I'm trying to get my head around theory and have a few questions if you people would be so kind to help me out.

Say I want to solo over a C major backing track. Using tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone It means the notes of C major are C D E F G A B and then back to C.

And then knowing the 1st is major, 2nd minor, 3rd minor, 4th major, 5th major, 6th minor, 7th diminished and then back to major for the octave.

Does this mean for a C major backing track I could using the following scales-
Cmajor scale
D minor scale
E minor scale
F major scale
G minor scale
A minor scale (would i be correct in saying this is the "relative minor" of C major?)
B diminished scale

Is the relative minor ALWAYS the 6th note of its relative major?

Now say I want to solo over a F minor backing track ( i want to pick something awkward so i can test my self) The relative MAJOR of F is G# so does this mean i could solo over this backing track using the following scales-

G# major
\/ tone
A# minor
\/ tone
C minor
\/ semi tone
C# major
\/ tone
D# major
\/ tone
F minor
\/ tone
G diminished
\/ semi tone
G# major (up an octave to the original of course)

So now i have come across the concept of "modes". going back to the c major scale at the start could i solo using the following scales-

C Ionian C D E F G A B C
D Dorian D E F G A B C D
E Phrygian E F G A B C D E
F Lydian F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian A B C D E F G A
B Locrian B C D E F G A B

This doesn't make much sense to me because its all just exactly the same notes?

Anyway I'm sorry to pour so much writing into your eyes but Learning theory over the internet can prove quite tricky and i would like to know what is right and wrong about what i just wrote. Thanks.
Last edited by rob878 at Aug 16, 2009,
Quote by rob878
I'm trying to get my head around theory and have a few questions if you people would be so kind to help me out.

Say I want to solo over a C major backing track. Using tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone It means the notes of C major are C D E F G A B and then back to C.

And the knowing the 1st is major, 2nd minor, 3rd minor, 4th major, 5th major, 6th minor, 7th diminished and then back to major for the octave.

Does this mean for a C major backing track I could using the following scales-
Cmajor scale
D minor scale
E minor scale
F major scale
G minor scale
A minor scale (would i be correct in saying this is the "relative minor" of C major?)
B diminished scale

No, youd solo over it with the C major scale.
D minor, E minor, F major, G minor (which you sohuld have said major) and B Diminished all have different notes. A minor has the same notes, but if you used it over a C major backing track, its techniqually called C major
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Quote by rob878
Now say I want to solo over a F minor backing track ( i want to pick something awkward so i can test my self) The relative MAJOR of F is G# so does this mean i could solo over this backing track using the following scales-

G# major
\/ tone
A# minor
\/ tone
C minor
\/ semi tone
C# major
\/ tone
D# major
\/ tone
F minor
\/ tone
G diminished
\/ semi tone
G# major (up an octave to the original of course)

No, same reason as the one i posted above. F minor and G# major are the only scales with the same notes. the others you posted have different notes
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Quote by rob878
So now i have come across the concept of "modes". going back to the c major scale at the start could i solo using the following scales-

C Ionian C D E F G A B C
D Dorian D E F G A B C D
E Phrygian E F G A B C D E
F Lydian F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian A B C D E F G A
B Locrian B C D E F G A B

This doesn't make much sense to me because its all just exactly the same notes?

Anyway I'm sorry to pour so much writing into your eyes but Learning theory over the internet can prove quite tricky and i would like to know what is right and wrong about what i just wrote. Thanks.

Modes have the same notes as other scales, however, they have a different root, a different tonal center. C major and D dorian are NOT the same thing, if you used D dorian over a C major progression, your still palying C major. I suggest reading up on the Mode threads that are stickied here
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Modes are nothing without a tonal center. When writing in D dorian you basically need to do something to convince the listener that the tonic is D and not C or A.
Quote by Zinnie
No, youd solo over it with the C major scale.
D minor, E minor, F major, G minor (which you sohuld have said major) and B Diminished all have different notes. A minor has the same notes, but if you used it over a C major backing track, its techniqually called C major

Ok thanks for all of that. Yes i realise i should of said G major there. Now Soloing over C major with A minor PENTATONIC works just fine. Is this due to the a minor pentatonic scale being similar to the a minor scale?

Quote by Zinnie
Modes have the same notes as other scales, however, they have a different root, a different tonal center. C major and D dorian are NOT the same thing, if you used D dorian over a C major progression, your still palying C major. I suggest reading up on the Mode threads that are stickied here

Ok I'll read through the skickys.
Quote by rob878
I'm trying to get my head around theory and have a few questions if you people would be so kind to help me out.

