Switching Between Scales For Better Songwriting

author: dandan120 date: 07/05/2012 category: songwriting & lyrics
rating: 4.9 / votes: 18 
Switching Between Scales For Better Songwriting
As a guitar teacher many students of mine ask how to write songs without being stuck in the same old place either soloing or riffing. This common problem is mostly caused by knowing lots of wonderful scales but lacking the ability to switch between them, which in the end results in songs sounding the same and/or writing yourself into a corner you can't get out of. So the solution: Firstly, as in any song writing process, decide on theme, style and key. So for this lesson I'm going to use the key of E. My own favourite scale is the Phrygian scale. So an E Phrygian Scale is:
e|--------------------------------5-7-8--|
b|--------------------------5-6-8--------|
g|--------------------5-7-9--------------|
d|--------------5-7-9--------------------|
a|--------5-7-8--------------------------|
e|--5-7-8 -------------------------------|
Now to the point of the lesson, how to switch between scales. So if I had written myself into a corner or my solos are sounding the same, switching the scale is usually a good way of solving this problem. So how? The easiest way of hanging a scale is to look for another scale that is similar but not the same. This then means the switch can be smooth and easy but also give a slightly different sound to your song/solo/riff. So lets look at the A harmonic minor scale:
e|---------------------------------5-7-8-|
b|--------------------------5-6-9--------|
g|--------------------5-7-9--------------|
d|--------------6-7-9--------------------|
a|--------5-7-8--------------------------|
e|--5-7-8--------------------------------|
When we compare the two scales there is only a two note difference. This means you can easily switch without making it obvious and in turn give a slightly different sound. The fact that this is A and the other scale is in E doesn't really matter, after all its all about how it sounds. This can be done with many other scales such as E Dorian and A Ionian scales. So in a nutshell, if your stuck with your song writing, riffs or solos look for another scale with just a couple notes of difference. It's a small change but it works. And ALWAYS remember, when it comes to song writing, no amount of scales or theory can beat pure inspiration. Thanks and enjoy.
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