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Old 03-08-2013, 05:16 AM   #1
crazysam23_Atax
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Keys > Scales/Modes

So, inspired by this article (which basically discusses pentatonic scales and "shifts" and "modal" scales [read: not modal, but tonal since it's using the modes as scales]), I'm wondering why we're (we as a guitar community, I mean) still uphold modes and scales as anything more than a teaching tool. We still have guitar teachers and players who wrongfully insist that way to gain more freedom in the notes you can use is to use different scales. We also have tons of musicians who don't write riffs/songs/motifs in keys but in scales. I'm wondering when the guitar community will wake up and realize that there's a reason why writing in keys is the best option.

It's my belief that, if the guitar community taught some basic music theory (very basic counterpoint, harmony, chord construction, cadences, etc.) and emphasized writing in keys, we'd have less bands running around with uninspired songs that sound exactly like the half the other bands. (Of course, there'd still be band that have uninspired songs trying to cater to the more commercial side, but that just separates out the bands with good songwriting skills all the more.)

So...thoughts? Should the guitar community stop placing so much emphasis on scales/modes? If not, why not?
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Old 03-08-2013, 05:20 AM   #2
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Bro you're like preaching to the choir here.
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Old 03-08-2013, 05:23 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by chronowarp
Bro you're like preaching to the choir here.

Yeah, I know. That's why I'm asking for thoughts. For instance, how should the guitar community go about doing what I'm suggesting?

In hindsight, that should've been in the OP.
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Old 03-08-2013, 06:02 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
It's my belief that, if the guitar community taught some basic music theory (very basic counterpoint, harmony, chord construction, cadences, etc.) and emphasized writing in keys, we'd have less bands running around with uninspired songs that sound exactly like the half the other bands.


So if everyone learned how to write music the way you think they should, we'd have fewer bands writing songs that all sound the same?

I'm not sure I follow.
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Old 03-08-2013, 06:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
I'm wondering when the guitar community will wake up and realize that there's a reason why writing in keys is the best option.


Write out that reason (or reasons) in simple terms.
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Old 03-08-2013, 06:04 AM   #6
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I don't know how scales or keys or modes have to do with how we write. I write what I hear in my head. I don't think "let's write a riff that uses Fb superlocrian". ( ) I mean, everybody writes in keys. Most songs stay in one key all the time, it has nothing to do with thinking in keys or scales. You write what you hear, you don't let theory to write it for you because that's just impossible. If you hear a modulation, then you do a modulation. The writer doesn't necessarily even know he's modulating but if he hears a modulation, he writes a modulation. That's how it goes.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:55 AM   #7
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this is really pretentious and that's coming from me
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:13 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
I don't know how scales or keys or modes have to do with how we write. I write what I hear in my head.


I'll just chip in my 2c here. In my head, I only hear the same scales and keys which I already know how to play.. If I drift from them, my brain says "ugh, a bad note". So all my stuff simply starts to sound the same. If I apply some theory, I can use it as a stretching exercise. So even if my brain says a note sounds strange, I can lean on the theory and keep playing it, and after a while the unfamiliar starts to sound a bit more familiar.

Everyone is different, of course, but I thought it was worth pointing out that not everyone hears finished masterpieces in a variety of colourful and exotic scales directly in their head. Some of us have to sweat through it and fight against our own perceptions just to hear that.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:22 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by innovine
I'll just chip in my 2c here. In my head, I only hear the same scales and keys which I already know how to play.. If I drift from them, my brain says "ugh, a bad note". So all my stuff simply starts to sound the same. If I apply some theory, I can use it as a stretching exercise. So even if my brain says a note sounds strange, I can lean on the theory and keep playing it, and after a while the unfamiliar starts to sound a bit more familiar.

Everyone is different, of course, but I thought it was worth pointing out that not everyone hears finished masterpieces in a variety of colourful and exotic scales directly in their head. Some of us have to sweat through it and fight against our own perceptions just to hear that.


you get there from listening to, writing, and playing music. not scales.

there might be scales inherent in the music, but there isn't music inherent in a scale.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:56 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail
you get there from listening to, writing, and playing music. not scales.

there might be scales inherent in the music, but there isn't music inherent in a scale.

