#1
*edit- I think I was high when I wrote this so excuse the incoherence. It is meant as more of a philosophical discussion about melody creation than an actual how to. I have expressed myself terribly though. Further clarification in posts further down. Ps. I'm not an asshole, just a bad communicator sometimes.*

Hi guys

*As I seemed to come off wrong in another thread I wanna prefix this by saying I am in now way intending to attack anyone's learning style or abilities. I just want to share my opinion and I am open to hearing all points of view. I should also state that I don't know what perfect pitch is, but I can tune a guitar to E (or at least extremely close) without a tuner, so maybe I have a good ear for music.*

I wonder what the reason is for learning guitar scales? I don't personally see the benefit. I am hoping that in making this post I will see the benefit as I can't get my head around it.

In my head this is what I feel:

take a piano for example. You go up from c and you press each note in a row and get do Ray me fah lo sah ti do (obviously I can't make the sounds via txt). You know That's the c major scale (I think?). Ok so you have that. How do you take that and create a melody. You could press notes in random succession and a random order and create something that sounds like music. But is that what music is about? Putting notes in random places and creating a random sound?

You have these scale patterns on the guitar neck and little boxes wher things fit. Occasionally you find that some melodies that you hear in your head fit into those boxes. But can you give yourself that little box and create something by using the notes? To me it's like wanting to draw a picture and saying to yourself "right, let's put down a circle here. And then a triangle over here. Oh and I know how to draw a square so let's put they here". What is that gonna create? A random mess. It won't be a picture, just a collection of shapes.

I guess I just don't see how you go from that box shape and just hit random notes in it over and over to create something. Don't get me wrong in not saying it can't be done. I guess if you try enough random combinations you will find something good.

I personally hear melodies like a singer was signing them. Most time I will take a vocal melody from a song and then just find the notes on my guitar (I don't find them by using box shapes or anything, I just try pressing different notes until I find the right sounds. They never fit into a pattern though that I can see...in fact I know some of them can't fit into any of these modern scales because sometimes it's 3 notes 3 frets in a row and I've never seen a scale expect chrmoatic that has that) I can't express them here through text but say California girls by Katy Perry. Ca-lo-for-nia-girls-theyre unforgettable. That vocal melody.i doubt whoever wrote the song sat down and went do Ray me fah lo...and so on and then re organised them and came up with that. Thry just heard or hummed a melody and expressed it. I can see how if you're playing fast shred lines you might run out of melodies as you are putting a lot of melodies together in a short space of time and it would be difficult to come up with 100 different ones for just a 20 second solo so you might have to just hit something that sounds technically right.

What part of the picture am I missing here? Sorry if I came off like an ass that's not my intention. I found it insanely hard to express my feelings into text to be honest so this post may be confusing but I hope someone gets whe I'm going with this...
Last edited by AdamBa17 at May 2, 2015,
#2
What I mean is: when people say you need to practice scales: do they mean for the propose of warming up your fingers? Because I can get that. I just don't see how knowing the Phrygian E8 whatever can help you to create great melodies (which is what I think most musician crave : some call them licks or what wee)
#3
I can only speak from personal experience and my personal opinion here, so this is entirely my view on the matter.

For me scales have two purposes. One is for getting your hand accustomed to certain shapes that will occur a lot in music, so it is purely a technique thing. However, this should not be done for very long. When the hands have memorized these fingerings, scales cease to exist as a technique thing for me and are replaced by music one wants to learn.

The second purpose (and the more long lasting one) is as a theoretical concept, used to analyze the music one is learning. I use this quite often when transcribing jazz vocabulary i am using. I then go to the phrase i want to transcribe, learn it, see what chord it is played over in relation to the key, and then use the scale to analyze what is being played. I can then use that knowledge to get more mileage out of one phrase. For instance, if i learn a phrase over the i chord in the key minor, and see that the phrase goes something like "5 b7 1(8) b3(10) 2(9) 1(8)" (used the brackets simply to show that those notes are being played in a higher octave than the first two), i can then apply that same formula to the I chord in the key of D major, just altering the notes that don't belong in that key so that they fit (sharpening the flat third and seventh). So for me it is mainly a tool for taking harmonic concepts from phrases i transcribe to use them elsewhere.

