#1
Hello,
I have been playing the guitar for some time now, but scales seem to always stump me, so I am reaching out for some help from people who know more than I do.

I understand that if I play a certain pattern on the guitar, and up and down the neck, it will sound correct and be a scale. I just cant seem to understand why. The theory.

I am working to memorize all the scales but I fear without the underlying theory of understanding I will not be able to implement them correctly.

Like, why are some notes played and not others, and how do I know which to play and not, is it merely a matter of memorizing which ones to play next, or is there a deeper reasoning?

Like, when you look at a neck pattern on the guitar and it shows you where all the scales are, there are some places you play, and some places you are not supposed to play. To me, it looks arbitrary. I dont understand why some places you are not allowed to play. I understand it wont sound correct if you play out of order, or perhaps its not the correct interval, but then that makes me ask, how do you know the interval.

I can memorize the scales but then how do I go off track from those...

All of the talks online just show you where to play and how to play but dont talk about why a scale is how it is.

Id be curious if someone could enlighten me to this or could point me at some resource to help. Thank you!
Last edited by davidshathaway at Jan 30, 2017,
#2
Thread was moved to forum: Musician Talk
Actually called Mark!

Quote by TNfootballfan62
People with a duck for their avatar always give good advice.

...it's a seagull

Quote by Dave_Mc
i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.


stuffmycatswatchontv.tumblr.com
#3
davidshathaway ok..I have been where you are now...it seems you really want to know about MUSIC more than guitar..which is a good thing..

I suggest you begin to study music theory..as it will address most if not all of your questions..it not that difficult and will open many doors for you..like understanding scales..if your serious about music and want to apply it to guitar and have it make "sense" (the guitar is an illogical instrument as apposed to a keyboard) ..you would do well to also study harmony..it will add to your knowledge of theory .. then the use of chords and their function will also be much easier to understand..

there are many sources to find books vids etc on these topics..and many members here will also give you advice..If you have the resources of time and money..you may want to find a GOOD teacher to guide you..

hope this helps
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Jan 30, 2017,
#5
davidshathaway Ultimately, music comes down to playing combinations of pitches (melody and harmony) at different points in time (rhythm) and the expressiveness used by the players. The fundamental unit of combination is an interval ... two pitches are involved. The distance apart musically (semitones) of the pitches creates very different sounds, some harsh on the ear, some nice, some indifferent.

E.g. try playing 4th fret on B string (2nd string) together with open E string (1st string). That's harsh, Now replace the open E string by the 3rd fret or the 2nd fret on the 1st string. (Keep the 4th fret on the B string) These are "nice". And incredibly common. Now try the 6th fret on the open E string with the 4th fret on the 2nd string. Indifferent. Or try the open E (6th string) with the 2nd fret (4th string). Very stable sound (called an octave). Indifferent.

An interval alone can make us want to hear a change (the harsh ones).

Intervals are all about the distance BETWEEN the two pitches involved. Choose a different pitch ... then place the other pitch at the SAME distance ... you still have the SAME interval, the same sound flavour, just higher or lower, with the same emotional impact on the listener. (E.g. 1st fret on 6th string with 3rd fret on 4th string ... we've just slid the octave pattern up one fret)

Make combinations of intervals, you get more complex sounds, with different levels of harshness, niceness etc. These are chords and scales, with their own impact on listeners.

A scale is simply a particular recipe of intervals. For example, the recipe for the major scale, using semitone counts, is

(0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11).

These are applied from your chosen point on guitar. Different recipes provide different sounds (blues scale, major scale ...). E.g choose E, apply the major scale. You have E major.

Using the recipe above, starting from E on the 2nd fret on the 4th string, you get frets

2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 (you then hit E again at the 14th fret, where the recipe starts again)

The start point is called the KEY. Chnage the start point to D, apply the major scale recipe. You have D major. The KEY is now D.

e.g. starting at the open D string, D major is found at the frets

(0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11).


The scale is a sound palette. You build melodies and chords from the scale. You emphasis particular intervals from the scale, or from chords built from the scale. This has the effect on the listener that they sense the chosen starting point as being especially significant ... the KEY.

The choice of key reflects the capabilities of the players and instruments. E.g. G major may be hard for a singer, but A major is fine ... she can sing that in tune.

So: intervals are the absolute foundations. Scales and chords are combinations of intervals, with various sounds. Change the start point of a scale, you get the same sound affect, same emotional impact, just higher or lower. Ditto with chords (we call the starting point a ROOT instead).

Learn intervals first ... absolutely trivial. As scales are made from intervals, and chords, knowing interval shapes helps you remember the scale and chord shapes.

See https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/music_theory_tips/drastically_cut_learning_time_with_intervals.html, then https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html

Good luck,
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jan 31, 2017,
#6
Quote by davidshathaway
Hello,
I have been playing the guitar for some time now, but scales seem to always stump me, so I am reaching out for some help from people who know more than I do.

I understand that if I play a certain pattern on the guitar, and up and down the neck, it will sound correct and be a scale. I just cant seem to understand why. The theory.

I am working to memorize all the scales but I fear without the underlying theory of understanding I will not be able to implement them correctly.

