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Old 06-24-2013, 08:33 PM   #1
wheelz1045
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Is it possible to use scales without really knowing them?

I've been playing guitar for a relatively long time (about 11 years now) but I've never bothered to actually learn theory. I always found it too confusing. I was always content to just play other bands songs, so that's exactly what I did. I think of myself as a fairly decent guitarist being able to play multiple styles of music.

Today for some strange reason, I just decided to take a dive and jam out to random jam/backing tracks on YouTube. I had never done that before in all my years of playing. I always thought you needed to be well-versed in theory to do these jam sessions. Within minutes of hearing songs in G maj, A min, etc; I was suddenly creating solos and riffs that I never knew I could create. Just by using my ear, I could hear some notes that sounded 'off' or 'correct' in a certain key.

Today I've written about 10 songs, which is something I've never accomplished in all my years of playing! I'm very excited.

Sorry too much rambling, but is it possible to know these scales without actually studying them and just using your ear? This has made me interested in digging into theory more.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:00 PM   #2
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you're doing good. most people need to learn the scale formally to learn to ignore them and focus on what they're hearing

i'd recommend checking out groove workshop by vic wooten and anthony wellington as a jumpstart into theory in a practical setting without having to get too bogged down in semantics and technicalities. it's for bass but it's a great watch that i plug as often as i can
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:14 PM   #3
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Well, scales are just a way to group notes. We all use the same twelve tones after all. Knowing your scales won't tell you what to play, it will just restrict your note choice so you are less likely to make mistakes. If your ear is horribly bad and your technique sucks, no matter how well you know your scales, your improv will most likely suck (I tell you cause I went through that, I learned a lot of theory before actually working on my ear and performance). On the other hand, if you have a decent ear and you know a lot of songs, you can still write or even improvise on the spot without being fluent with scales. I'd still suggest you to learn at least the basic pentatonic scales, which is not really that hard (pretty much "first guitar lesson" material), so you can see what it is about. Google JustinGuitar and look for the lessons on scales, I think they are a good resource.
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:41 PM   #4
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Its possible to have built up an understanding of pitch collections without knowing what they are, scale wise, to be precise in answering your question.

Best,

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Old 06-24-2013, 11:22 PM   #5
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You have a good ear. It's the best tool a musician can have.
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Old 06-25-2013, 12:48 PM   #6
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I never understood why people are put off from learning theory. If you have a passion for music and playing guitar you should naturally want to learn all there is to know, that's how I was anyway.

Music theory isn't complicated.. well it gets a little complicated... but you only need a basic understanding to sound pretty good and competent when playing with others. Just start learning the basics, even little kids can handle it.

and like macashmack said, your ear is the most important tool, because if you can make something sound good, regardless of whether or not you can properly explain what you are playing, you are a successful musician in my mind.

TL;DR If you found some notes that sound good together, excellent.
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean0913
Its possible to have built up an understanding of pitch collections without knowing what they are, scale wise, to be precise in answering your question.

Best,

Sean


Ditto. There are a lot of famous old time musicians who only play by ear that use scales without actually knowing them as scales.
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundgarden6742
I never understood why people are put off from learning theory. If you have a passion for music and playing guitar you should naturally want to learn all there is to know, that's how I was anyway.

Music theory isn't complicated.. well it gets a little complicated... but you only need a basic understanding to sound pretty good and competent when playing with others. Just start learning the basics, even little kids can handle it.

and like macashmack said, your ear is the most important tool, because if you can make something sound good, regardless of whether or not you can properly explain what you are playing, you are a successful musician in my mind.

TL;DR If you found some notes that sound good together, excellent.


Hes right. Its pretty much just memorizing musical patterns and knowing how they relate to each other. It seems like a lot to take in but its gets a lot more clearer the more you look into it.
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:34 PM   #9
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True. I was playing chords, octaves and arpeggios before I even knew what they were called only because they "sounded cool". I listened to what others where doing and I copied those sounds I liked. This was on the piano though so it was much easier to figure out than on guitar. You go right to go higher in pitch and left to go lower in pitch. Guitar just confused me at first in the fact why you would need so many strings that overlap and how to organize your brain around it.
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fallenoath
Hes right. Its pretty much just memorizing musical patterns and knowing how they relate to each other. It seems like a lot to take in but its gets a lot more clearer the more you look into it.


Exactly and it makes it so much easier when you can put names on those sounds and catagorize them.
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Old 06-25-2013, 05:12 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetdude3000
True. I was playing chords, octaves and arpeggios before I even knew what they were called only because they "sounded cool". I listened to what others where doing and I copied those sounds I liked. This was on the piano though so it was much easier to figure out than on guitar. You go right to go higher in pitch and left to go lower in pitch. Guitar just confused me at first in the fact why you would need so many strings that overlap and how to organize your brain around it.


That's a very good point, not to mention how the guitar employs Unisons, where a piano, has that one D pitch at one static place on that key alone. Whereas, on a guitar on a D, I can play the same pitch, at 10th fret E and 5th fret A and open 4th string.

Best,

Sean
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Old 06-25-2013, 05:20 PM   #12
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Of course that's possible, lots of great guitarists do that to a point.
The theory behind the scales isn't always necessary if you have a good ear!
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Old 06-25-2013, 07:56 PM   #13
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The only problem with now learning theory is that you end up having to do A LOT of trial and error. Learning the mechanics of music, which is really not that hard with a good teacher, could save you many years of stumbling about on your own.
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Old 06-25-2013, 08:12 PM   #14
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Well, if you can't recognize things by ear, then you'll never become much good as a player. Fortunately, TS...you can! So, yeah, I would keep developing your knowledge of theory.
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