That is all i personally think about when dealing with scales. For me sound comes first, learning phrases from players i like by ear or coming up with phrases by listening/singing. It is great to learn to understand the phrases you learn and what makes them up harmonically so you can replicate that and learn those concepts to apply to your own music, but as said before, scales =/= music.
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#4
The guitar doesn't make music, neither do the scales - the guitarist does.

Your problem is simply that you're assuming that the guitar is inherently different to every other musical instrument and it isn't.

I guess I just don't see how you go from that box shape and just hit random notes in it over and over to create something. Don't get me wrong in not saying it can't be done. I guess if you try enough random combinations you will find something good.

And that's not what you do, so you'd be right and are indeed approaching things the right way. Like I said, the guitar doesn't play the music, the musician does. What you've described there is indeed a backwards way to approach it and not really helpful when it comes to developing as a musician.

Every fret on every string on your guitar makes a sound, that's all a scale is - a collection of sounds. When you play music you have sounds you want to make, how you make them is up to you - with your mouth, with a piano, with a clarinet, with a guitar. The instrument doesn't matter, the creative process is still the same. Knowing a scale and the intervals it contains is helpful as if helps you remember sounds.

If someone describes a sound as "well it's the fifth fret on on the D string then you go to the the fourth fret on the G string." that's incredibly convoluted and not the easiest thing in the world to process, however if you tell me it's a major third then I know exactly what you're on about. Likewise if I know what that interval is called it's also a lot easier for me to use it myself when I'm playing. I know what it sounds like, I know how to describe it and, thanks to a bit of basic scale knowkledge, I know how to find it on my guitar.

So to answer your question people don't learn scales to "tell them what to play", they simply help you find the notes you've already chosen to play.
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#5
Quote by steven seagull
they simply help you find the notes you've already chosen to play.


This should go into a textbook or something
#6
For most of my 40-ish years of playing, I played various kinds of "roots" music. Folk, bluegrass, blues, etc. Obviously, no scales required for this.
When I started learning to play lead lines along with other guys, I found that articles on essential pentatonic shapes and chord construction were extremely useful. One could learn the fingerboard in regards to the location of the roots, sevenths, etc. all over and the relative minors and such.
I never adhered strictly to these positions or patterns, but they give you an anchor point.

I have a reasonably good ear for figuring out lead lines, and I like to improvise.

That led me to my current endeavor, fingerstyle chord-melody jazz. For this, it's all about chord construction. Knowing the elements and inversions of the various chords and how to harmonize a melody in a pleasing way is the essence..... Scales would only be peripheral to this sort of playing.
single-note runs are short and thrown in for color as much as anything.

I found scales to most useful for learning the fingerboard and for dexterity practice. I do not say... "Oh, a Maj7th chord....I must play X scale tones!"
#7
Practicing scales is a great exercise in itself.

The fingering patterns you use are in them.

And they are a map of the fretboard.
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Last edited by Virgman at Apr 13, 2015,
#8
I'm like Bikewer, I've played fingerstyle folk/blues for decades. Now that I'm retired and have time on my hands I regret that I didn't take a more disciplined approach to learning. - I think the classical players have got it right in many ways that apply to other styles, including learning scales. You might not see their relevance - I didn't - but you have to take it on trust that they will eventually be of value. FWIW, I understand what scales, chords and intervals are from piano lessons at a young age, but I've never bothered to learn scales in relation to the fretboard. So I make a distinction between understanding some theory and being able to apply it fluently to the fretboard. I think that the first is essential, and that the second has much more value than I thought when I was young
#9
I'm gonna play devil's advocate a bit, because a beginner is not going to be able to imagine a lick and immediately play it properly like a seasoned improviser can. In fact, they probably wont even know how to begin practicing this. Its important to work on that skill and scales alone won't get you there, but for a beginner, they can surely show, in general, which notes sound good when, and good knowledge of scales can certainly kickstart the path to true improv. The guitarist just needs to know the importance of ear and interval training/coordination with hands while doing so. Scales are also great way to learn the fretboard.

