#1
Correct me if I'm wrong (which I probably am), but isn't most improvisation using either pentatonic, blues or the modes? So what's the point in learning the major and minor scales? What purpose do they serve?
#2
It gives you more notes and more ways to phrase an improvisation. Major sounds "happy" and minor "sad" typically, the pentatonic doesn't really have that quality. Much more expression and freedom
#3
If you use the modes, you are actually using the major and minor scales. With the modes of the major scale, the ionian mode is the major scale and the aeolian is the natural minor. Then you can also learn the modes of the melodic minor scale, which opens up even more different sounds.
#4
Jup, this. Just more notes to work with, gives you more room for actually making a memorable melody instead of just playing pentatonics (nothing wrong with those though, but there's just more possibilities. And two of the modes, ionian and aeolian, are the same as the natural major and minor scales, so you've got them down already.

Edit: ahhh ninja'd
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#5
Quote by Towelie1985
Correct me if I'm wrong (which I probably am), but isn't most improvisation using either pentatonic, blues or the modes? So what's the point in learning the major and minor scales? What purpose do they serve?


Scales give you the sound of the chord you are playing over for melodies, soloing etc.
Depending on what style of music you listen to there will be trends where artists tend to favour one type of sound over another to achieve what they want. There are always exceptions of course.
And remember, modes are just major and minor scales starting on different roots. You can make modes of the pentatonic scale if you wanted to (actually sounds really cool). Guys shredding bebop use the major scale with an added half step all the time. Running up and down scales to create and effect is also really common. I'd say that the major and minor scales are the most used scales ever. And there's way more where that came from.
#6
Thanks for all your replies. Two things I still don't understand though:

1. When I'm looking for interesting licks to learn, I always come across pentatonic or modal stuff, but never major/minor licks. Why is this??

2. In terms of improvisation, is the major/minor scale mainly used to solo over specific chords (ie, a G major lick over a G major chord, an A major lick over an A major chord etc) or can I just jam along using the G major scale pattern and it'll sound alright as long as I'm playing in the key of G (like how it works with pentatonic)?
Last edited by Towelie1985 at Mar 1, 2014,
#8
because all 'modes' are infact the major scale (yeah yeah, **** off).
#9
Pentatonic licks are more common because they are very neutral; they'll sound good easily, and you don't play out of tune easily. In most blues tunes, there's just the 1 4 and 5 chord. If you're playing a really simple lick in A like at the start of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD_X15HoXoc, you can keep playing the exact same thing even when the chord move to the D and E in the progression. It's easier to fill up spots in a solo if you can be certain that whatever you're playing, it will sound alright.
With full major and minor scales, it's different. Even when a blues progression is in major, you can still play a minor pentatonic scale over it; technically this shouldn't fit, but the only wrong note in there would be the minor third clashing with the major third in the chords. However, when used right this creates a lot of dynamics and tension in certain licks, what really makes blues phrasing like it is. Same with the diminished fifth in a blues scale, really; it's just a wrong note that can be used to great extent.

Major and minor scales just add more notes that only sound good when the right is played over it. While you can get away with a few sour notes when using blues or pentatonic scales, as I explained above, it just gets a lot harder here. If you're not sure what you should, you can just switch the scale to the following chord. Say, you're playing over a G major chord in a G major scale, and a D minor is coming up. If you're going for the easy route, you'd just switch over to a D minor scale, but the solo would probably flow not as well. You can, however, switch between a chord's relative minor and major scales. While you can solo in an A minor scale over an A minor chord just fine, you could play in C major as well. So it all depends. If you're playing a major blues, you should be able to stay in the same scale and position throughout the chord changes, same with minor blues. Blues scales and pentatonics can generally do both, but you can use the same rules on pentatonics as well: playing A minor pentatonic over a C major chord can sound good too.
So for the full scales, just consider the chord progression; which notes of the current scale will be corresponding with the new chord? It's a lot more thinking, which makes it just a lot harder than the pentatonic soloing, which is so common just because it's so much easier and forgiving. Hope this helps!
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#10
This is like saying "Why learn the whole alphabet?"

Major/minor scales are extremely foundational concepts. Pretty much all of music since ever is made of them. They are relevant to like 99.99% of everything.

And when you talk improv, you're always using the major or minor scale. You're just picking which notes to use and when based on the harmony. Improvising is a lot more than playing random notes from a scale.
#11
Let me try and give a very layman reason since you didnt seem to get what the others posted. Dont take this as a complete explaination but more of a "just to help along the way." thing

ok, So first of all, the pentatonic scale is basically a variation of its corresponding scale. I.e A major pentatonic scale = A major scale withough its 4th and 7th note and a C# minor pentatonic = C#minor scale without its 2nd and 6th notes.

Now the main problem is, you're assuming that modes and scales arent related. When actually, the Major scale is the same as the Ionian mode. Cmajor scale = (in spirit) Cmajor mode. Then the D dorian mode will have the same notes as the Cmajor scale/mode but with the root sound at D.
And in terms of chord phrasing. You need to do a bit of your own research, but lets say the chord progression is Aminor, Cmaj, Fmaj, Gmaj. Then you'll see that the notes correspond with the A minor scale or iow the A aeolian Mode so standard improvisation will dwell within those notes.
#12
Also Im a little disheartened to see people think that the blues/pentatonic scale is what people mostly use. Broaden your playlist and it'll help develop your music and you sound sense.
#13
The modes and the pentatonic scale are derived from the major scale.

