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Old 05-01-2013, 06:27 AM   #1
robbit10
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Simple question about scales

When a chord progression is playing in the background (for example: Em, C, D | Key: Em), then which of these is better?:
- Sticking around in the E Minor, E Minor Pentatonic, G Major, and-so-on scales while the song is playing..
- Or, with every chord change, shift to the scale pertaining to that chord? So, for example: When the E minor is playing, play everything that fits with an Em chord, then when the C is playing, play a C major scale or A minor scale or something else that fits, then when the D plays, play D major or B minor or something else that fits.

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Old 05-01-2013, 06:35 AM   #2
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Use Em scale for everything. If you want to outline the chords, then target chord tones by using arpeggios, not scales.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:59 AM   #3
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As the key is Em, everything you play will be heard relative to Em. Therefore the Em scale is the safest bet.
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Old 05-01-2013, 07:01 AM   #4
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Yeah, if the progression is so simple, I see no point in changing scales. It just makes things over complicated. You can of course play accidentals but you don't need to change scale all the time. A chord progression is a big picture. And IMO if you change scale on every chord, it's harder to make it sound like a continuous melody that sounds good. Because then you need to think about connecting the scales and stuff like that. As mcd said, you can just emphasize the chord tones, you don't need to change scales to do that. Because E minor scale contains all the chord tones in that progression (and even if it didn't, you could still think it as E minor with accidentals - that's why thinking in keys makes more sense).

Try to learn how different notes in a scale sound like over different chords. Try to think more in music and not just in scales. Scales are a good tool to find the notes you are looking for but don't let them guide too much your playing. I mean, if you only think in scales, it turns your autopilot mode on and your playing starts sounding repetitive and boring because you are only playing from muscle memory and really not thinking about what you are playing.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:22 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdc
Use Em scale for everything. If you want to outline the chords, then target chord tones by using arpeggios, not scales.


+1

another trick ... you can use the relative major, so if you start soloing in the first position in Emin penatatonic on the 12th fret, slide down to the 9th fret and start the 1st position there. That's fun and adds color to what you're doing.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:57 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by TravisWright
+1

another trick ... you can use the relative major, so if you start soloing in the first position in Emin penatatonic on the 12th fret, slide down to the 9th fret and start the 1st position there. That's fun and adds color to what you're doing.

Em pentatonic is not just one position. It's all over the fretboard so you aren't really changing the scale, you are just changing the position.

Oh, and if you play in E minor and use the basic position but move it so that the lowest note is on the 9th fret instead of 12th fret, it's the same notes as in E major pentatonic. And that won't sound good over E minor. Though I'm not quite sure what you meant. If you meant that when you are playing in G major, you can use the notes in Em pentatonic, yes, that's right. And that's because E minor and G major are relative keys. But in that case the scale isn't called E minor pentatonic, it's called G major pentatonic.
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TravisWright
+1

another trick ... you can use the relative major, so if you start soloing in the first position in Emin penatatonic on the 12th fret, slide down to the 9th fret and start the 1st position there. That's fun and adds color to what you're doing.


First, I'd like to thank Sean who earlier replied to my question. That was a great lesson; I really appreciate it.

Second, if you're playing a minor pentatonic scale and then go to the relative major pentatonic scale, for example E minor pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic ... you're still playing the SAME notes. (And of course the notes of the E Relative Minor Scale are exactly the same as the notes of the G Major Scale.) But for the question posed, going back to the E Minor Pentatonic and G Major Pentatonic, the notes are:

G Major Pentatonic = G - A - B - D - E - G
E Minor Pentatonic = E - G - A - B - D - E

So when you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa) you're still playing the SAME notes. So how are you creating a different feel or sound when over a chord progression you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa), when ALL THE NOTES ARE THE SAME?


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Old 05-01-2013, 12:56 PM   #8
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I liken using a different scale for every chord to trying to measure a mile with a ruler. If you do everything right then it WILL work out, but there are so much simpler methods, especially for purely diatonic chord progressions like in your example.
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by rutle_me_this
G Major Pentatonic = G - A - B - D - E - G
E Minor Pentatonic = E - G - A - B - D - E

So when you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa) you're still playing the SAME notes. So how are you creating a different feel or sound when over a chord progression you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa), when ALL THE NOTES ARE THE SAME?


This is a common misunderstanding, and it comes from the fact that you're playing with your fingers, rather than your ear. The scale is still, to you, a series of locations on the fretboard which are all pretty much interchangably "safe."