And like others have said, scales contain virtually all the fingering patterns you'll ever need, and are great for technique workouts/warmups, especially if you explore all the different ways to play them. Mix and match the notes up, the encompasss the arpeggios as well. They are to be used and experimented with, they just aren't to be overused and relied upon as a crutch.
#10
scales and keys are like cooking/baking recipes, sure u can eventually figure out how to cook or bake a certain dish, but theres alot of recipes out there you can use. Of course you can make your own recipes but the basics of it like scales and keys are like salt and butter and whatever common place ingredients you will have in your cooking.
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#11
When i first started i was guilty of just sticking in the boxes and not really knowing why a particular note worked,It just did.
As i've progressed i've found that knowing the intervals and chord tones is just as important.Knowing what chord you are playing over and as many possibilities as you can for that chord imo is what gives you the freedom to create music.I'm not an expert at this yet but i'm working on it and i feel like i'm progressing my knowledge quicker than ever before.
Imo it's all about knowledge and knowing your options and how something will sound if you play a certain note over a chord.
#12
scales are kinda like a map sure you don't have to follow it but if you're not careful you'll get lost.

theory wasn't made up just to f*ck with people it has it's use. 13 notes is't much but the combinations are almost endless. putting together a lead isn't about random notes (although it could be) it's about making a musical statement. how well you do is up to the listener. meodies are somethng the guitar player creates. it may be based on a vocal line or just be part of the music in a song.

in order to turn scales from a formulic pattern into a great lead or melody you have to learn phrasing. phrasing is how you play each note. things like bends, slides, finger vibrato, how long or short you hold a note etc makes or breaks what is being played. a good player can make a single note count or a not so good player canhave it just be a note that seems pointless. this is a big part of the journey in guitar playing. sadly it isn't something that can be easily taught. you learn as you go along. some people will be better at than others.
#13
Quote by steven seagull
The guitar doesn't make music, neither do the scales - the guitarist does.

Your problem is simply that you're assuming that the guitar is inherently different to every other musical instrument and it isn't.

And that's not what you do, so you'd be right and are indeed approaching things the right way. Like I said, the guitar doesn't play the music, the musician does. What you've described there is indeed a backwards way to approach it and not really helpful when it comes to developing as a musician.

Every fret on every string on your guitar makes a sound, that's all a scale is - a collection of sounds. When you play music you have sounds you want to make, how you make them is up to you - with your mouth, with a piano, with a clarinet, with a guitar. The instrument doesn't matter, the creative process is still the same. Knowing a scale and the intervals it contains is helpful as if helps you remember sounds.

If someone describes a sound as "well it's the fifth fret on on the D string then you go to the the fourth fret on the G string." that's incredibly convoluted and not the easiest thing in the world to process, however if you tell me it's a major third then I know exactly what you're on about. Likewise if I know what that interval is called it's also a lot easier for me to use it myself when I'm playing. I know what it sounds like, I know how to describe it and, thanks to a bit of basic scale knowkledge, I know how to find it on my guitar.

So to answer your question people don't learn scales to "tell them what to play", they simply help you find the notes you've already chosen to play.


This! This forum should be grateful for the wisdom provided by the seagull! Seriously, guys! When you see the seagull avatar, you read, take notes and do what it says!
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#14
You don't see the benefit of learning scales because you don't actually know anything about music. That much is clear. And I don't mean that as an insult. Just an observation. There's nothing wrong with that. We've all been there. But seriously, read everything Seagull said. Then read it again. Then maybe four or five more times. Once you understand on some level how music works, the benefit of learning your scales/keys/chords and whatnot is impossible to miss.

Music theory does not tell you what to do. It just makes it easier to do what you already wanted to do. And don't ever make the mistake of thinking that you're "inventing my own chords and scales", like so many people who don't learn theory think they're doing. You're not. Every possible combination of notes (at least in music as we know it) has been analyzed and documented, hundreds of years before any of us were born. You're not allowing yourself to be more creative by avoiding it. You're just denying yourself knowledge.
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#16
It was meant as a philosophical discussion rather than a literal "should I or shouldn't I". After years of playing I don't need actual advise on how to begin. Not that they're amazing but you can see short clips on my YouTube adamba17 if you want to see "proof" that I'm not a beginner.

It obviously went over the head of certain peoples capacities like the idiot above but that's fine.

Ps. I did like your reply seagull and I agree.

Edit: apologies, came off a bit strong there. Just had an argument with my girlfriend so wasn't in the best mood to reply. Reading my OP back I realise I communicated my idea terribly and probably did come off like I knew nothing about music so fair enough.