If you don't gain functional knowledge of the major scale and how its harmonized, you'll never be able to use the pentatonic scale or the modes properly.
#14
Major and minor scales aren't used? What music do you listen to?

Examples of the minor scale in solos: Ozzy - Crazy Train, GNR - Sweet Child O' Mine, Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing

Examples of the major scale in solos: GNR - Rocket Queen (the last solo), Ozzy - Goodbye to Romance, Van Halen - Dance the Night Away

And there are many more, those were just the first to come to my mind.

But it's not all about soloing and improvising. It's just good to know what the major scale is. By knowing the formula of the major scale, you can build any other scale by flattening or sharpening the notes in the major scale. The formula of the major scale is root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th and major 7th (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). You can derive the minor scale from it by flattening the 3rd, 6th and 7th (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) or the lydian scale by sharpening the fourth (1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7). Or minor pentatonic by removing the 2nd and 6th and flattening the 3rd and 7th (1, b3, 4, 5, b7).

Scales are used in not only solos but in writing melodies. And there are lots of melodies in songs that use the major and minor scales. You don't only need to know the fingerings or note names. What the most important thing is, is the sound. You need to know the sound of major and minor scales. You can't really understand scales if you don't know the major and minor scales. They are the "basic" scales.
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Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
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Hartke HyDrive 210c
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#15
Quote by Towelie1985
Correct me if I'm wrong (which I probably am), but isn't most improvisation using either pentatonic, blues or the modes? So what's the point in learning the major and minor scales? What purpose do they serve?


Yeah you're wrong. However there is so much incorrect information about modes out there that it's probably not all your fault. If you learn the major and minor scales and then how to use accidentals you have covered every note on the fretboard and rendered modes redundant.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#16
Quote by Towelie1985
Correct me if I'm wrong (which I probably am), but isn't most improvisation using either pentatonic, blues or the modes? So what's the point in learning the major and minor scales? What purpose do they serve?


First, super important thing to note is that the music theory came after the music.

Rock traditionally stems from the blues. The genesis of the blues all started with blues musicians learning the sounds from other blues musicians, not using theory.

Now time passed. Using traditionally theory, we see that the primary pitches being used as the skeleton for bluesy/rock phrases are the mixed minor and major pentatonic with a blues note added.

The pentatonic scale is just a subset of the major/minor scale we classify as theory.

So later on, you get guitarists who want to spice things up and they add more notes that work over chord progressions.

Traditional to music teaching, you learn scales in major/natural minor that form the basis to learn other important music concepts that are interrelated like tonality, dissonance/consonance, cadences, chord derivation, progressions, why we distinguish between melodic, harmonic, and natural minor. Now it all sounds confusing why it is primarily taught that way, and part of it is history but there are some logical pedagogical reasons behind it as well.
#17
Quote by Towelie1985
Correct me if I'm wrong (which I probably am), but isn't most improvisation using either pentatonic, blues or the modes? So what's the point in learning the major and minor scales? What purpose do they serve?


Consider yourself corrected.

Most soloing is in a pentatonic, the major or the minor scale. They're all common. Soloing with modes is extremely rare, and even when it does happen, it's often easier to think of it in terms of the parallel major or minor scale.

The major and minor scale are the foundation of western music. Everything flows from that foundation.
#18
Quote by Towelie1985
Thanks for all your replies. Two things I still don't understand though:

1. When I'm looking for interesting licks to learn, I always come across pentatonic or modal stuff, but never major/minor licks. Why is this??

2. In terms of improvisation, is the major/minor scale mainly used to solo over specific chords (ie, a G major lick over a G major chord, an A major lick over an A major chord etc) or can I just jam along using the G major scale pattern and it'll sound alright as long as I'm playing in the key of G (like how it works with pentatonic)?


Could you give an example of what you think a "modal lick" is?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#19
^ Yeah. Sometimes people refer to the different box shapes of the major scale with mode names. Maybe the licks are "modal licks" because they are played in a certain box shape?
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#20
Quote by MaggaraMarine
^ Yeah. Sometimes people refer to the different box shapes of the major scale with mode names. Maybe the licks are "modal licks" because they are played in a certain box shape?

In which case the phrase loses its meaning, because unless you're actively implying a tonic corresponding to the mode using chord extensions, you're still not playing in modes.
#21
Quote by triface
In which case the phrase loses its meaning, because unless you're actively implying a tonic corresponding to the mode using chord extensions, you're still not playing in modes.

Exactly.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#22
A melody is only modal if the harmony is.

If the harmony is moving from chord to chord as a progression, then "modal" anything is just key borrowing or incorrect naming.

Modality means using the entire scale as a harmony at once, rather than progressing through different harmonies made from the scale.
#23
Scales are the set of notes that are characteristic to a piece of music arranged in ascending or descending order.

A lot of melody uses notes from the major or minor scale. This is why people are taught the major and minor scales. Further, the harmony often utilizes those same scales.

You shouldn't make music because it fits a certain scale. But when you realize that the scales are just a result of looking at an enormous amount of music and finding a common set of notes and relationships between the notes that feature over and over and over again. Those notes are then arranged into ascending order and you have a scale.

So because we know those notes work very well together we can use them as a good starting point when writing our own music, or when figuring out existing music.

As someone else said, the major scale is also a foundational concept in music theory as it provides a reference point against which nearly everything is measured.
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