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Old 11-26-2014, 03:00 PM   #1
AcousticFunk
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Scales and Keys

Hi guitar people! I'm new here and it feels good to be part of a guitar forum

I've been playing guitar for the last 6-7 years. I play open mic nights a recently passed a grade 8 acoustic guitar exam

One thing i noticed is that my acoustic exam books (compared to my friends electric one's) is that it didn't cover much about improvisation (lead?).

My tutor covered how to roughly find out what scales go with a group of chords using the Root, Forth and Fifth method (if people are familiar with that?).

So my question:
Is there a better/another way to find a scales that work with different sets of chords?

My friend plays bass and he told me that every time someone he is jamming with changes chord, he changes the scale he is playing to match that chord? I.e. C chord: Cmajor Scale, Em Chord: Eminor scale.

I use my ear sometimes and seem to find scales that work??

Any information and tips you guys have would be awesome!

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Old 11-26-2014, 06:23 PM   #2
apbluegrass
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This is a good question and there are probably a lot of different answers.

Do you understand keys and how a major scale is harmonized into the different chords that make up a key? If not I would start there. You will be able to identify the scale to play by the key.

If you understand keys and the different chords in the key and are just asking how to identify the key, that can be difficult. I do this either by ear or by finding the notes in the chords on the fretboard and trying to figure out what scale makes up these notes. It usually takes me a while to find the right key, although I am getting better.

The problem with your bass friends strategy, is what does he do when he is playing over a dominant 7 chord? Does he play a mixolydian 'scale'? If so he is just playing in key.

Ultimately there are a lot of different scales that will sound good over different chords and progressions. For example, it is popular to play a minor pentatonic (or blues scale) over a major I IV V progression, which is not in key.

I really wish I had a better understanding of the different things people did outside of keys to alter songs and get those distinct sounds.
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Old 11-26-2014, 06:48 PM   #3
AcousticFunk
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Excellent answer Thank you.

Yes i am familiar with keys

I will have to check with my friend if he would play the mixolydian scale, but that scale has a flattened 7 note like the dominant 7 chord right? If he left out the 7th or b7 note i doubt it would matter much though lol?

Interesting about the minor pentatonic or blues being used instead of a major scale? I may have to have a jam to see how that sounds?
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Old 11-27-2014, 06:16 AM   #4
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This also depends a lot of the style (genre) of music. There is also the question on what "playing from a scale" means, what's its purpose ... what you're wanting to accomplish doing this. It's important to understand this.

With a (section of a) song based on major scale, and a given key note (tonal centre), the chords are going to draw attention to that tonal centre, as does the melody (solo). e.g V7 to I. The pitches that draw the ear to the tonal centre are those in the I triad, provided they are set up appropriately, and emphasised (note placement in rhythm, duration, height of pitch, dressing it up (sliding to it, long vibrato ...).

In C major, the pitches C, E and G are the stars of the show, and melodically you'll often get C preceded by G (the dominant effect).

Hence, one approach is to create a melody by embellishing the C major triad (chromaticism, fnearest diatonic pitches ...) across the progression, ignoring the chords.

Or you can bring out the sound of some (even each) chord (diatonic chord) in the progression, by emphasisng its (b)3, or its (b)7 ... by definition, you're still playing from the scale here (using scale notes, as appropriate for the diatonic chord from the scale).

So during that sliver of time, when the chord in question is sounding, more focus can be drawn to that chord, but the chord is still not contradicting the notes of the key, and that chord's part in the progression is still collaborating with the melody and other chords in the progression to bring out the tonal centre.

For example, suppose we have ths progression in C major: Dm | G7 | C | C |

Over the Dm, you may choose one of the pitches (D, F, A) for emphasis while Dm is sounding. F or A, being better (assuming the bass is playing D), and F (the b3) being best.

Or you ignore that, and just play from the C triad (C E G) while Dm etc are playing.

But here's the danger ... emphasise a given chord other than the tonic for too long, and you can inadvertently contradict the tonal centre.

For example, keep playing Dm arpeggio over the above progression, including over the C triad, and you'll hear what I mean.

But if you're following the progression as above, this won't happen.