This. My songs of course fit some scale(s) but I don't think in scales when I write. They are the melodies I hear in my head and I'm sure they fit some scales. But usually when I write things, I don't think "let's write a song that uses this chord progression and melody over it that uses this scale". I just write a song and I just hear a chord progression that fits the song. I know that I have heard those chords before but yeah, you need to listen to lots of music to write good songs. It's not about scales, it's about music.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:01 AM   #11
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writing in keys is an option where you'll always sound good. if you write a song or solo in a key, you can expect it to sound just right almost always. you can easily improvize or write a solo if you know the key your track is in. you can also base and play the exact sound your want(the sound you think of playing next) if you know what key signature youre in.

if a rythm or solo is out of key at some point many people will notice that shift and theyll immediately think it doesnt sound all that right. it can be done to play out f a key, but you have to know exactly where to put those notes. and odds are if you write a song by ear, its most likely in a key.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bustapr
writing in keys is an option where you'll always sound good. if you write a song or solo in a key, you can expect it to sound just right almost always. you can easily improvize or write a solo if you know the key your track is in. you can also base and play the exact sound your want(the sound you think of playing next) if you know what key signature youre in.

if a rythm or solo is out of key at some point many people will notice that shift and theyll immediately think it doesnt sound all that right. it can be done to play out f a key, but you have to know exactly where to put those notes. and odds are if you write a song by ear, its most likely in a key.


you can't play outside of a key. you can play outside of the key signature, but at that point you're playing outside the scale. people play with accidentals constantly in every genre (yes, even pop)

provided you have control over tension and resolution, consonance and dissonance, and understand how this plays in keys, you can make anything sound "good" - even if it sounds "bad" - provided proper context. in art, there is no better or worse unless the artist yields their creativity to demonstrate their objective skill

it's not really a choice to play out in a key - you kinda have to be trying not to be unless you've been absolutely engulfed in atonality or obscure art music. which is fine and great, absolutely, but if you're playing metal guitar, odds are you're not nearly that much of a hipster yet
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by innovine
I'll just chip in my 2c here. In my head, I only hear the same scales and keys which I already know how to play.. If I drift from them, my brain says "ugh, a bad note". So all my stuff simply starts to sound the same. If I apply some theory, I can use it as a stretching exercise. So even if my brain says a note sounds strange, I can lean on the theory and keep playing it, and after a while the unfamiliar starts to sound a bit more familiar.

Everyone is different, of course, but I thought it was worth pointing out that not everyone hears finished masterpieces in a variety of colourful and exotic scales directly in their head. Some of us have to sweat through it and fight against our own perceptions just to hear that.


I'd say there's some truth in this. The music you hear in your imagination isn't always the product of some inner musical genius. If internalising a scale helps enrich your creativity a little, why not?

Last edited by Jehannum : 03-08-2013 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:22 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jehannum
I'd say there's some truth in this. The music you hear in your imagination isn't always the product of some inner musical genius. If internalising a scale helps enrich your creativity a little, why not?

A scale is generally 7 notes. As Hail pointed out, you cannot play out of a key. So, basically, a key gives unlimited options, whereas a scale limits you to 7 notes. That's why Keys > Scales.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
It's not about scales, it's about music.

Couldn't have summed it up better. Some people write in keys intuitively, because they were taught to write in keys. Other people need to train themselves to write in keys, because they were taught scales and never the theory to say that scales are superseded by keys. We need more of the former and less of the latter.
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Last edited by crazysam23_Atax : 03-08-2013 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:27 AM   #15
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I don't think you necessary need any theory to write a great piece of music. (not saying it hurts though!) Depends what kind of music you're into. Simple can be way more powerful than complex.
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:09 PM   #16
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You should write in a key! Good music should be a dash of the risque and the familiar. Why are pop songs so popular with the mainstream? Because people can inherently make sense of them. I mean, look at all that atonal 20th century garbage out there you never hear on the radio. People don't like it because they can't make sense of it. There are no musical proportions/patterns. I think music that really speaks is stuff that looks simple on the surface but it complex underneath, or in other words, elegant.
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:31 PM   #17
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This pretty much sums up my feelings on this discussion.
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:34 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by sweetdude3000
I mean, look at all that atonal 20th century garbage out there you never hear on the radio. People don't like it because they can't make sense of it. There are no musical proportions/patterns.

