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Scales

IF YOU KNOW THIS STUFF, PLEASE DONT COME IN AND SAY "YEAH I KNOW ALL THAT". Who cares if you do, this is about the people who dont know it ok? Thank you.

OK, so it seems a lot of people really dont know about scales, and we seem to get a lot of questions about how to use scales, and basic theory in general. So i am going to bring it right back down to basics. Dans lessons was good, but it seemed to raise more questions that it answered. I've often made analogies about trying to write music without knowing any theory, and music seems to be one of the only disciplines where people try very hard to blag it. It's true, you can blag it if you want, but it will take you so much longer that way, and you will still never really know WHY you are doing something. You will just know that it sounds good and it goes with X Chord, or X key. If you want to be that sort of player, all power to you. Personally, i am an obsessive and i want to know everything about the thing i am studying.

Music theory seems complicated to a beginner. You hear people talking about the 5th and the minor 7th and you're wondering what the hell they are going on about. When you begin to learn about it, it is actually not that complicated at all, and is as logical as it can be.

OK, so lets begin.

I am going to start with the Chromatic scale, because understanding this will help with the major scale, and then the Major scale will make everything else crystal clear.

OK, so what is it? You may have heard people tell you to practice chromatic scales to help your fretting hand develop. And you will know that this means you play 1, 2, 3, 4, then move down a string and do the same. In fact what you are doing is playing every note in the chromatic scale. Below is the chromatic scale in C. As you can see, each interval has it's own name (more on intervals in a bit). So, starting at C, we move one half step (one fret on your bass, also know as a semi-tone) and you get a Db (b = flat). This can also be called a C#. They are the same note, and that is called "enharmonic" (same note, different name). So take your bass and play each fret from one note up to the next note of that name. So start at C on the A string, and play each fret all the way up to the C on the 15th fret. This is the "octave". You have just played a chromatic scale. As your bass is tuned in fourths (see below), that means that we can make the same chromatic run without moving our hands. We have four fingers to fret with, and you only need to lay four frets before moving down a string. Try doing it and calling out the names as you do it. See? Easy.

NOTICE HOW THERE IS NO E# OR B#. That is because between E and F, there is no extra semi-tone, and the same with B and C. Remember that. C is a half step away from B, and E from F.

NOTE: These notes do exist, but are only written when the function of the note requires them. in the case of the major seventh of C# being B# and not C, or the major third of C# being E# and not F for example' (Thanks Johnl)

``````

Interval |   Name                  | Note.(In C)
-----------------------------------------------
1      |  Unison (root note)     |  C
b2      |  Minor Second           |  Db
2      |  Major Second           |  D
#2      |  Augmented Second           |  D#
b3      |  Minor Third            |  Eb
3      |  Major Third            |  E
4      |  Perfect Fourth         |  F
#4      |  Augmented Fourth       |  F#
b5      |  Diminished Fifth       |  Gb
5      |  Perfect Fifth          |  G
#5      |  Augmented Fifth        |  G#
b6      |  Minor Sixth            |  Ab
6      |  Major Sixth            |  A
#6      |  Augmented Sixth            |  A#
bb7      |  Diminished Seventh     |  A
b7      |  Minor Seventh          |  Bb
7      |  Major Seventh          |  B
8      |  Unison (Octave higher) |  C

Thanks to Silentdeftone for this chart.

EDIT: 2nd and 6th interval names changed to augmented from "sharp" as per discussion in this thread.
------------------------------------------------ ``````

THE MAJOR SCALE:

The Major scale to me is the most important scale, because all other scales are taken from this. So you may hear someone say Minor 7th. What the hell does that mean? Well, it means you take the 7th degree (step) of the Major scale and you flatten it down a half step (semi-tone). In music, when we talk about "flat" and "sharp", what we mean is raise or lower a note by a semi-tone (one fret on your bass).

So, the Major scale is formed by taking the chromatic scale and using a formula. You should memorize this formula, and if you can remember your own phone number then you should have no worries.

W, W, H, W, W, W, H

W = Whole Step (two frets) and H = Half step (one fret).

So with this formula you can work out what notes are in any major scale.

Lets take C Major.