Now try the opposite. Keep playing C triad arpeggio across entire progression ... the C pitch will clash with the B in G7, but it's fleeting. We are really emphasising the fact we're in tonal centre C, using the major scale. We're smashing the listener in the head with a large hammer labelled "C major, and don't forget it". But get's kind of boring and painful.

Many Songs contain non-diatonic chords, which cause fleeting key changes (changes of tonal centre), but are then gone. Here, different scales can get chosen other than the primary one in use, to play over the non-diatonic chord. That's a big subject, as is playing modally.

For example, D7 G7 C C. Here, the D7 could (not must!!) use D mixolydian. Now it makes sense to start talking about "playing D mixolydian, but mainly C major (for the other chords)". Again, we could ignore the D7, or think of it as Dm7.

That is the critical point ... we can play games with what is "correct". We are not forced to always play exactly the right notes for each chord, otherwise we'd get bored stupid. By doing the "wrong" (or rather, "unexpected") thing, the listener may be more engaged.

Remember, theory is just guidelines based on observations of commonly used musical devices. It isn't law punishable by death!

Where the genre permits (like jazz), many other possibilities exist. That's an even bigger subject ... but huge fun!

cheers, Jerry

Last edited by jerrykramskoy : 11-27-2014 at 06:33 AM.
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Old 11-27-2014, 09:29 AM   #5
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What works most of the time is playing the key scale. For example if you are in the key of C major, you play the C major scale. But that doesn't always work if we use non-diatonic chords. You also need to know what chords you are playing over. But I would first learn to play over diatonic chord progressions (ie progressions that don't use notes outside of the key signature) and then learn to use accidentals (ie, notes that don't fit the key signature).

Yeah, I would start with harmonizing the major scale. That way you'll at least see what scale will work over the chords. I think it is important to know which chords are in which key.

So let's start the C major scale with the root, third, fifth and seventh (optional).

Code:
R 3 5 7 I C E G B - Cmaj7 ii D F A C - Dm7 iii E G B D - Em7 IV F A C E - Fmaj7 V G B D F - G7 vi A C E G - Am7 viio B D F A - Bm7b5 ("half diminished")


The pattern is the same for every major scale (I chord is always a major chord, iii chord is always a minor chord, etc). You don't need to have the 7th there. It just gives some more color. Whether or not you should use 7ths depends on the style. In jazz 7th chords are used all the time, in pop you do see them occasionally. Dominant 7th is used in all genres but the V chord without the 7th is really common too.

By knowing this you'll also be able to see where the non-diatonic chords come from and use the "correct" scale for them.

Another way of figuring out the scale is to look at the chord tones and build a scale based on them (though this approach doesn't work over non-diatonic chord progressions - they usually require changing scales). For example if you have a progression like C-Am-Dm-G, you just look at the chord tones. C major = C E G; A minor = A C E; D minor = D F A; G major = G B D. Build a scale using all of the chord tones and you get C D E F G A B which is the C major scale. Because all of the chords fit that scale, it means that scale will work over all of them. But be careful if you use this approach with non-diatonic progressions. And you'll know that the progression is non-diatonic if there are two notes that begin with the same letter, for example G and G#. But also remember that G# is enharmonic to Ab. So it may be that you just used sharps instead of flats. Also, if the scale has both sharps and flats in it, you can be pretty sure your progression is non-diatonic.

One approach would be just learning other people's songs and solos by ear. That way you'll learn all of this in practice and may not even need to think about it. But I think it is good to learn the theory too. Just don't forget about the sound! It is the most important thing in music. What sounds good to you is good. There are no rules. For example if playing a minor third over a major chord sounds good to you, just do it. That's bluesy.

You could also use the chord-scale approach your bassist uses but it can make simple chord progressions look more complex than they really are. If you are staying in one key all the time (I mean, there are no accidentals), using chord scales makes no sense, unless you want to use some more exotic sounds (like using the altered or whole tone or diminished scale or whatever). But it's easiest first to just stick with the key scale. And once you are comfortable with that, you can start looking at the more jazzy scales (if you are into jazz stuff).

So if your progression is C-Am-Dm7-G7, C major will always work over it. You don't need to play C major over C major chord, A minor over Am chord, D dorian over Dm7 chord and G mixolydian over G7 chord. Because by playing those scales you are actually just playing the C major scale. They all have exactly the same notes in them. CST (chord scale theory) starts making more sense when you have more complex progressions that modulate all the time (and to use CST properly, you need to know about the function of the chord you are playing over). But that's some more advanced stuff. And you may not even be into jazz.