To understand the difference, you need to understand two things:

First, we hear notes in a context. They are not stand-alone things. For an example of this, loop an Em chord and play the two notes D-G (rest) D-G (rest) over it. Now loop a G major chord and play the same two notes over it. Notice how the notes SOUND DIFFERENT. This is because the context has changed from a minor context to a major context. Same notes, different sound.

Related to this is getting away from the idea that a scale is a collection of interchangable notes. Rather, they are a collection of notes which each have their own UNIQUE relationship to the tonic note. Change the tonic, and you change those relationships.

When I play a D-G in a G major context, I am playing a fifth and the tonic. That tends to have a very restful, relaxed feeling - moving towards the tonic, settling there. But when I play those notes over an Em chord, now I'm playing a minor seventh and a minor third. These are more dissonant notes, so the melody will likely feel "unfinished." (But if you add an E on the end of that progression, it will feel more resolved. Stick an E on the same melody in G major, and now it feels UNfinished!)

But it's the same notes! What's happened is that the function of each note changes because you change the context! This is what we mean when we talk about "functional" harmony - each note (and chord) has a function relative to the key center.

(It gets even more complicated when you deal with a chord progression, because X note over chord Y in key Z sounds different as the chords change, even as the key stays the same).

You need to develop your ears so that you can hear how each note relates to the tonic note, which will push you out of "playing by finger" - just shoving your fingers around in a shape of "safe" notes.
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
This is a common misunderstanding, and it comes from the fact that you're playing with your fingers, rather than your ear. The scale is still, to you, a series of locations on the fretboard which are all pretty much interchangably "safe."

To understand the difference, you need to understand two things:

First, we hear notes in a context. They are not stand-alone things. For an example of this, loop an Em chord and play the two notes D-G (rest) D-G (rest) over it. Now loop a G major chord and play the same two notes over it. Notice how the notes SOUND DIFFERENT. This is because the context has changed from a minor context to a major context. Same notes, different sound.

Related to this is getting away from the idea that a scale is a collection of interchangable notes. Rather, they are a collection of notes which each have their own UNIQUE relationship to the tonic note. Change the tonic, and you change those relationships.

When I play a D-G in a G major context, I am playing a fifth and the tonic. That tends to have a very restful, relaxed feeling - moving towards the tonic, settling there. But when I play those notes over an Em chord, now I'm playing a minor seventh and a minor third. These are more dissonant notes, so the melody will likely feel "unfinished." (But if you add an E on the end of that progression, it will feel more resolved. Stick an E on the same melody in G major, and now it feels UNfinished!)

But it's the same notes! What's happened is that the function of each note changes because you change the context! This is what we mean when we talk about "functional" harmony - each note (and chord) has a function relative to the key center.

(It gets even more complicated when you deal with a chord progression, because X note over chord Y in key Z sounds different as the chords change, even as the key stays the same).

You need to develop your ears so that you can hear how each note relates to the tonic note, which will push you out of "playing by finger" - just shoving your fingers around in a shape of "safe" notes.

True. But rutle was right, there's no difference if you play G major scale or E minor scale over the same progression. Of course if the key changes, it sounds different.

But rutle's comment was a reply to TravisWright's comment that said if you play the relative major scale over the same progression, you get a different feel ("another trick ... you can use the relative major" and "That's fun and adds color to what you're doing."). And that's not true. Travis seemed to think in shapes - E minor pentatonic would only be one shape on the fretboard, same as G major pentatonic which is not true.

So @ rutle: There's no difference. E minor pentatonic is all over the fretboard and shares the notes with G major pentatonic. It won't sound any different, no matter what shape you use. You are still playing the same notes.
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:49 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by TravisWright
+1

another trick ... you can use the relative major, so if you start soloing in the first position in Emin penatatonic on the 12th fret, slide down to the 9th fret and start the 1st position there. That's fun and adds color to what you're doing.

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Old 05-01-2013, 05:04 PM   #12
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+1

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Old 05-01-2013, 05:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisWright
+1

another trick ... you can use the relative major, so if you start soloing in the first position in Emin penatatonic on the 12th fret, slide down to the 9th fret and start the 1st position there. That's fun and adds color to what you're doing.

Scales are not a bunch of shapes on the fretboard...

In fact, you really need to learn about chord construction, intervals, and harmony, I think. Stop thinking in terms of scales. Think in terms of keys. When you play lead melodies over a chord or a chord progression, your thoughts should NOT be "I can use this scale or that scale". Instead, your thoughts should be "I have potential 12 notes to use; how can I use them to get the feeling I want?". By understanding chord construction, intervals, and harmony, you can better understand how specific notes will sound over certain chords. Thus, you can use those tools to your advantage.

