Untill now I've only practiced the pentatonic minor scale, which is relatively easy for a beginner like me. I would like to learn some alternative scales.

In the video below Tosin Abasi shows some of his favorite scales. He mentions that he uses all the modes of harmonic minor and melodic minor. I'm not quite sure what modes he's talking about. The harmonic minor scale is a specific scale, isn't it? And the Melodic minor scale too? Or are there different types/modes of each? What are they called?

Also. What are the scales he's playing called? The first scale is a "minor major 7". Is that one of the "modes" he's talking about? The second one he plays is the "third mode of melodic minor". How many modes are there? Sorry if I sound confused. I really appreciate the help.

The scales are shown in that last part of the video, at around 15:00 min :-)

take any scale you want, major/minor or harmonic minor, and you can derive 7 modes from it. each one with the same notes as the parent scale, but with a different tonic. you get 7 modes because there are 7 notes in a typical scale, i.e. 7 possible tonics.
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There are modes of a Harmonic Minor Scale, which is simply a Natural Minor with a raised 7. He called it a Minor major 7th for simplicity sake. He's essentially saying that if you play your Minor scale form, and raise the 7th note by a half step, this describes the scale he is playing. Theory helps here.

Each mode of the Harmonic Minor is based upon starting on a different note, that note becoming the tonal center, and then the same notes of Harmonic minor, continue. So for D Harmonic Minor:

D E F G A Bb C# D

Mode two begins from E and goes through the same notes:

E F G A Bb C# D E

This makes another altered scale.

Here's why none of this is likely going to be of much help to you.

It tells you what they are, but nothing explains how to use them. You need real knowledge and insight there. There is one way that you CAN use them without knowledge.

Play a single bass note, never change it. So for the second mode above in E, Play, loop or otherwise record an E bass drone.

Over that bass line, play your scale in E now. Have at it.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Feb 25, 2014,
I don't like to think of modes as just "Start the scale on a different note". Modes should be though of as their own thing, as harmonically they are their own thing.
Quote by macashmack
I don't like to think of modes as just "Start the scale on a different note". Modes should be though of as their own thing, as harmonically they are their own thing.

Sure, but we are dealing with someone that knows nothing.

I'm not his teacher, I'm just explaining the gist in a way that is as simple as it gets, and it's in scope with what he understands, which is presently, almost nothing.

How would you break down your comment for him, in such a way as he gets it and it doesn't come across as esoteric, without also having to teach him the basics?

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Feb 25, 2014,
Quote by Sean0913
There are modes of a Harmonic Minor Scale, which is simply a Natural Minor with a raised 7. He called it a Minor major 7th for simplicity sake. He's essentially saying that if you play your Minor scale form, and raise the 7th note by a half step, this describes the scale he is playing. Theory helps here.

Each mode of the Harmonic Minor is based upon starting on a different note, that note becoming the tonal center, and then the same notes of Harmonic minor, continue. So for D Harmonic Minor:

D E F G A Bb C# D

Mode two begins from E and goes through the same notes:

E F G A Bb C# D E

This makes another altered scale.

Here's why none of this is likely going to be of much help to you.

It tells you what they are, but nothing explains how to use them. You need real knowledge and insight there. There is one way that you CAN use them without knowledge.

Play a single bass note, never change it. So for the second mode above in E, Play, loop or otherwise record an E bass drone.

Over that bass line, play your scale in E now. Have at it.

Best,

Sean

So would you say these are useful scales to learn? Are they going to be something that someone would utilise in their playing if they learned them? I realise that's a bit general but I'm just trying to figure out what are useful scales to learn after modes/pentatonic/blues scale.
Quote by Sean0913
There are modes of a Harmonic Minor Scale, which is simply a Natural Minor with a raised 7. He called it a Minor major 7th for simplicity sake. He's essentially saying that if you play your Minor scale form, and raise the 7th note by a half step, this describes the scale he is playing. Theory helps here.

Each mode of the Harmonic Minor is based upon starting on a different note, that note becoming the tonal center, and then the same notes of Harmonic minor, continue. So for D Harmonic Minor:

D E F G A Bb C# D

Mode two begins from E and goes through the same notes:

E F G A Bb C# D E

This makes another altered scale.

Here's why none of this is likely going to be of much help to you.

It tells you what they are, but nothing explains how to use them. You need real knowledge and insight there. There is one way that you CAN use them without knowledge.

Play a single bass note, never change it. So for the second mode above in E, Play, loop or otherwise record an E bass drone.

Over that bass line, play your scale in E now. Have at it.

Best,

Sean

I'm aware that each scale can be played in a spicific key. If a song is in "E" I will solo with the E pentatonic minor scale. The pattern is the same but it's played at a different place on the fretboard. When Tosin talked about "modes" it sounded like he meant variations in the scale pattern. That's why I was confused about what modes was.