Also, using accidentals and dissonance is not against any rules. It's not even against theory. Theory only explains music and it can explain stuff that sounds good and stuff that sounds bad. Bad sounding stuff is not against theory. Theory can explain it too.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine : 11-27-2014 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 11-27-2014, 04:19 PM   #6
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The previous two answers are great, but I want to nudge you in a slightly different direction:

I think you could read those two (excellent) answers and walk away with the perception that you're doing a lot of academic work in your head while you're playing. "Okay, this chord is constructed of those notes, those chords these other notes, so I have to make sure to include ..."

While you may go through a small period of feeling like you're trying to do a crossword puzzle in your head, you have to recognize that this isn't the goal, and it's generally not how great musicians play.

Think about it like this: when you're having a conversation, you're not thinking, "Okay, well he just used the progressive tense but I want to emphasize the fact that it already happened so I'm going to switch to the past tense and use a slightly different verb to connote ..." You're just speaking. You know what you want to say, from a content perspective, and your mind gets the right sounds to flow out of your mouth without any conscious thought about the process of turning ideas into words.

This isn't quite "using your ear to find scales that work" - rather, it's having a set of internalized relationships in your head, and drawing on them at will to express what you have inside.

There are two key aspects to this:

First, you need to develop your ear. You need to be able to recognize notes relative to a key center quickly and easily. This is probably the most important skill a musician can have, in my opinion.

Second, you need to understand that a "scale" is nothing but a collection of notes that each have their own unique relationship to the key center. e.g., don't think of a scale as a collection of interchangeable safe notes.

What these two things, in practice, mean is that when you're presented with chord progression, you're not looking for a scale, you're just playing the notes that have the relationships you want. If, say, I ended up playing a lot of major third, fifth, major sixth, and minor 7th, I might after the fact say, "Oh, I guess I was playing mixolydian" but that's an after-the-fact analysis that describes the notes that I ALREADY CHOSE based on their relationship to the tonic. But when I was playing I was just playing.

"What scale should I play over this," tends to lead to shape-based thinking, which results in treating all the notes of the scale as interchangeable safe notes. That's fine as a stage of development, but by working on your ear you'll hopefully move through it rather quickly.

It may take less work than you think to get to the point where you're not thinking about scales at all while you play.
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Old 11-27-2014, 05:28 PM   #7
91RG350
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The question is not what scales go over what chords....

...the question is what notes go over what chords....

..and those are...

...chord tones...

...and...

...whatever else sounds cool to you....
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It's the same as all other harmony. Surround yourself with skulls and candles if it helps.
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Old 11-27-2014, 05:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 91RG350
The question is not what scales go over what chords....

...the question is what notes go over what chords....

..and those are...

...chord tones...

...and...

...whatever else sounds cool to you....



No mate. While I do agree with you, that's not what the guy was aking. Check his orginal message. He is looking for a bit more guidance to help discover what may sound cool. So, we should help him there. With that in mind, what else would you advise him? (In other words, how can he move from pure experimentation there to stuff that's more orderly initially).

cheers, Jerry
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Old 11-27-2014, 06:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrykramskoy
.....In other words, how can he move from pure experimentation there to stuff that's more orderly initially...

I struggle with the word "orderly" being used in any discussion about any artistic process....

Agree to disagree
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It's the same as all other harmony. Surround yourself with skulls and candles if it helps.
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Old 11-27-2014, 06:25 PM   #10
MaggaraMarine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
The previous two answers are great, but I want to nudge you in a slightly different direction:

I think you could read those two (excellent) answers and walk away with the perception that you're doing a lot of academic work in your head while you're playing. "Okay, this chord is constructed of those notes, those chords these other notes, so I have to make sure to include ..."

While you may go through a small period of feeling like you're trying to do a crossword puzzle in your head, you have to recognize that this isn't the goal, and it's generally not how great musicians play.

Think about it like this: when you're having a conversation, you're not thinking, "Okay, well he just used the progressive tense but I want to emphasize the fact that it already happened so I'm going to switch to the past tense and use a slightly different verb to connote ..." You're just speaking. You know what you want to say, from a content perspective, and your mind gets the right sounds to flow out of your mouth without any conscious thought about the process of turning ideas into words.