I think from some of the replies a few people understood where I was coming from. I never bothered to learn scales intensely, but then I have got actual music theory knowledge so maybe that's how I'm able to play from what I think is "feel" when in fact it's actually an understanding that I just don't consciously access.

Which I guess proves the point that you do need the knowledge in the first place somehow. I guess learning more theory won't hurt me, only help so maybe I will brush up some more. I always want to become a better player but I just find theory so incredibly boring.
Last edited by AdamBa17 at May 2, 2015,
#17
Quote by AdamBa17
It was meant as a philosophical discussion rather than a literal "should I or shouldn't I". After years of playing I don't need actual advise on how to begin. Not that they're amazing but you can see short clips on my YouTube adamba17 if you want to see "proof" that I'm not a beginner.

It obviously went over the head of certain peoples capacities like the idiot above but that's fine.

Ps. I did like your reply seagull and I agree.

Edit: apologies, came off a bit strong there. Just had an argument with my girlfriend so wasn't in the best mood to reply. Reading my OP back I realise I communicated my idea terribly and probably did come off like I knew nothing about music so fair enough.

I think from some of the replies a few people understood where I was coming from. I never bothered to learn scales intensely, but then I have got actual music theory knowledge so maybe that's how I'm able to play from what I think is "feel" when in fact it's actually an understanding that I just don't consciously access.

Which I guess proves the point that you do need the knowledge in the first place somehow. I guess learning more theory won't hurt me, only help so maybe I will brush up some more. I always want to become a better player but I just find theory so incredibly boring.


theory is boring. making it work for you is where the magic is. i really only learned enough theory to get me by. i'll never be a studio musician or a jazz player. still having an idea of where i can go without having to hope i stumble across it makes sense. also being able to recognize certain scale patterns within a solo makes them easier to learn by ear. i understand that theory seems to much like homework form school (and who loves that) but hey it helps.
#18
Yeah I am starting to agree. I always got by stumbling across things, even in professional settings so I got comfortable, but recently I've hit a barrier and found my limitations and I think the only way past my plateau is actually to get into the theory side
#19
Adam,

Music is music, to a degree independent of instrument(s) involved.

A scale is not something to be played from bottom to top, or top to bottom. It is a palette of sounds to use to make melody and chords with. A scale is a formula of intervals (sounds) to use in relation to the first note of the scale, giving that scale its particular sound.

The name of the game for many musicians is to create music that is memorable, enjoyable ... and the way they do that is 1) by choosing a scale to use for some/all of a tune, because of the particular sounds that scale evokes, 2) by emphasing some of the pitches in that scale (intervals from the key pitch (first pitch of scale)) more than others, to give the impression that the tune is weaving around the key pitch ... these pitches being the 1, (b)3 and 5 of the scale, 3) using the other scale pitches to impart the rest of the flavour of the scale, and 4) by structuring the tune into phrases and larger sections.

For more interest, other non-scale pitches get used as "filler notes", but are usually not emphasised, e.g in C major, (C D E F G A B).to fill in between D and E, Eb can get used ... it doesn't belong to the scale, but it sounds fine. Don't ever think that non-scale notes are forbidden ... they are not ... but you just have to be careful using them ... you wouldn't land on one of them and hold if for 10 minutes!! Unless you want to empty the room :-)

The above is highly simplified, but I hope it gives you some idea.

As a really simple experiment, try using the pitches from C major. Initially, try making up a melody just using the pitches C, D and E, and use either C or E as the last pitch in the melody ... experiment with how long you hold each pitch for. While you sing your melody play the pitch C on guitar ... see if you think the melody complements the sound of C. Now try doing the same thing using D E and F, using either D or F as the last pitch. Again play the pitch C as you sing the melody. Use the same melody, but then play D as you sing it. Which pitch, C or D, sounds like it belongs with that melody? Chances are, you'll pick D. So somehow, even though you used pitches D E and F present in C major, they didn't do the job of bringing out C.

