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Old 03-12-2013, 09:55 PM   #1
Ole Dan
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Scales with Guitar

Throughout my years playing guitar I've ignored scales, keys, and so on. The day has finally came that I've been teaching myself Music Theory. Today, I covered scales. The question is, how do I use a scale for guitar (This question has probably been asked a lot). I've searched online for a answer that makes sense to me, but none can be found. I understand that scales are a series of notes tonic to octave. How do I look at my guitar and know where to play? My understanding is that you start at (lets say you're doing C Major) C. When I look at examples most do open string then a note, and so on.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:05 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Throughout my years playing guitar I've ignored scales, keys, and so on. The day has finally came that I've been teaching myself Music Theory. Today, I covered scales. The question is, how do I use a scale for guitar (This question has probably been asked a lot). I've searched online for a answer that makes sense to me, but none can be found. I understand that scales are a series of notes tonic to octave. How do I look at my guitar and know where to play? My understanding is that you start at (lets say you're doing C Major) C. When I look at examples most do open string then a note, and so on.

you don't have to start at C, scales are just good because if you now what key you're playing in, you can easily improvise, secondly, it helps with composition because you know where to find all of the notes that go with your key, and if you're getting anything out of practicing scales, you should be picking up a bit of phrasing as well.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:10 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by antisun
you don't have to start at C, scales are just good because if you now what key you're playing in, you can easily improvise, secondly, it helps with composition because you know where to find all of the notes that go with your key, and if you're getting anything out of practicing scales, you should be picking up a bit of phrasing as well.


Can you explain a little more detailed please? Sorry haha.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:13 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Can you explain a little more detailed please? Sorry haha.


If you memorize all the notes in a scale, you can use that scale to create melodies. once you learn the scale, play around with it a bit and see if you can get a neat sounding combination of notes
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:17 PM   #5
Ole Dan
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Originally Posted by antisun
If you memorize all the notes in a scale, you can use that scale to create melodies. once you learn the scale, play around with it a bit and see if you can get a neat sounding combination of notes


Lets say I play in the Key of C. The notes I can use (with exceptions or just breaking the rules because it sounds good) are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C OR W-W-H-W-W-W-H. When i move octaves does it change anything? Why learn scales when I can just learn the Keys?
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Lets say I play in the Key of C. The notes I can use (with exceptions or just breaking the rules because it sounds good) are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C OR W-W-H-W-W-W-H. When i move octaves does it change anything? Why learn scales when I can just learn the Keys?


Same thing in every octave.

And because there are only two keys, major and minor. There are countless scales, major, minor, pentatonic, harmonic minor, diminished, whole tone, various modes, so forth. However, in the long run, scales are only a learning tool. By this I mean they basically teach you what using certain accidentals (and avoiding certain naturals) will sound like in a given key. For instance, the formula for harmonic minor is root-whole-half-whole-whole-half-1 1/2-half (octave). Basically, it's the minor scale with the 7th note be raised. In reality, use this scale is just a learning tool to show you what it sounds like when you play a raised 7th in a minor key. Once these scales teach you enough of examples like these, you'll stop thinking about scales and start thinking about specific notes in context.
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:36 AM   #7
Ole Dan
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Basically scales, are in essence. A bunch of notes that sound good together then?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Macabre_Turtle
Same thing in every octave.

And because there are only two keys, major and minor. There are countless scales, major, minor, pentatonic, harmonic minor, diminished, whole tone, various modes, so forth. However, in the long run, scales are only a learning tool. By this I mean they basically teach you what using certain accidentals (and avoiding certain naturals) will sound like in a given key. For instance, the formula for harmonic minor is root-whole-half-whole-whole-half-1 1/2-half (octave). Basically, it's the minor scale with the 7th note be raised. In reality, use this scale is just a learning tool to show you what it sounds like when you play a raised 7th in a minor key. Once these scales teach you enough of examples like these, you'll stop thinking about scales and start thinking about specific notes in context.
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Old 03-13-2013, 02:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Basically scales, are in essence. A bunch of notes that sound good together then?

Not necessarily.

Think of a scale like a ladder. It is a way of "scaling" or climbing through an octave using a set step pattern. Not all scales result in a bunch of notes that sound good together. Some sound like crap.

So a Major Scale follows the step pattern W W H W W W H. The major scale ALWAYS follows this step pattern and it is this step pattern that makes it the major scale.

On the guitar you can figure out how to play a given scale by learning to navigate the neck and knowing how to play a whole tone and a half tone along a single string and also by moving from one string to another.

