#1
Hi, I'm hoping you guys could help me out here. I have been playing guitar for about 8 years now, and back when I was first starting out and I was taking lessons, I remember there was this one concept my teacher showed me once or twice where you could get a different sound by soloing in the same scale shape but in different keys. So, for instance, normally if the song was in the key of E, you would solo in the blues scale in the key of E. However, as I recall, he showed me that if, instead, you solo in a different key (unfortunately I can't remember which key it would be for this example), it would have a really neat sound to it. I remember when we did this with the blues scale it gave it a sort of "country-ish" sound. Then, we did this same thing but with a minor scale and it sounded like the major scale! I can't for the life of me remember what interval we were using between the key of the chord progression and the key of the solo, but I remember playing around with it at home later and stumbling upon the melodies of The Star Spangled Banner and Ode to Joy using that concept with the minor scale. My teacher called this concept modes but I'm not sure that's right, I've looked into modes and (as far as I can tell) they aren't anywhere near that simple.

In case that was insanely confusing to you, I'll put it another way. About a year or two ago, I was jamming with some friends when one of them mentioned that in learning different songs, he had noticed a pattern when it came to the solos: whatever key the chord progression was in, the solo was almost always a certain number of frets down (or was it up?) from that. I want to say it was five frets, but I'm not sure and I can't seem to reproduce on my guitar what I remember hearing when he gave us an example. If it helps, another friend who was there that day and who happens to be a music teacher mentioned that it had something to do with the circle of fifths (I can't remember the exact words she used though).

At any rate, I've been trying to figure out what exactly this was and how to do it for years now and I just can't for the life of me figure it out. I've searched through countless music theory books and all over the internet but I just can't seem to find anything like it. I'm not sure if it's a really basic concept that I'm just overlooking (I am very often guilty of "missing the forest for the trees"), or what, but I would really appreciate some help.

Thanks!
Last edited by floyd616 at Feb 27, 2016,
#2
Almost sounds like you are talking about when you are using the first pattern of the Major and (relative) minor pentatonic scale patterns. If you shift down 3 frets from the first note of the first postion for a Major pentatonic scale pattern you would then be on the first note of the first pattern for its relative minor pentatonic scale. So while all the notes are the same for both patterns, the intervals are different in the minor scale and so it has a different feel and sound to it.

Take C Major Pentatonic scale for example. The first note for the first postion of C Major Pentatonic scale pattern starts on the 8th fret of the low E string. But if you shift down 3 frets you will be on the first note of the first postion for the (relative) Am minor pentatonic scale patern. This works for all first postion Major Penatonic Scale patterns and is a reliable method that can be used to change the mood and feel of a piece of music.

The circle of 5ths is a good reference for the relationship between Major and (relative) minor keys.

Hope that all makes sense.
#3
Melodies will often revolve around chord tones. The root and the fifth are very harmonious and sometimes too much so for the melody to really pop. Often you will have melodies starting or gravitating toward the third scale degree above the tonic in order to create a counterpoint against the bass which often plays the roots and fifths. For example in the key of C, the E would be the major third and the melody might be gravitate around that note instead of the C.

This isn't modes because the E is still the third and C is still the tonic. Such a melody will often be the same as the parent scale but starting from a different note. It is quite possible that your teacher called this modes as he is using the C major scale but "thinking" in terms of E as the central tone. But this is a very loose interpretation of what modes actually are.

He's still in C, the song is in C and the E still sounds like a third against that tonic C so he is still in C major. It might have helped him conceptualize everything he is doing as gravitating around that E which is why he may have called it a "mode". - but it isn't really modes he's still just playing in C major.

When it comes to the solos...
Your friend may have been looking at a specific artist or genre that tends to follow similar trends for solos. There are no real rules.

However, it is not uncommon for different sections to modulate (change key) for a solo. This is where the chords are arranged to tonicize a different chord and for that section of the song that new chord remains the tonic until the end of the section when the music modulates back to the original key (or to a new one).

Again there are no rules when it comes to modulation. However some keys are easier to modulate to as they are more closely related. This is where the circle of fifths comes in. The circle of fifths illustrates relationships between keys.

Keys that are next to each other in the circle of fifths share more notes in common than keys that are further apart on the circle of fifths. For this reason modulation between keys that are neighbours on the circle of fifths will be smoother and an easier transition. Modulation between keys that are distant on the circle of fifths have fewer note in common and the change is more obvious to the listener.

When it comes to modulating during different sections of a song - such as a bridge or instrumental section - possibly the most common destination is a modulation to the IV of the original key.

So in the key of C if we wanted to modulate to the IV we would modulate to F.
Note that the key of C major is C D E F G A B C with C as the tonic note. The chords of C major are: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim
The key of F major has the notes F G A Bb C D E F with F as the tonic note. The chords of the F major are: F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim F
Note that there are some similar chords here... F Am C Dm are all common to both keys.

Also note that F is a perfect fourth above C. This makes it five frets above the C.

So it may be that because the modulation was to a neighbouring key your friend did not notice that a modulation had taken place. Well he may well have picked up on it when he noticed that they seemed to be built off a note five semitones higher (F is five semitones higher than C) but he may not have realized there was an actual key change happening underneath. It is a subtle modulation after all.

This would also be why your other friend explained that it had something to do with the circle of fifths.

So it looks as though there may be a few different concepts rolled together here. Some of them, though well intentioned, may also have been based on some misunderstandings of what is happening in the wider scheme of things.

I hope that helps. If you want to discuss any of these ideas in more depth hit me up and I'll be happy to help - as will many of the others in this forum.

Peace
Si
#5
Well I got some value out of this as well.

I would also like to thank "20Tigers" for his well explained and informative response. It introduced some concepts and ideas that I had not really thought of or grasped before but that I can now use in my music. I am looking forward to playing around with those ideas.