As you say, if you choose random pitches from a scale, and don't use the concepts of the 3rd paragraph above, then it is not going to sound like that scale. People don't usually handle randomness well ... they sure ain't going to hum something made up of random pitches.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at May 3, 2015,
#20
Monwobobo got it right at least for me. I started playing other instruments before I settled on guitar so I knew how to read music but I didn't know any theory. That's two different subjects. My niece has played piano for 20 years and if you put any piece of music in front of her she can site read it perfectly. On the other hand if you ask her to play a Bb chord or a Pentatonic scale you might as well be talking in another language. She plays great but knows very little actual theory that she can use to just play without music. That's the other side of the coin.

Music theory is the language of music. It's like learning any language. You can just learn some phrases or you can actually learn the words and how to put together proper sentences in that language. Learning scales and some basic chord theory (how chords relate to scales) makes it more likely that you can play what you are hearing in your head because you know that the note you are about to play is actually in the key you are playing in. Learning theory allows you to do what you do better, with more confidence without "stumbling" around looking for the right chord or note. (I love that stumbling analogy thanks Monwobobo. It's perfect). I know just enough theory to play like I want to play and I have the ability and desire to learn more and improve. All this leads to becoming a musician rather than just a guitar player and allows you to communicate with other players and other instruments becaue you share the same language (music).
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at May 4, 2015,
#21
when I first started to get serious about music..i was frustrated by my own limitations..i didn't know how to play the sounds in my head .. I grew up watching jazz guitarist make sounds that were very strange but they "worked together" .. how did they know which strange sounding chord would work with another strange sounding chord..yet there was a melody of a song coming through the chords..ok .. so I wanted to learn how to do THAT..the teacher asked me.."what do you mean by jazz?" and he played three chords..and in those chords was the essence of all the jazz guitarist I have ever heard..( what he played was the first three chords of the C scale in fourths) .. and my journey began..I learned that "chords" are just frozen scale tones waiting to become harmonic or melodic tones..so learning a seven tone scale by itself is like an outline of a picture that can be filled in with additional tones to create flowing music..yep its good to know how to play scales and all that..but dig deeper..find all the chords (three and four note chords) that can be built form that one scale..and rearrange the chord tones(inversions) and play them of all sets of strings in all octaves..play them in mixed patterns (circle of fifths etc) ii7 V7 // iii7 vi7 ii7 V7 I7 etc...all built from a simple scale..and it goes much deeper..

so yes playing a scale is one thing..thinking of it as a toolbox with many tools that can be used in many ways to build many things is another..
play well

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#22
Quote by AdamBa17

You have these scale patterns on the guitar neck and little boxes wher things fit. Occasionally you find that some melodies that you hear in your head fit into those boxes. But can you give yourself that little box and create something by using the notes? To me it's like wanting to draw a picture and saying to yourself "right, let's put down a circle here. And then a triangle over here. Oh and I know how to draw a square so let's put they here". What is that gonna create? A random mess. It won't be a picture, just a collection of shapes.


In my opinion, here is where you got it wrong. Scales are any set of musical notes. If we use all the seven notes, and arrangem them from tonic to tonic, we would have an octave. But there are scales of 5 notes (pentatonics), arpeggios, chromatic scales, melodic, etc.

In guitar playing, boxes/shapes are just a way of helping the guitarrist to memorize the notes inside a specific scale, like the Major, minor, minor pentatonic, etc., but in no way the set rules for scales. Besides, it is possible to play out of the scale, if you wish. A lot of musicians do this.

When I have started learning scales, I was adviced to not only learn my scales on the box shapes, but also horizontally on the fretboard. It is all about intervals. And since you can use the intervals at your will, and have scales of any number of notes, one can say that the number of existing scales is infinite.

However, shapes/boxes are just a tool to help one memorize the most common scales. After aquiring a little bit of music knowledge, any musician will be able to play by the intervals, and not by the boxes. And this is what playing is all about.

As an example: I think that the D Major chord is a happy one. It is a triad formed by D, F# (Major 3rd) and A (Perfect 5th). You see, the Major 3rd and Perfect 5th intervals have this effect of "happy" chord. If a musician wants to make a sad song, he/she could use the D Minor, just changing the 3rd. It would be like this: D, F (Minor 3rd) and A (Perfect 5th). In order to make this change, of just one note in a triad, and change completely the emotion of the chord, the musician needs to know what he is doing in terms of intervals and, as a consequence, scales. In this case, Major x Minor D scales.