``````
C   D   E   F     G    A   B   C
W   W   H   W   W   W   H
``````

On your bass, the fingering for this scale will be (starting with your middle finger, and not moving your hand position):
``````
------------------------------------------------------
------------------------7--9--10-------------------
------------7--8--10-------------------------------
---8--10------------------------------------------
``````

This should sound familiar to you, it's rooted in our consciousness, and you will know it as doh, re, me, far, so , la, tee, do.

try and work out some other major scales for yourself, as i am not going to spoon feed you everything here!! In fact, it's good practice to get a bit of paper, and write them all out, trying to work out with your bass in your hand. This is REALLY important, so dont think "ok cool", and move on. You need to know this 100%.

THE MINOR SCALE:

Ok. so now we know the Major scale, we can start checking out some others. The first i will talk is the Minor scale. It's proper name is Natural Minor, and thats because there are other minor scales (we will talk about modes later), but when people talk about "the minor" scale they are more than likely talking about the natural minor. Scales and chords have a "Gender", or tonality. Minor sounds kind of sad, and major sounds happy.

OK, so we know the major scale, and to get the natural minor scale the formula is:

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 1

The flattened 3rd degree is what gives the Minor scale/chord it's gender.

So, as i said this is based off the major scale, and we know that when you see a "b" symbol, it means you flatten the note by a semitone. So lets go back to the C Major scale and use out new formula

Major: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
Minor: C, D, Eb, F, G, AB, Bb, C

Got it? Piece of piss.

The fingering for this on your bass will be:
``````
-------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------8--10-------------------
-------------------8--10--11--------------------------------
------8--10--11--------------------------------------------
``````

Compare this to the Major scale fingering, and you can see what notes we have flattened to get the minor scale, all keeping in with the formula. You will need to change your fingering slightly, as we dont want any hand shifts if we dont have to move, so this time start on your index finger. Easy right?

Now, take your chart you made for the major scale, and write all the Minor scales using the formula above.

These are the most commonly used scales to make chords from. But we are bass players right? So we dont need to know about chords right? Wrong. Knowing what notes are in a chord is a valuable skill to have a bassist. We will come on to chord structure later, however.

What next?

THE PENTATONIC SCALE:

Before i move on to the Modes of the Major scale, i will talk a bit about the Pentatonic scale. You may know the word "penta" will mean "five", so the Pentatonic must have five notes right? Right.

So, we know the Major scale. So to get the Pentatonic scale, you simply play the 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 degrees from the major scale. Easy.

So on your bass the fingering will be:
``````
-----------------------------------------------------
-----------------------7--10-----------------------
--------------7--10--------------------------------
-----8--10-----------------------------------------
``````

But what about minor? Of course there is a minor pentatonic scale, and the formula for this is 1, b3, 4, 5, b7
``````
-------------------------------------------------------
---------------------8--10-------------------------------
------------8--10-----------------------------------------
----8--11------------------------------------------------
``````

Pentatonic scales are very useful because in some situations, some of the notes in a scale may sound dissonant but using the pentatonic you will basically not play any wrong notes. The theory behind this is that the over a major chord, the 1, 3, 5 form a major triad and the 2 and the 6 are common extensions which are no dissonant. Same with the minor, 1, b3, 5 being a minor triad and 4 and b7 common extensions. So pentatonics work well over most chords!

I may as well talk quickly about the Blues Scale as it based off the pentatonic minor.

``````
-------------------------------------------------------
---------------------8--10-------------------------------
------------8--9--10-----------------------------------------
----8--11------------------------------------------------
``````

Et Voila.
Last edited by Applehead at Feb 5, 2007,
Ok, hopefully you are still with me here. I've tried to explain everything quite clearly, and i hope you took the time to do the charts as there is nothing like working something out for yourself to understand it. I am now going to move on to the Modes of the Major scale now, so if you are not up to speed you are about to get very lost. Take your time and go back over stuff.

THE MODES (OF THE MAJOR SCALE):

AARRGGGHH, everyone is talking about Lydian and Mixowhatshisface and the Phyrgy thing. Sounds like some characters in a Greek play right? Well, they were named after Greek cities a long time so, so thats why they have those names. I find Modes quite fascinating, and they are/were believed to have much power over the listener.

Here is a small passage from Wikipedia:

Quote by Wikipedia
Plato felt that playing music in a particular mode would incline one towards specific behavior associated with that mode, and suggested that soldiers should listen to music in Dorian or Phrygian modes to help make them stronger, but avoid music in Lydian, Mixed Lydian or Ionian modes, for fear of being softened. Plato believed that a change in the musical modes of the state would cause a wide-scale social revolution.

The philosophy writings of both Plato and Aristotle (approx 350 BCE) include large sections that describe the effect of different musical modes on mood and on character formation. For example, this quote from Aristotle's "Politics":

“ The musical modes differ essentially from one another, and those who hear them are differently affected by each. Some of them make men sad and grave, like the so called Mixolydian; others enfeeble the mind, like the relaxed modes; another, again, produces a moderate or settled temper, which appears to be the peculiar effect of the Dorian; and the Phrygian inspires enthusiasm. ”

Both Plato and Aristotle believed that the modes to which a person listened molded the person's character. The modes even made the person more or less fit for certain jobs. The effect of modes on character and mood was called the 'ethos of music.'

So why should you use modes? When? Firstly, the term "mode" is just a jumped up name for scale. Simple. Think of it as different flavours of the Major scale. Each song will have a scale or mode that it's based on, so knowing the modes can help you colour bassline to the song.

So, without further a do, lets begin.

IONIAN

This is basically the Major scale. Wooo Hooo, you already know a mode ! I told you they were not hard.

DORIAN

The formula for Dorian is 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 1 This is a good Jazz scale and it's gender is MINOR
``````
------------------------------------------
-------------------------7--8--10------------
----------------8--10------------------------
--8--10--11-----------------------------------
``````

PHRYGIAN

The formula for Phrygian is 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 1. This is another MINOR mode, and you may think it sounds a bit Spanish.