Say I want to solo over a C major backing track. Using tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone It means the notes of C major are C D E F G A B and then back to C.

And then knowing the 1st is major, 2nd minor, 3rd minor, 4th major, 5th major, 6th minor, 7th diminished and then back to major for the octave.

Does this mean for a C major backing track I could using the following scales-
Cmajor scale
D minor scale
E minor scale
F major scale
G minor scale
A minor scale (would i be correct in saying this is the "relative minor" of C major?)
B diminished scale

no, if you were soloing over a C major backing track you would use the C major scale. anywhere you find the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B on the neck when playing over a C backing, you are bassically playing in C major.

Is the relative minor ALWAYS the 6th note of its relative major? yes

Now say I want to solo over a F minor backing track ( i want to pick something awkward so i can test my self) The relative MAJOR of F is G# so does this mean i could solo over this backing track using the following scales-

G# major
\/ tone
A# minor
\/ tone
C minor
\/ semi tone
C# major
\/ tone
D# major
\/ tone
F minor
\/ tone
G diminished
\/ semi tone
G# major (up an octave to the original of course)

again, when soloing over a F minor backing, use the F minor scale (F-G-Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb)

So now i have come across the concept of "modes". going back to the c major scale at the start could i solo using the following scales-

C Ionian C D E F G A B C
D Dorian D E F G A B C D
E Phrygian E F G A B C D E
F Lydian F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian A B C D E F G A
B Locrian B C D E F G A B

This doesn't make much sense to me because its all just exactly the same notes?

dont worry about modes untill you have a firm grasp of the major scale.

Anyway I'm sorry to pour so much writing into your eyes but Learning theory over the internet can prove quite tricky and i would like to know what is right and wrong about what i just wrote. Thanks.

Quote by rob878
Ok thanks for all of that. Yes i realise i should of said G major there. Now Soloing over C major with A minor PENTATONIC works just fine. Is this due to the a minor pentatonic scale being similar to the a minor scale?

even though you are using the A
minor pentatonic "shape", when soloing over C major, you are playing the C major pentatonic.

also, the minor pentatonic scale IS the minor scale, but it has the 2nd and 6th degrees ommitted.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at Aug 16, 2009,
A minor pentatonic sounds fine because it contains notes that are in the C major scale. and A minor is C's relative minor so yes.
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i think the major confusion here stems from one misconception, which is that you can play in more than one key at once and still sound good...

so:

*** when the musical progression is in any key, that is the key in which everything else is played, or else it will sound "wrong" ***

the fact that one can derive modes and other scales from the major scale is helpful in that it's a failproof way to find the notes of a scale... but it doesn't mean that you can magically play in any key you want over the same progression.

if the music is in G major, whatever you play must also be G major. when it comes to scales that are relative to each other (ie: C major and A minor contain the same notes), you are still playing in whatever key the progression implies. there is no exception for pentatonic scales, though the fact that they have fewer notes makes it easier to accidentally write a lead over a C major progression, thinking you're playing in A minor pentatonic.

you can use modes to know which accidentals will sound best in certain keys, but to play something modally means that ALL the notes of ALL the instruments are playing ONLY notes from the given mode. when it comes to making chord progressions longer than two chords, this can become problematic.

remember that when you use the modes, you are still playing in the same key. to make a riff sound lydian in G, you must use a G Lydian scale, which is your standard G major scale, only the 4th note is sharp. The big misconeption is that you would have to use C Lydian in this situation, and i'll restate for the record that that is not the case.

so here's a summary example:

you have chords in G major:

G - C - D

you can play notes from the G major scale - G A B C D E F# - over these chords, and they will sound fine. common sense dictates that the notes should center around G and resolve to G or the music will sound unfinished. If you try to play notes based on the relative minor scale overtop of this G-C-D progression, it will sound like crap. E minor is not G major, otherwise they'd have the same name. Keys aren't just notes, they're notes in order, and notes that are set distances from each other in relation to the root note.

what you CAN do is borrow accidentals (notes outside a scale that, when used in proper conjunction with notes IN the scale, sound "good"), from the modes. If you're in a major key, you use a mode that has a major third, and you can throw in something Lydian, Mixolydian, or Ionian (regular major), and it will likely sound okay. Just be sure not to focus too much on the modal note when including it... use it, but if you focus on it, it can start making the chord progression sound unstable.
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Last edited by frigginjerk at Aug 16, 2009,
^That man knows what hes talk about, explained it better than i evercould. +1 sir
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Quote by Zinnie
A minor pentatonic sounds fine because it contains notes that are in the C major scale. and A minor is C's relative minor so yes.
You'd play C major pentatonic. Same notes, different tonal center.
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Quote by food1010
You'd play C major pentatonic. Same notes, different tonal center.