It is not boxes/shapes. It is all about intervals and the emotions/what the musician wants to say.
#23
Great responses from Wolflen and Yellowcat. They said it perfectly. The boxed patterns are just an easier way to get you started and makes visualizing the scales much easier but if you want to really learn to be original and improvise you have to step back at some point and learn why a particular scale works to begin with. Why does it work in this key but not in that one? Are there other notes that I can use on this scale that are not common to this scale?

A lot of people think they don't need to learn any music theory because they heard one their favorite players say in an interview that they don't read music. When a player says "I can't read music" it doesn't mean they don't understand the theory behind the scales and chords because most likely they do. They just don't practice sight reading or notation writing. In the same way I play well enough and have played long enough that I can figure out most things I want learn just listening and figuring it out myself. I never took the time to learn to read "tabs". Players don't have to learn to read music to play well but I think be a good musician you need to understand some basic theory.

How many times have you watched an interview where a player who says he doesn't read music say something like "I add a flatted 4th note in that scale". Guess what, that's theory and scale awareness.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at May 5, 2015,
#24
Quote by AdamBa17
*edit- I think I was high when I wrote this so excuse the incoherence. It is meant as more of a philosophical discussion about melody creation than an actual how to. I have expressed myself terribly though. Further clarification in posts further down. Ps. I'm not an asshole, just a bad communicator sometimes.*

Hi guys

*As I seemed to come off wrong in another thread I wanna prefix this by saying I am in now way intending to attack anyone's learning style or abilities. I just want to share my opinion and I am open to hearing all points of view. I should also state that I don't know what perfect pitch is, but I can tune a guitar to E (or at least extremely close) without a tuner, so maybe I have a good ear for music.*

I wonder what the reason is for learning guitar scales? I don't personally see the benefit. I am hoping that in making this post I will see the benefit as I can't get my head around it.

In my head this is what I feel:

take a piano for example. You go up from c and you press each note in a row and get do Ray me fah lo sah ti do (obviously I can't make the sounds via txt). You know That's the c major scale (I think?). Ok so you have that. How do you take that and create a melody. You could press notes in random succession and a random order and create something that sounds like music. But is that what music is about? Putting notes in random places and creating a random sound?

You have these scale patterns on the guitar neck and little boxes wher things fit. Occasionally you find that some melodies that you hear in your head fit into those boxes. But can you give yourself that little box and create something by using the notes? To me it's like wanting to draw a picture and saying to yourself "right, let's put down a circle here. And then a triangle over here. Oh and I know how to draw a square so let's put they here". What is that gonna create? A random mess. It won't be a picture, just a collection of shapes.

I guess I just don't see how you go from that box shape and just hit random notes in it over and over to create something. Don't get me wrong in not saying it can't be done. I guess if you try enough random combinations you will find something good.

I personally hear melodies like a singer was signing them. Most time I will take a vocal melody from a song and then just find the notes on my guitar (I don't find them by using box shapes or anything, I just try pressing different notes until I find the right sounds. They never fit into a pattern though that I can see...in fact I know some of them can't fit into any of these modern scales because sometimes it's 3 notes 3 frets in a row and I've never seen a scale expect chrmoatic that has that) I can't express them here through text but say California girls by Katy Perry. Ca-lo-for-nia-girls-theyre unforgettable. That vocal melody.i doubt whoever wrote the song sat down and went do Ray me fah lo...and so on and then re organised them and came up with that. Thry just heard or hummed a melody and expressed it. I can see how if you're playing fast shred lines you might run out of melodies as you are putting a lot of melodies together in a short space of time and it would be difficult to come up with 100 different ones for just a 20 second solo so you might have to just hit something that sounds technically right.

What part of the picture am I missing here? Sorry if I came off like an ass that's not my intention. I found it insanely hard to express my feelings into text to be honest so this post may be confusing but I hope someone gets whe I'm going with this...



Because music is relative. So you learn the pattern, and now you can name the sounds according to their character, which is a character that is relative. Also, it lets' you play runs and things like that.

It's part of understanding music.

You should ask yourself instead, "how did they ever come to exist?" They weren't mathematically discovered. Somebody at some point in time, before any scale existed, noticed a pattern, and deemed it important, and named it.

If there was no point to learning them, nobody would have ever discovered any.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at May 5, 2015,