Cheers.
#6
To me it sounds like you are talking about parallel minor and major. If changing blues scale to this scale created a "country sound", I bet you were playing E major pentatonic (instead of the basic E minor pentatonic) over the blues progression.

I would say don't think how many frets to go down or up. That's kind of confusing. Learn about major and minor.


(The interval you were using was minor third. E major and C# minor have the same notes. To get the parallel major of E minor, you could play the same shape a minor third lower - the same notes as C# minor. But as I said, learn it as major and minor, not as "this shape 3 frets lower".)
Quote by AlanHB
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Feb 27, 2016,
#7
This is an example of superimposing one sound (a chord, a scale) over another (a chord here). I'm going to use triads, rather than pentatonics, but the concept is identical.

Here's a simplified explanation without getting too theoretical.

Take the A natural minor scale ... it has 3 major triads (C, F, G) and 3 minor triads (D, E and A). Some tune written in the key of A minor will focus a lot on the notes in the A minor triad (the chord built off the tonal centre, A).

In the scale of A natural minor, we have

Am Bo C Dm Em F G.

(How million times have you heard the chord progression Am G F)

You could just use the notes of A min triad (A,C,E) for a melody over A m chord, but it will sound very vanilla, very plain. So, a common device is to superimpose a different triad from the scale of A min on top of the Am chord.

Depending on your choice there will anywhere from 2 notes in common to none.

For example, use the third triad from the scale, C maj (see chords above ... C appears third in the list). C has 2 notes in common with Am. The fifth chord in the list, Em, has one note in common. Gmaj has none ... but for all of these you effectively get more and more complex version of Am. Try playing these with a friend and listen (I won't give the theory names for now ... this is more about realising you can make some different, very cool sounds, by putting together things you already know, but in combinations you may not be aware of).

I love playing Gmaj triad melodies against Am or Am7.

The exact same idea applies with pentatonics.

Here's Am chords again

Am Bo C Dm Em F G.

Here are the pentatonics found off the various notes in A minor

Amp - CMp Dmp Emp FMp GMp. (mp - minor pentatonic, Mp - maj pentatonic)

So, where above we superimposed different maj or min triads, instead use the corresponding pentatonic.

You'll find the Amp and CMp have identical notes ... so the only way they sound different is what notes you choose to emphasise. In A mp, the A C E get more attention. In C mP, the C E and G get more attention.

A really easy way to use min pentatonic licks for a major/country sound, is by finisihing the lick on the b3 of the minor pentatonic, which can be made stronger by preceding that with the b7

So, if someone's playing C maj, you could play an Am pentatonic/blues lick, but at the end, finish on C (the b3 of Amp, maybe preceded by G (the b7 of Amp)
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Feb 27, 2016,
#8
Quote by floyd616
Hi, I'm hoping you guys could help me out here. I have been playing guitar for about 8 years now, and back when I was first starting out and I was taking lessons, I remember there was this one concept my teacher showed me once or twice where you could get a different sound by soloing in the same scale shape but in different keys. So, for instance, normally if the song was in the key of E, you would solo in the blues scale in the key of E. However, as I recall, he showed me that if, instead, you solo in a different key (unfortunately I can't remember which key it would be for this example), it would have a really neat sound to it. I remember when we did this with the blues scale it gave it a sort of "country-ish" sound. Then, we did this same thing but with a minor scale and it sounded like the major scale!

That's it exactly.

As MaggaraMarine says, when you move a minor pent pattern 3 frets lower, you get the major pent of the same key.
So the standard minor pent pattern at 12th fret produces E minor pent. 3 frets lower it's C# minor, which is the same notes as E major pent.
So if the chord stays as E major, then the sound changes from "blues" (minor pent on major chord) to something more "inside", usually with a kind of country-ish or gospel sound.

However, as he also says, it's worth learning how to switch from minor to major in the same position, because it's the sound of the chord (or key) that you should be thinking of, and not the shape of the pattern. So if the chord is E major, don't think of that 9th fret pattern as "C# minor" - it isn't, it's now E major pent.

These are what's known as "parallel" scales. Same root note, but different scale formulas on top.
E minor = E F# G A B C D E (pent = E G A B D,)
E major = E F# G# A B C# D# E (pent = E F# G# B C#)

What jerry is talking about is "relative" scales. Same set of notes, different root note.
So, E minor is the same notes as G major, and E major is the same notes as C# minor. They're defined by which of the 7 you nominate as the root.
Superimposing different chords from the same scale is a more subtle effect than superimposing a different scale.

E.g., the idea of switching between parallel scales (E minor - E major) only really works in blues, because blues is a kind of vague tonality between major and minor (to oversimplify crudely!). So it's open to that kind of mood change (and anything in between).
And the important point there is that (for a blues sound) you can impose a minor pent on a major chord or major key - but not vice versa. If the chord (or key) is E minor, then E major pent will just sound wrong! (I shouldn't really say you "can't" do that. Feel free to try! You might like it.... in which case it's "right". Let's say it's highly unusual...)

When you use different notes or chords from relative scales, you're just drawing from the same set of notes - so sometimes it will make no difference.
E.g., if you have an Am chord, and choose to play a pattern you call "C major pent", it will sound exactly like A minor pent, because you're using the exact same 5 notes. The different pattern and position makes no difference, except that maybe you're higher or lower on the neck.
What jerry's idea of using Gmaj chord tones or arpeggios (notes G B D) over an Am chord (notes A C E) gives you is cool extensions on the chord. Relative to Am, G = b7, B = 9, D = 11 - all cool notes. In effect it turns the chord into "Am11".
Last edited by jongtr at Feb 27, 2016,