right. But, you also might say "hey, that's Amin" and you'd be right again. The riff works in both keys. Like I said, I wish I could record the example for you, because its so obvious when I play the riff in the context of the song. When the backing bass line is in Cmaj, the riff sounds like Cmaj, very upbeat, happy, whatever you want to call it. Then, when only the bass line changes to Amin, it sounds like the riff changes too. You'd swear I'd changed the scale/notes, it just sounds so immediately "minor", but nope, the riff stays exactly the same, and as soon as the bass goes back to Cmaj, bing! it sounds like the riff is back to Cmaj too.

Even today, I was playing "E Minor Pentatonic" over a bass line that was C, G, D... found a few extra notes that sounded good, and the whole solo didn't sound like a minor pentatonic normally does... took only a moment to flesh out those "extra" notes that seemed to fit well, and yeah, I'm just playing a G Major scale.

As far as remembering the patterns, when I practicing them, I really try to visualize the pattern above and below the pattern I'm playing. So I'll noodle around, and then move up or down when I recognize the pattern above or below. I keep doing this, trying to minimize the amount of "noodle" time I spend in each pattern, and move around on the fretboard as much as possible without making a mistake. This is not an effort to "solo" or make something that sounds good. The whole idea is just to stay in one pattern, then move to another without making a mistake. You know you're getting it down when you can start moving up or down multiple times staying on one string.

Finally, just to be honest, I really separate the practice from play time. When I go to try and play something that actually sounds good, I might be conscious of the scale I'm in, but if I hit a note that I'm not sure what scale or key I'm using, and it still sounds good, I just do it and worry about the theory later. If I create a riff I really like, I might not bother to figure out what scale or scales I'm using. If I'm struggling to come up with ideas, then yeah, I may "reverse engineer" what I'm doing so far to see if that helps give me more ideas. I don't know if this method is good or bad, its just what I do. If I hear a solo in my head, and its coming out through my fingers, then I don't worry about the theory side of it at that point. So, like you, there are times when I may be playing something and I'm not really sure of what scale I'm in. I'm trying to rectify that. I would prefer to be aware of what scale/mode I'm utilizing at any given moment... but my "happy dog" brain just goes "oh, that sounds good!" and starts playing stuff without always giving me a chance to work out the theory behind it!
# 17
Toddst
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Toddst
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03/22/2013 4:17 pm
Originally Posted by: Slipin Lizard... When the backing bass line is in Cmaj, the riff sounds like Cmaj, very upbeat, happy, whatever you want to call it. Then, when only the bass line changes to Amin, it sounds like the riff changes too. You'd swear I'd changed the scale/notes, it just sounds so immediately "minor", but nope, the riff stays exactly the same, and as soon as the bass goes back to Cmaj, bing! it sounds like the riff is back to Cmaj too...


This along with Chris' post helps clarify. Thanks
# 18
Toddst
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Toddst
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03/22/2013 5:13 pm
Originally Posted by: CSchlegel
www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=770


What a powerful lesson!
# 19
RussellNelson
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RussellNelson
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04/17/2013 2:04 am
Originally Posted by: Slipin LizardOk, so probably lots of you have heard how there's all these different scales and modes... and have seen books or magazines with all these scales written out in tab... maybe, if you're like me, you've sat down and tried to learn some of these scales only to find yourself just blindly fingering through them without a clue how to use them musically. Well, I stumbled across a fun way to start learning a scale simply by playing the scale first (pssst, I think the Lizard's lost it...) no, bear with me and you'll see what I mean.

Someone posted a while back "who cares if I can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?" and I said I did. Since this is a guitar forum about playing guitar, go ahead and take the Pepsi Challenge... pickup your guitar and see if you can do it cold... "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star..." just start with any note and work your way through it.

Now I'll bet most people were pretty quick to work their way through it, even if they didn't know what the notes were, or the major scale they were in, or any major scale patterns. Sure, you might have hit some bum notes, but I'll bet you slid your fretting finger immediately up, or down, into the right position to correct your mistake. But how can that be? You don't even know the notes you're playing or what scale you're in... "ah" you say, "that's nothing special, I just played it by ear".

Ok, sure. But maybe that ear can help you another way... it did for me, here's how:

I've played for decades knowing the basic blues pentatonic scale, and really most of my soloing was based on the idea of using a five note scale. A while back, I made a much more serious effort to learn lead guitar, and was introduced to the seven note major scale, to the point where I could do a decent job playing most Major scale keys all over the fretboard. I began to understand that a lot of those "cool guitar riffs" I'd heard were outside of that five note limitation, instead using seven note scales to create melodies or distinct tonal "moods". Because of this, when I would jam to a backing track or even just noodle around with some lead ideas, I started tending to base my ideas on using seven notes instead of just staying in my pentatonic rut.

I often jam along with my BOSS DR880 Drum Machine , that has 500 preset jam loops in many different keys. It has both bass and drum sounds, and a surprisingly good sounding guitar effects section. There are a bunch of good rock and blues presets, but there are some really wild ones too... techno, heavy rock, gospel, jazz etc, and for some of these its pretty challenging to come up with a lead solo idea. I stumbled across one such tricky preset a couple of nights ago, and thought "ugh, I'll never be able to come up with something to go along with that..." but then thought, "hey, that's it then... listen to it and TRY your utmost to make something work..."

The track was this really heavy rock sounding bass & drum track, and as I listened, it reminded just a bit of that deep, pounding bass & rhythm track in some of the early scenes of "Blackhawk Down". You know, the "military convoy drives through the desert" bahmp! bahmp!... da, bahmp! bahmp... you get the idea. So I thought that Arabic/sitar kind of thing and just started noodling. Low and behold I'm starting to come up with some ideas I really like, but its weird. I'm finding I'm either playing notes very close together, moving in half-steps, or suddenly moving three or four frets up or down. But its sounding cool, and I eventually get a repeatable riff that really works with the music. I have no idea what I'm playing, all I know is its in the key of D, and I'm definitely in the key of D with the riff.

So I go get a piece of fretboard paper, and just start playing through the riff, and moving around the fretboard. I jot down only the notes that sound "right". I figure its whacked, because I don't seem to be coming close to being in one of the five major scale patterns. For those of you that know what I mean, I was getting a feeling that if I was in fact laying out a scale, it wasn't going to be a diatonic mode. So, I just wrote down a bunch of spots on the fretboard that sounded "right" without worrying about what the notes actually were. This is what I came up with:


E ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B ||---|---|---|-x-|---|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G ||---|---|---|---|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|-x-|---|-x-|-x-|---|---|---|---|
D ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
3 5 7 9 12 15 17 19 21


I then went to this handy website and entered in all the fretboard positions that according to my ear, fit with the music:

http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/reverse_scales.php

Turns out, I had found all seven notes by ear, D, Eb, Gb, G, A, Bb, C, which for the key of D it identified as D Phrygian Major. Now that I knew what scale I was using, I was able to write it out on paper and start coming up with some ideas for patterns to make it a little more fluid. What was interesting to me in this whole experience was how actually using the scale first creatively really motivated me to figure out the details, and that even though I had never heard of this scale before, I was still able to identify it by ear. When I jotted down the notes on the fretboard paper, every single one was in the scale. Just thought I'd share this long-winded story for those of you who find learning scales boring... sometimes coming at it from a completely different direction can be really rewarding.


Thanks for posting this. Very cool to hear about your process for learning and your experience learning how to use the Phrygian Scale.
# 20

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