actually if you played A minor pentatonic.... you ARE playing C Major pentatonic anyway. (assuming the chord progression is in C Major)

But yeah, it's good to understand why.
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Quote by rob878
Now say I want to solo over a F minor backing track ( i want to pick something awkward so i can test my self) The relative MAJOR of F is G# so does this mean i could solo over this backing track using the following scales-

G# major
\/ tone
A# minor
\/ tone
C minor
\/ semi tone
C# major
\/ tone
D# major
\/ tone
F minor
\/ tone
G diminished
\/ semi tone
G# major (up an octave to the original of course)

Here's your first problem: a scale can only have one of each note (letter). Therefore the relative major of F is Ab major.

F minor is spelled: F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F
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Quote by GuitarMunky
actually if you played A minor pentatonic.... you ARE playing C Major pentatonic anyway. (assuming the chord progression is in C Major)

But yeah, it's good to understand why.
I understand what you're saying, but no. You're playing C major pentatonic. Whether you like to look at it as the same notes as A minor pentatonic, its tonal center is still C. You can't change that, unless you're playing over A minor.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
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Quote by food1010
I understand what you're saying, but no. You're playing C major pentatonic. Whether you like to look at it as the same notes as A minor pentatonic, its tonal center is still C. You can't change that, unless you're playing over A minor.

That's what I just said.
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Quote by GuitarMunky
That's what I just said.
I see what you mean now. The way you worded it made it seem like you were saying they were one and the same and that they were interchangeable. My sincere apologies.
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Quote by Zinnie
^That man knows what hes talk about, explained it better than i evercould. +1 sir

You really confuse me, you say conflicting things in each post. If something is in C major you can not play A minor and expect it to sound fine, you cannot resolve the scale to A and then the chord progression to C and expect it to sound good.

Quote by Zinnie
Modes have the same notes as other scales, however, they have a different root, a different tonal center. C major and D dorian are NOT the same thing, if you used D dorian over a C major progression, your still palying C major. I suggest reading up on the Mode threads that are stickied here

Here you are on the right track, tonic is majorly important when using modes

Quote by Zinnie
A minor pentatonic sounds fine because it contains notes that are in the C major scale. and A minor is C's relative minor so yes.

Then a few post later you say this, it confuses people. You aren't using the Relative minor, you are using another 'position' of C major.
Last edited by Helpy Helperton at Aug 19, 2009,
Quote by rob878

So now i have come across the concept of "modes". going back to the c major scale at the start could i solo using the following scales-

C Ionian C D E F G A B C
D Dorian D E F G A B C D
E Phrygian E F G A B C D E
F Lydian F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian A B C D E F G A
B Locrian B C D E F G A B

This doesn't make much sense to me because its all just exactly the same notes?

I've read lots of confusing things in this thread. The major point is, and remember for the rest of your life: SAME NOTES DOESNT NECESSARILY MEAN SAME SCALES.
C major (ionian if you will) resolves to C, D dorian resolves to D, E phrygian ... etc.
If you play those notes over a progression in C you will play C major.
If you play those notes over a modal vamp (check the modes sticky) in D you will play D dorian. The first will resolve to C, the latter will (with a bit of effort; check the modes sticky about stability of modes) resolve to D.

Now to get what im actually saying:

Drone a C note and play those notes starting on C, this is the ionian sound.
Drone a D note and play those notes starting on D, this is the dorian sound
etc etc. Dont sound the same right?
haha Helpy, i just suck at explaining thats all :3 sorry
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A minor pentatonic is similar to A minor because it is the same scale with notes missing ( in this case F & B this is because the otheer notes sound better and its harder to go wrong with them.

on the modes side of things:

D Dorian is easy to explain and then you just put the theory to the others,

You compare the Dm scale to the D Dorian scale (because the dorian mode is a minor mode)

D Minor D E F G A Bb C
D Dorian D E F G A B C

the only note that is different is the Bb/B so to make it sound dorian, you start on Dm and then use a chord or chords that has a B in it

So say for example Dm, G, Em

its almost a trick, you start with a Dm chord so you think that its in D minor but then instead of a Gm (G Bb D) you have a GMaj (G B D) and it sounds dorian.

all can say is if you dont understand them then wait a bit and learn more theory because once you know your theory, they will just click
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