A half tone is the smallest standard interval in Western music. It is the distance from one note to the very next note. From E to F, or from C to C# or from Ab to G etc. These are all "Half Tones" or Semitones. On the guitar this is represented by moving from one fret to the next fret.

A Whole tone is the equivalent of two semitones (or two halftones) combined. So from C to D or from E to F# or from Ab to Gb are all examples of whole tones. On the guitar you can play a whole tone by moving up two frets on the same string. (Say playing fret five and moving up to fret seven on the same string).

So now you need to know how to move a whole tone and a semitone from one string to the next.

To do this think about how the guitar is tuned. Look at the low E and A strings. The A string is tuned so that it sounds the same as the fifth fret of the E string. So on these two strings any note you can play on the E string* can also be found on the A string by moving five frets down (in pitch so by down I mean away from the body of the guitar toward the headstock.)
*obviously by "any note on the E string" I mean "any note on the E string from the fifth fret and above".

If you play a C on the 8th fret of the Low E string. Then you go to the A string and move 5 frets down (in pitch) to end up on the 3rd fret of the A string. These two notes are a UNISON. That is they are the pitch class (C) AND the same pitch height (they are not different octaves of the same note).

From here the logic of how to move a whole tone and a semitone from the Low E to the A string should be fairly straight forward....
To play a unison we move from the E string to the A string and move five frets in the direction away from the body of the guitar.

A semitone is one fret up from there so...
To go up a semitone we move from the E string to the A string and move four frets along in the direction away from the body of the guitar.

And to move a Whole Tone we move from the E string to the A string and three frets along the fretboard.

So....
Code:
e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| This is a unison. 8th fret low E string and 3rd Fret A string. You could think about the relationship between these two strings this way... These two strings play the same notes five frets apart. Starting at each of these positions moving up one fret gives us C#, up another fret gives us D, up another gives us D# etc. ============= How to play a wholetone (on the same string and across strings) e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| If we are playing a C major scale and we are starting on the 8th fret E string then we have two options within easy reach....10th fret E string OR 5th fret A string. Whichever option you choose continue to build the rest of the scale using the major scale step pattern W W H W W W H keeping in mind how to move by a semitone or whole tone when crossing to the next string. e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|-A|--|-B|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|--|--|-E|-F|--|-G|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| or e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|-B|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|-G|--|-A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|-D|--|-E|-F|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| or e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-B|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-F|--|-G|--|-A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|-E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| or e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-G|--|-A|--|-B|-C|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|-E|-F|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| etc etc


BEWARE of going from the G to the B string. The B is tuned to the FOURTH FRET of the G string so navigating between the G and B strings is different than the other strings.

There are some specific methods that are devised to help people learn the major scale across the entire fretboard. The two most common of these is the 3nps and the CAGED system. Each of these methods utilize overlapping scale shapes that span a range of 4-6 frets showing all the notes of the major scale within that range. When these overlapping shapes are viewed together they combine to form the complete major scale across the entire fretboard in whatever key you are working.

3nps stands for 3 notes per string. It utilizes seven different "scale shapes" across the fretboard for the major scale in any given key.

In this system there are seven shapes. Each shape uses as it's lowest note a different note of the scale along the low E. The shapes are constructed by playing three notes on each string.

Here is an example of two 3nps scale shapes and you can see how they overlap. Note how the first starts on the C the next starts on D the one after that would start on E etc etc. What is important is not so much the note that is the lowest or the note that the shape starts on but the ROOT of the scale which is always C.
It is always from the TONIC or ROOT of the scale that you start your major scale step pattern, even if it appears in the middle of the shape.
Code:
e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-D|--|-E|-F|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-A|--|-B|-C|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-E|-F|--|-G|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-B|-C|-|-D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-F|--|-G|--|-A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|-E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--| e|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-E|-F|--|-G|--|--|--|--|--| b|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-B|-C|--|-D|--|--|--|--|--| g|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-F|--|-G|--|-A|--|--|--|--|--|--| D|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-C|--|-D|--|-E|--|--|--|--|--|--| A|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-G|--|-A|--|-B|--|--|--|--|--|--| E|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|-D|--|E-|-F|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|


the main benefits of the 3nps method is that the shapes are relatively simple to learn It's just three notes of the scale on each string.
And it lends itself well to speed runs if that's what you are into.


The CAGED system uses five shapes to present the major scale.