``````
-----------------------------------------------
------------------------------8--10---------
---------------8--10--11-----------------------
---8--9--11----------------------------------
``````

LYDIAN

The formula is 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7, 1. As you can see, this is basically the same as Ionian (Major scale), but it has an Augmented (sharp) 4th degree. Nothing special about this really to me. This is a MAJOR mode.

``````
------------------------------------------
------------------------7--9--10-------------
-----------7--9--10---------------------------
--8--10-------------------------------------
``````

MIXOLYDIAN

The formula is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 1. To be honest this sounds like a Major scale but it has the b7. I am not sure whether this is considered a Major tonality or a Dominant. Perhaps someone can help with that as i am unsure.

``````
------------------------------------------
-------------------------7--8--10------------
------------7--8--10--------------------------
---8--10------------------------------------
``````

AEOLIAN

The formula is - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 1. Wait a second, that looks familiar right? Yup, it;s the Natural Minor scale we learnt earlier. So all this time you knew two modes without know it. Go you. I'm sure i dont need to tell you this is a MINOR mode

``````
----------------------------------------------
------------------------------8--10---------
---------------8--10--11-----------------------
-8--10--11------------------------------------
``````

LOCRIAN

The formula is 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7, 1. Wow, lots of flats right? Locrian sounds dark, you may shit your pants listening to this scale. I am not sure whether this is a DIMINISHED or Half DIMINISHED scale. Maybe someone can help with that.