That bolded part is just wrong, but others already covered that.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:02 PM   #14
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Stop thinking in terms of scales. Think in terms of keys.


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Old 05-01-2013, 06:14 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by rutle_me_this
First, I'd like to thank Sean who earlier replied to my question. That was a great lesson; I really appreciate it.

Second, if you're playing a minor pentatonic scale and then go to the relative major pentatonic scale, for example E minor pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic ... you're still playing the SAME notes. (And of course the notes of the E Relative Minor Scale are exactly the same as the notes of the G Major Scale.) But for the question posed, going back to the E Minor Pentatonic and G Major Pentatonic, the notes are:

G Major Pentatonic = G - A - B - D - E - G
E Minor Pentatonic = E - G - A - B - D - E

So when you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa) you're still playing the SAME notes. So how are you creating a different feel or sound when over a chord progression you switch from the E Minor Pentatonic to the G Major Pentatonic (or vice versa), when ALL THE NOTES ARE THE SAME?



The fact that it sounds like G major will have more to do with the underlying chord sequence. If you play the 5 notes over a chord sequence in which it sounds like E minor is the tonal backdrop or centre, then those notes will sound like E minor pentatonic. If you use them over a set of chords where G major sounds like the tonal centre, they will sound like G major pentatonic.

It's a good question.

If you're playing without accompaniment, so there are no chords, then you imply which note is the tonal centre (e.g. E or G), by which one you imply as being the tonal centre in the way you accent the different notes. In other words, if you centre your melodies around the E, it will sound like E minor. If you centre your melodies around the G, it will sound like G major.

A simple way is, play an octave of the scale ascending from the G, it will sound like 'My Girl'. Play an octave ascending from the E, and it will sound like blues. By starting and ending with different notes you imply them as the tonal centre (in the absence of any chords).

Hope this helps

Best wishes

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Old 05-01-2013, 06:18 PM   #16
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I think that in improvisation we have to let our ears guide us to some melodies that we are all able to hear in any given chord progresions and to enter a scale pattern on a fretboard with the melodic idea of fealing we want to express.The best thing is to keep it simple and just play buy ear,play a few notes,if they feel good make a few melodies out of them and maby star developing a solo based on that,remember what you like,and record your self.When you have time anylize the theory behind this things that you like to play,melodies that sounds good to your ears.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:18 PM   #17
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Thanks mdc, AlanHB, and MaggaraMarine for answering my original question

---

I seem to have set off a discussion about scales in general :P

Here's some information I will add. Let's see if it is correct. Here's how my guitar teacher explained it:
Every major root/scale has a relative minor root/scale. A relative minor scale contains the same notes as the major scale, but starts at a different note, which gives it the minor sound. To be more specific, it starts on the 6th degree of the major scale, which is the Aeolian mode.
(Notice I am using root, scale, and key interchangably here. I'm not sure which term is correct. Is a relative minor a key, a scale, or a root?)

A pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale, which leaves out some notes of the respectively named scale. Minor pentatonic is a minor scale with some notes left out, and major pentatonic is, likewise, a major scale with some notes left out. I'm sure it's actually more detailed than just "scale with a few notes left out", and if anyone would like to explain, please feel free to explain what makes a pentatonic scale a pentatonic scale.

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Old 05-01-2013, 06:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbit10
Here's some information I will add. Let's see if it is correct. Here's how my guitar teacher explained it:
Every major root/scale has a relative minor root/scale. A relative minor scale contains the same notes as the major scale, but starts at a different note, which gives it the minor sound. To be more specific, it starts on the 6th degree of the major scale, which is the Aeolian mode.
(Notice I am using root, scale, and key interchangably here. I'm not sure which term is correct. Is a relative minor a key, a scale, or a root?)

more important to the "minor sound" are two things:

1. you'll be in a minor key rather than a major key
2. the "starting on a different note" bit means that the interval locations are different - for example, in A minor the second to third degrees are B->C (a minor second), whereas in C major the second to third degrees are D-E (a major second), which makes the scale sound the way it does

a relative minor can refer to either a key or a scale
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbit10
A pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale, which leaves out some notes of the respectively named scale. Minor pentatonic is a minor scale with some notes left out, and major pentatonic is, likewise, a major scale with some notes left out. I'm sure it's actually more detailed than just "scale with a few notes left out", and if anyone would like to explain, please feel free to explain what makes a pentatonic scale a pentatonic scale.

the only specific is that they leave out the least consonant notes of the key, so your major pentatonic leaves out scale degrees four and seven:

C major pentatonic -> 1 2 3 5 6 -> C D E G A

and a minor pentatonic leaves out two and six:

C minor pentatonic -> 1 b3 4 5 b7 -> C Eb F G Bb
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:27 PM   #19
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I just want to give some overview on your question also.