Actually there are, they're just purposely written in a manner that people aren't used to hearing...but whatever...

But I don't enjoy "art music" or find it to be inherently better than music than, say Mozart or AC/DC or Ne Obliviscaris (or whatever other composer/band you can think of).

Quote:
I think music that really speaks is stuff that looks simple on the surface but it complex underneath, or in other words, elegant.
I would agree with that, to a point.
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:48 PM   #19
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Maybe some input from somebody that doesn't completely understand would help.

If I say, hey I want to write a song in the key of E. What are my options?

First thing I find is "The key of E is compromised of these notes"

These are the notes of that scale. If your not playing any of these notes, than you not in said key.

Going over this in my head, I guess I really don't understand how keys and scales are any different.
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:09 PM   #20
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i'll take my garbage any day

but i enjoy it because that's what i gravitated to at some point and i enjoy experimentation. i'm not gonna tell a kid to throw away his guitar and learn tuvan throat singing - they can find their niches on their own terms. we're here to teach the fundamentals, self-sufficiency, and the ability to use whatever tools you want to do whatever you want with them.

scales will hinder this because it makes it very easy to miss the big picture early on. when you can make the call for yourself, and feel like you're most efficient thinking visually rather than aurally, you can do anything you want. art is art. but when you're still trying to play metallica in your bedroom, you don't have the room to express yourself because you don't understand music as an artform well enough to use it as a means of expression.

i'm not saying sit and pore for hours over a theory textbook because that's counterproductive to appreciating what you're doing. you can find out a remarkable amount by natural intuition by just locking yourself in your room and learning, writing, and playing music, and you'll learn to appreciate it beyond a series of sounds, and learn how to appreciate your music by that virtue.

"when you hear someone play something that they really really like, it's like, really compelling, regardless of what style it is" - elliott smith

learn your theory when you've learned what music is to you, and when you've learned to attribute a nonobjective meaning to it. then you can use any tool at your disposal, but exposing yourself to music and learning to function within and without it is the best way to develop a make-shift sense of logic and understanding, because you discover it on your own terms.

at that point you can debate semantics and shit, but my big thing isn't that one school of thought is better than the other - it's that there's a school of thought based on giving people the ability to respect and appreciate all schools of thought.

i might come off one-sided, but i view this forum as a medium of educational practices, and any pitfalls i may have had, i'll try and help a beginner avoid. they'll probably do it anyway and learn from their mistakes, and that's okay, but i do what i can for that sake. when it comes to listening to music, the important thing to remember is that there's a great equalizer - you can't necessarily tell what the composer was thinking at the time of creation unless they did it in an inauthentic or forced way.

i'll sit and talk shit about scales all the time, and the line of thought related to it, but if you make a great piece of music and tell me you thought in just shapes and patterns the whole time, i don't care about any of that cause you made a great piece of music and worked off of your own inspiration. beginners don't have that, and from experience i'd rather them learn the general, vague, bland, rinsed-pasta version of theory on their own terms rather than jumping into scale shapes to entertain themselves, because they end up like that guy who posted "I DON'T KNOW ANY SONGS BUT THIS CHORD PROGRESSION WITH ARPEGGIOS DOESN'T SOUND GOOD HOW DO I WRITE A SOLO TO IT WHAT'S THE SECRET??"

you should have fun making and learning music by making and learning music. no matter what you think of me or my opinions, if you don't think learning and creating music is the most important part of music, that technical runs and exercises supersede just enjoying that you have the ability to pick up an instrument and make music that resonates with yourself, that you can emulate your heroes and can have a good time with your friends in a run-down garage, you're missing the point

/neohippie rant, i don't know who or what it was directed to but fuck yall PUNK ROCK

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