It starts with the root shapes across the fretboard. Around each root shape it builds one of five chord shapes which are barred versions of the open major chords, C, A, G, E, and D. Hence the name of this system CAGED.

Because each of these chord shapes is built off the same tonic note found in a different place on the fretboard it shows how to play the same major chord in five different places around the fretboard.

From those chord shapes it fills the scale out to a full shape.

The benefits of the CAGED method are that it combines the major scale with chord shapes and root notes. Thus not only do you learn the major scale across the fretboard but you also learn where to find any given major chord anywhere across the fretboard.
There are fewer shapes than in the 3nps with only five but the shapes will have one string with only two notes. However this allows the shape to span an area where you can play through the entire shape without moving your hand up and down the fretboard.

Check out this link for a post I did previously that I now realize I should have just cut and pasted into this forum because it not only explains the CAGED method but also explains how to construct the major scale on the guitar - probably better than I did here.

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/foru...919&postcount=4
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Throughout my years playing guitar I've ignored scales, keys, and so on. The day has finally came that I've been teaching myself Music Theory. Today, I covered scales. The question is, how do I use a scale for guitar (This question has probably been asked a lot). I've searched online for a answer that makes sense to me, but none can be found. I understand that scales are a series of notes tonic to octave. How do I look at my guitar and know where to play? My understanding is that you start at (lets say you're doing C Major) C. When I look at examples most do open string then a note, and so on.


Hey there Ol Dan,

The problem with teaching yourself music theory as you are, is you have to be both teacher and student.

We teach theory for a living, and you know how on the internet, they have a series of meme's of someone doing something, like a guy with a truck and a stepladder at the back tied to a person who's reaching wayyyyy up for something, and the caption is, "You're Doing It Wrong"?

You're Doing it Wrong.

First of all "Today" you covered scales. You really did not. And Music theory is not something that you spend a day on a subject and then it's "covered". Today you may have gotten your pinky toe wet but you understand very little of what you "covered". That's why searching for answers online make no sense to you, because you are doing it wrong.

How do you use a scale for guitar is a very general, broad question. It's like asking a carpenter, "Where do I use a hammer"? Generally, a scale is a pitch collection, but the uses of that are broad, and the moment you start to narrow that to a single definition, guys are going to pop up arguing semantics.

You look at the guitar and "know" what to play, by knowing how to name any note on the neck of the guitar by seeing it or finding it and playing it. Your question is spot on, and in fact is at our online school, we start and insist that every student must take our notes on the neck course first, no matter how long they've played. Because learning theory is abstract.

Personally, I advocate if you are going to learn theory in a self taught way, that you do two things.

Use your "knowledge" of scales and keep that abstract. Use that to further learn about keys and the relationship of notes to chords.

Use whatever method you like, as you move forward to "learn" the notes on the neck of the guitar, so that as you move forward on the abstract side, you will also begin to better see and develop a skill set to apply what you learn to the guitar.

In short, you haven't gone far enough in the abstract of theory to understand the answer as to how scales work.

And you haven't learned the neck of the guitar to the extent you can apply these concepts TO the guitar once you understand them.

Being self taught, you have your work cut out for you.

If you were my friend and had come to me, the first question I would ask you is "why" do you want to know music theory? I have heard many responses, and none of their reasons match what knowing music theory will allow for.

Best,

Sean
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:20 AM   #10
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Thanks a lot for everyone helping me understand this. It has helped a lot!
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole Dan
Lets say I play in the Key of C. The notes I can use (with exceptions or just breaking the rules because it sounds good) are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C OR W-W-H-W-W-W-H. When i move octaves does it change anything? Why learn scales when I can just learn the Keys?

NO! YOU CAN'T BREAK THE RULES BECAUSE THERE ARE NO RULES! (This is so usual misconception. It actually says that theory limits you which is another misconception. But actually both misconceptions are saying the same thing with different words: theory is useless, which is wrong of course.)

And if it sounds good, it doesn't break the rules. IMO the only rule is: if it sounds good to you, it's good. Do whatever sounds good to you and theory can explain it. You can use whatever notes you want.
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:35 AM   #12
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It's OK not to understand the full applicability of a concept the moment you learn about it. The full use of scales won't make sense until you put it together with building chords, melodies, and progressions.

As far as guitar goes, your first step should simply be learning them up and down the neck so you're ready when you learn about chord construction. And when you know how to build chords anywhere on the neck, you'll get to building actual progressions. At that point, scales will make a lot more sense.
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