This isn't quite "using your ear to find scales that work" - rather, it's having a set of internalized relationships in your head, and drawing on them at will to express what you have inside.

There are two key aspects to this:

First, you need to develop your ear. You need to be able to recognize notes relative to a key center quickly and easily. This is probably the most important skill a musician can have, in my opinion.

Second, you need to understand that a "scale" is nothing but a collection of notes that each have their own unique relationship to the key center. e.g., don't think of a scale as a collection of interchangeable safe notes.

What these two things, in practice, mean is that when you're presented with chord progression, you're not looking for a scale, you're just playing the notes that have the relationships you want. If, say, I ended up playing a lot of major third, fifth, major sixth, and minor 7th, I might after the fact say, "Oh, I guess I was playing mixolydian" but that's an after-the-fact analysis that describes the notes that I ALREADY CHOSE based on their relationship to the tonic. But when I was playing I was just playing.

"What scale should I play over this," tends to lead to shape-based thinking, which results in treating all the notes of the scale as interchangeable safe notes. That's fine as a stage of development, but by working on your ear you'll hopefully move through it rather quickly.

It may take less work than you think to get to the point where you're not thinking about scales at all while you play.

Yeah, I was kind of also trying to say this in my post. Maybe I should have said it in the beginning of my post. Because IMO it is sound first, then theory. That makes you understand what's going on. If you just learn all the theory first, it can make you overthink about everything. There's nothing wrong with theory of course. But learning theory without using your ears isn't that useful.

I didn't really learn theory before I learned to use my ears. Or theory didn't make that much sense to me before learning to use my ears. It was too theoretic. Once I understood the connection between theory and sound, I really got into it.

But yeah, you'll learn to play solos by playing solos. Of course scales help you with navigating on the fretboard and finding the notes you are looking for. But when you play solos, you don't want to think too much. You want the sounds to come out naturally. You want to play what you feel. And that requires a good ear.

Scales aren't really going to make your solos sound good. It's not about the scales, it's about how you use them. Of course different scales sound different. But scales by themselves don't really mean that much. It's more about how you use the notes. And I'm not telling you not to learn scales. I think it would be a good idea to learn the major and minor scales. Most scales you'll ever use are based on those two scales. And they are the two most common or basic ones. Also, learn about intervals and scale degrees. They are going to help you with ear training.
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Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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Old 11-27-2014, 07:41 PM   #11
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For me, there are 2 schools for this. The fusion/jazz school, and the pop school. I'm pop school because I'm not into fusion stuff. Or not into stuff that needs the fusion school.

Fusion school looks at every chord separately, and finds a suitable scale or selection of scales that can go with that.

Pop school is more simple and is more closely related to key scale.

I would recommend for anyone with a question like this, to begin with key scale. If the music you play doesn't work with that, find different music that does.

This will give you a strong foundation and understand of "the pattern". Then you can move on to the other school or just embellish your pop school understanding.

It's complicated to answer in one sitting. Really you need to understand by sound.

Theory is not so complex, but it can really seem like it is if you look at everything at once. It's really quite simple if you take it step by step.

Imagine learning how to spell. There are the basic rules and exceptions, similar exceptions, but if you were learning how to read and somebody gave you the list of every exception to memorize that would seem incredibly complicated, but it's not so bad, if you take it step by step in the right order.

The best thing for that, is a teacher you can trust.

There are all sorts of opinions on the internet. The information is all there. A number of people possess the knowledge you need to know, but people will be contradicting and have opposing views, and don't know you, therefore don't really know the best next step for you.

For me though, for me, the main holy grail of knowledge in music, is I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio. Especially on guitar. On piano "major scale pattern" is almost just as strong, but because of how guitar is laid out, knowing the chord shapes is even more crucial.

If you learn what I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio means, and you learn how to play that in a number of ways, you'll be well on your way.

I will say though, that if you wanted to follow fusion school, this would be a good start, but it would become of less crucial and central importance.
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Old Yesterday, 05:45 AM   #12
jerrykramskoy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 91RG350
I struggle with the word "orderly" being used in any discussion about any artistic process....

Agree to disagree



Disorderly? :-)

Happy to share a cold one with you.

cheers, Jerry
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