Like, why are some notes played and not others, and how do I know which to play and not, is it merely a matter of memorizing which ones to play next, or is there a deeper reasoning?

Like, when you look at a neck pattern on the guitar and it shows you where all the scales are, there are some places you play, and some places you are not supposed to play. To me, it looks arbitrary. I dont understand why some places you are not allowed to play. I understand it wont sound correct if you play out of order, or perhaps its not the correct interval, but then that makes me ask, how do you know the interval.

I can memorize the scales but then how do I go off track from those...

All of the talks online just show you where to play and how to play but dont talk about why a scale is how it is.

Id be curious if someone could enlighten me to this or could point me at some resource to help. Thank you!
You say you've been playing guitar "for some time" so I guess that means you're using chords. What will help you understand scales is to link them to chords, to what you know already.

E.g., if you play G, C and D chords - in their common open position shapes - what you are doing is marking out selections of notes from the G major scale. Map them all out on the fretboard (between frets 0 and 3), and you have a G major scale pattern. (One note is missing, which will be 4th fret on 4th string. It's F#, part of a D chord, but the common D shape has its F# on 1st string.)
Likewise, if you do the same thing with C, F and G chords (shapes between frets 0-3) you get a complete C major scale pattern. The only difference will be that the C major scale contains F notes (fret 1 on strings 6 and 1, fret 3 on string 4), while the G major scale contains F#s (1 fret higher than F).
More: D, G and A chords will spell out the D major scale. A,D and E spell the A major scale. E, A and B(7) spell the E major scale.
In open position, the patterns are all different, because the chord shapes are all different.
But they are all major scales, because of the internal structure, the formula of tones and semitones (whole and half-steps) between each note. That structure is hidden when you play scales across the fretboard (2 or 3 notes per string), but it's clear when you play a scale up one string.
E.g., if you play frets 0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 on any string, you get the major scale of the open string note. You can then see the WWHWWWH fret pattern. Of course, that's not a practical way to actually use the scale in music, which is why we spread the scale across the strings in one position.
Take the C major scale: you can play one octave of it (C up to the next C), on frets 3-5-7-8-10-12-14-15 on the A string (notice the same WWHWWWH pattern between 3 and 15). But the same notes are more easily available at least two other ways:

------------------------------------
-------------0-1----------------------
---------0-2---------------------------
---0-2-3-------------------------------
-3----------------------------------
------------------------------------

------------------------------------
------------------------------------
------------------------------------
-------------7-9-10---------------------
------7-8-10----------------------------
-8-10----------------------------------
Notice how the first pattern fits around the C chord shape, and also contains notes from F and G chords (as well as Am, Em and Dm). Because there are many places to find the same notes on the guitar - and other octaves of the same notes too - we have many different patterns for any one scale. But the same patterns in different positions will produce different scales. E.g., if you take that second C major pattern and move it 2 frets up, it makes a D major scale. (You can do the same with the first pattern, but you need to replace the open string notes with 2nd fret notes.)
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 31, 2017,
#7
Scales are just collections of pitches that have a certain sound. Why certain notes may work better than other notes has to do with the chords you are playing over. You obviously want your playing to have something to do with the chords you are playing over. The most obvious notes to play over a chord are the chord tones. But you can also add other notes over the chord and still make it sound pleasant to the ear (actually, you could make any of the 12 notes work). Usually you are not playing over just one chord, but a chord progression, and usually you want to choose notes that would fit over many of the chords in the progression. That will make your playing sound more coherent.

But in the end it is all about using your ears. Scales are just a reference. They are a good starting point because they make finding the notes you are looking for a lot easier. But scales are by no means a rule that you need to follow. I would treat them more as a "map". I mean, if your song is in the key of G major, you will most likely use the notes in the G major scale most of the time. There is nothing wrong with using notes outside of the scale, but it makes finding both the notes inside and outside of the scale easier.

When learning scales, you want to pay attention to the sound. You want to know how the major scale sounds like. This makes it easier to decide which scale to use when. But you can't just randomly pick a scale that you like and expect it to sound a certain way. The most important thing when deciding which scale to use is the chord progression. You want to look at how the notes in the scale relate to the chords. A half step above a chord tone will sound most dissonant against the chord. Then again, certain notes will sound weird in other ways because a chord never exists in a vacuum (they may not sound weird over the exact chord you are playing over, but they may sound weird over the progression overall). You need to look at the whole progression, not just individual chords in the progression.

I think a good starting point is to find the key of the progression (by finding which of the chords sounds like home), and using the key scale. If there are chords that use notes outside of the key, just alter the key scale to fit the chords (so add chord tones from the out of key chords when you are playing over those chords). Another really safe way is to use the minor pentatonic of the chord root over minor chords and the major pentatonic of the chord root over major chords (so over a G major chord you would use G major pentatonic and over an A minor chord you would use A minor pentatonic - though this way you will need to change the scale all the time, which many times is a bit unnecessary). In most rock music the minor pentatonic scale of the key will work over everything (so if the song is in the key of E, you would use E minor pentatonic).
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