Anyway. I think that the scales he plays has an interesting and distinct sound. That's why I asked about them. Thanks :-)
Quote by Sean0913
So for D Harmonic Minor:

D E F G A Bb C# D

Mode two begins from E and goes through the same notes:

E F G A Bb C# D E

This makes another altered scale.

I overlooked what you did. The D harmonic you wrote follows the normal harmonic minor pattern: A B C D E F G# A or T S T T S T# S.

But what you did with Mode 2 is shifting the same notes not the pattern. So instead of a normal E harmonic minor scale, E F# G A B C D# E you get E F G A Bb C# D E.

Did I get that right?
I would suggest that this may be jumping to far ahead of your theory knowledge. You need some more of the basics. Work towards a solid understanding of tonal harmony.

Yes, I need to learn more about tonal harmony. I also need to learn the fretboard by heart and get comfortable with it every note, among other things. But I'm still curious of more advanced stuff. Something to strive for, you know. That's why I would like to know if I got it right in my last post. Not that I would know when and why to use these modes - that's a different story.
Quote by Xerophthalmia
I overlooked what you did. The D harmonic you wrote follows the normal harmonic minor pattern: A B C D E F G# A or T S T T S T# S.

But what you did with Mode 2 is shifting the same notes not the pattern. So instead of a normal E harmonic minor scale, E F# G A B C D# E you get E F G A Bb C# D E.

Did I get that right?

No. Not really.

I took the same notes of D Harmonic Minor, and began it on the E, this created a "Mode" of D Harmonic Minor, but made the tonic now in E. The mode was not based on an E Harmonic Minor scale, so you can throw that out. It's based and starts from the second note of D Harmonic minor.

I would say they are not useful scales to learn unless you know how to use what you learn. Theory goes a long way here. Tosin knows his theory. You might not. So, it makes sense for him, but other than imitating his sound, it might not for you.

How do you know that you have a handle on Major and Minor scales, to start with? I noticed you mentioned this. Scales are useful *if you know how to use them*. Is carpetbombing a diatonic progression with a single scale "knowing how to use them"?No. It's functional, its playing with training wheels.

Little wheels that say "here's A, play your scale now... oh look what a big person you are, riding by yourself"

...while all along you have no clue what's really holding you up.

It's like having a plane, that's a Lear Jet but you don't know how to fly. How useful is that personally? Not much. To someone that knows what they are doing, more so, they can fly across the country.

So, which is more important, learning to fly first, or having the jet that you can start up and taxi about on the grass with but not much else?

You might just about be ready to start learning theory and understanding what you are doing, so that you can take any scale and make some intelligent decisions with it.

Best,

Sean
Quote by Sean0913
I would say they are not useful scales to learn unless you know how to use what you learn. Theory goes a long way here. Tosin knows his theory. You might not. So, it makes sense for him, but other than imitating his sound, it might not for you.

Imitating others is the only thing I do. I only play what others have written. I have no intentions of writing my own music or playing for a crowd. When I play Pink Floyd I have little understanding of the theory behind the solos and chord progressions, but I love the sound and that's why I play it. Would I like to learn more about the theory behind it, sure. I'm trying to. But I won't let that become a barrier or a reason for not playing what I want to play.

Quote by Sean0913
How do you know that you have a handle on Major and Minor scales, to start with? I noticed you mentioned this. Scales are useful *if you know how to use them*. Is carpetbombing a diatonic progression with a single scale "knowing how to use them"?No. It's functional, its playing with training wheels.

Little wheels that say "here's A, play your scale now... oh look what a big person you are, riding by yourself"

...while all along you have no clue what's really holding you up.

It's like having a plane, that's a Lear Jet but you don't know how to fly. How useful is that personally? Not much. To someone that knows what they are doing, more so, they can fly across the country.

So, which is more important, learning to fly first, or having the jet that you can start up and taxi about on the grass with but not much else?

I don't have a handle on the major scale, I never said I did. I've never played or practiced it. I also never claimed that I have a handle on the minor scale. I know why it's contructed at it is. I know it's the most used scale in rock and can be used in countless ways in different genres. It's can be applied when listening to backtrackings or songs and it sounds good when I play it. That's the most important thing as far as I'm concerned. I'm by no means an expert on the pentatonic minor scale. Can I get better at playing the scale and using it in the right context, of course. A lot.

I've come further than I thought I would, when I first began to play not so long ago. If one day I can use my theoretical knowledge to apply scales, techniques and so on in a meaningful way, I'll be thrilled. But for all I care I can play what others have played before and be perfectly happy with it :-)