When I first started learning jazz, I got the Aebersold Book 1. Inside, there's a big table with a list of chords down one side, and big load of scales down the other. There are about a hundred scales there or something, it's a very daunting list!

Being a newcomer to jazz, and not having a teacher, I was trying to learn from this book and it caused me no end of trouble.

I didn't realise, but there is a way of thinking in jazz education which is called the 'chord-scale' method. This idea is that for any chord that's playing, you have a choice of different scales which will work. The impression I got when I started learning jazz was that I would have to learn A LOT of different scales and be able to switch between them pretty fast.

I started learning some chord sequences, and I soon realised that the chords change pretty fast in jazz. So some questions started popping into my head like 'how the hell do jazz players change scale every two beats?' Logical questions, but usually being a beginner I chalked it up to me just not being totally insanely skilled like how I perceived a jazz musician to be.

Some other questions came up when I started trying to use this diagram to match chords and scales. For example, it told me that over a minor 7th chord, I had a choice of scales that included the Phrygian. When I tried this, however, in many contexts it sounded awful. I started to get more and more confused.

Eventually I asked some advice from some experienced jazz players, and I found out two things - first of all, many jazz players are really angry that the chord-scale method is taught at all, because it's a totally confusing and actually quite wrong way to think about soloing over chord changes. Second of all, the way to get started is KEYS and ARPEGGIOS

So a jazz player is more likely to look at a series of chords, and say, 'ah that's all E minor' or, ah, 'that's all Bb major', then they are to change scale over every chord.

They also usually think more in terms of chord tones, arpeggios, when making melodies.

So, my advice is steer clear of the idea that you should change scale with every chord. For some reason it's used in education but all the jazz people I've met don't think that way.

Maybe some other teachers swear by the chord-scale method and understand it better than I do, so I don't claim to be an authority on the subject. But I only started making progress with Jazz when I ditched the chord-scale system idea.
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Old 05-01-2013, 07:19 PM   #20
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True. But rutle was right, there's no difference if you play G major scale or E minor scale over the same progression. Of course if the key changes, it sounds different.

But rutle's comment was a reply to TravisWright's comment that said if you play the relative major scale over the same progression, you get a different feel ("another trick ... you can use the relative major" and "That's fun and adds color to what you're doing."). And that's not true. Travis seemed to think in shapes - E minor pentatonic would only be one shape on the fretboard, same as G major pentatonic which is not true.

So @ rutle: There's no difference. E minor pentatonic is all over the fretboard and shares the notes with G major pentatonic. It won't sound any different, no matter what shape you use. You are still playing the same notes.


I have read in the past on a number of occasions, and I'm paraphrasing, that if you have a chord progression and you want to have a "more country" sound, artists will often use the Relative Minor Pentatonic instead of the Major Pentatonic Scale. That for example, if they were playing a chord progression (say in the key of G) that they might choose to play a "lead" using the E Minor Pentatonic scale instead of using the G Major Pentatonic Scale. Now again, both "have" the same notes. But I distinctly remember reading and hearing about how the choice of that relative minor pentatonic scale over the major pentatonic -- E Minor Pentatonic instead of G Major Pentatonic for example -- would give the lead a more "country" feel. And every time I've heard this I would shake my head and say to myself, "the relative minor comprises the same notes of the major. So why would it 'feel' (as in sound) more 'country' to use the E Minor Pentatonic instead of the G Major Pentatonic, when again, we're talking the same notes?" That some how you get a more rock sound if you are using the major pentatonic, and a more country sound if you are using the relative minor pentatonic.

Why would something have a more country-ish sound if you used the relative minor pentatonic over the major pentatonic, again -- say one used the E Minor Pentatonic instead of the G Major Pentatonic -- over a chord progression? I know I've read this about this supposed difference in the sound you get -- one more rock, one more country-ish -- and this is the first time I finally figured I would ask, "What are they talking about, this different feel each creates -- when the notes are the same?" (I even recall reading how it was something groups like the Eagles often did in their songs.)



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