``````
------------------------------------------
---------------------------8--10------------
--------------8--9--11------------------------
--8--9--11-----------------------------------
``````

So there you have your modes. easy right? But where do i play them?

Ionian - play this over any major chords
Dorian - Minor 7th chords
Phrygian - Anything with a spanish feel i suppose. I dont really know with this one to be honest!
Lydian - Major7 chords really, or anything with a #11 i guess
Mixolydian - Any dominant 7th chords, this is a good jazz scale
Aeolian - Any minor chord or chord based off the minor structure
Locrian - I've no idea where you would use this !! (Anyone?????)

Here is an update on the above, thanks goes out to Johnljones7443!

Quote by Johnljones7443
Phrygian - Any minor chord with a b9. Most commonly _m7b9 and _susb9 - but _susb9 is it's 'characteristic chord' if you want - seeing as phrygian is both harmonically and melodically a very unstable mode, the third (G - which is the perfect fifth of the parent scale) tends to strengthen the role of C (although C is hardly ever played over E-7 as anything more than a passing tone) and make the phrygian sound unstable.

Mixolydian - You should say it's more commonly used over _7sus4 chords than straight dominant chords because of the 11th (creates a minor ninth interval with the third of the chord, which is why it's dropped and thus you get _7sus4, but a lot of the time (especially in jazz) you'll see it just notated as either Gsus or G7 and the voicing will have no third.

Aeolian - You should say this is rarely used over straight m7 chords (especially in jazz) because of the b13, most commonly m7b13. Although a lot of the time in jazz, the vi chord is substituted as a dominant chord though to open up more melodic options instead of staying in one key throughout a progression.

Locrian - It's used over _m7b5 chords, although the sixth mode of melodic minor (Locrian 2) is used more often.

OK, i'm getting square eyes now, so i will wrap it up. Basically, you should aim to play all these fluetly and without having to think about it. Try not to memorize the finger patterns, thats just music by numbers. Know WHY you are doing somethiing and you will become a much better musician.

Good luck, and i hope this helps some people get to grips with some stuff.

As always, questions and clarifications welcome, especially on the question of the mixolydian and what the hell you would play a Locrian over!!!

Cheers

Last edited by Applehead at Feb 5, 2007,
Good one!

Luckily i already know all of that

Anyway, you might aswell just throw in the Circle of Fifths in there, its a great way to build scales.
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race toward an early grave.

Ben Hamelech
I'm theory'd out for today and i cannot be arsed to draw a chart. Feel free to add a post with some stuff !
Applehead you should also include more modern scales and altered scales. Such as natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, and the blues scales.
The natural minor and the blues are in there. But yeah, cool man.. I will add the others later when i get in from work

cheers
Quote by elemenohpee
Applehead you should also include more modern scales and altered scales. Such as natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, and the blues scales.

How about we cover that in next months "theory of the month" -- a sort of "advanced scales"? From some of the posts lately, my feeling is that you don't' want to throw too much out there at once.
The natural minor and the blues are in there. But yeah, cool man.. I will add the others later when i get in from work

cheers

Completely missed the blues and natural minors being in there. Sorry about that, it's early for me, and I'm not all there.
Quote by anarkee
How about we cover that in next months "theory of the month" -- a sort of "advanced scales"? From some of the posts lately, my feeling is that you don't' want to throw too much out there at once.

Yeah, my thinking exactly! the harmonic and melodic kind of cross over tonalities, so i would consider them....yeah, i guess advanced is the right word. There is quite a few up there to learn, and if there is too many people have a tendency to get bored..
I can't say I've ever heard the term "sharp" when referring to intervals. Wouldn't that just be augmented?
well as far as i know, you only say augmented when you are talking about a perfect interval. in the case of Lydian, it should read augmented, you are correct.

cheers, well spotted. cheers
Nicely done applehead, good lesson there
signature
Nice lesson, it's a shame I knew it all already though
Phrygian - Any minor chord with a b9. Most commonly _m7b9 and _susb9 - but _susb9 is it's 'characteristic chord' if you want - seeing as phrygian is both harmonically and melodically a very unstable mode, the third (G - which is the perfect fifth of the parent scale) tends to strengthen the role of C (although C is hardly ever played over E-7 as anything more than a passing tone) and make the phrygian sound unstable.

Mixolydian - You should say it's more commonly used over _7sus4 chords than straight dominant chords because of the 11th (creates a minor ninth interval with the third of the chord, which is why it's dropped and thus you get _7sus4, but a lot of the time (especially in jazz) you'll see it just notated as either Gsus or G7 and the voicing will have no third.

Aeolian - You should say this is rarely used over straight m7 chords (especially in jazz) because of the b13, most commonly m7b13. Although a lot of the time in jazz, the vi chord is substituted as a dominant chord though to open up more melodic options instead of staying in one key throughout a progression.

Locrian - It's used over _m7b5 chords, although the sixth mode of melodic minor (Locrian 2) is used more often.

^ Thanks man thats helped me a lot actually, can i add it to the lesson? I will of course quote you...
^Of course mate.
sweet bro, all done. you know your stuff mate. you studied long?
you CAN have augmented and dimished major/minor intervals
In what situation would you call something an augmented 2nd? So you wouldnt say sharp 2nd, you would say augmented? To me you wouldnt really say or do either, and i cannot think of when you would even sharp the second degree. Can you please explain? I'm no theory guru so i'm interested.

cheers man
well, 6th and 7ths can be referred to as major or minor, so i wouldnt really limit the argument to just "seconds"

I could link you to an article if you'd like
yeah of course. Yeah a link would be cool man...
to sum it up for everyone else...

there are 2 families of intervals : perfect and major/minor

Augmented means that the family in question is expanded, or raised
Diminished means that the family is lowered

An interval cannot be perfect, and major, or major and minor, etc. It's either of one family, or the other.
To help you, i'm reading my hal leonard book on all this and it said that the mixolydian can be classed as major and the locrian is diminished.
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KurrptSenate... Cheers man, good stuff. It seems you would basically never ever say either things. Because if you took a major 2nd and augmented, you would have a Minor 3rd, which i am sure is what you would say.

yes...

it is a rare occurence for sure, but in the event you do run into it, its important to have your rules straight.

Either way, I feel that article explains it very well
Yeah definitely, thanks for straightening it up bro
i've been on a theory binge, so its no problem
thanks, thats really explained a lot
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KurrptSenate... Cheers man, good stuff. It seems you would basically never ever say either things. Because if you took a major 2nd and augmented, you would have a Minor 3rd, which i am sure is what you would say.

It depends on the context.. the most common place to see an augmented 2nd interval is the _7#9 chord. Made up like.. 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - #9.. and yes, you're correct in saying that the augmented second is enharmonic to the minor third, so in this case - you have a major third and a minor third in the same chord, but the major third takes precedence (because the function of our chord is dominant) and we call the minor third an augmented second to show it's function within the chord. Resolving up a semitone to the seventh of the I chord for example.

You would never call the augmented second a minor third in the case of my example.. because it is not functioning as a minor third.

One more thing.. you said ''NOTICE HOW THERE IS NO E# OR B#'' - which is incorrect (and is related to what I was saying about function) as both of those notes do exist so I'd probably put a note in there saying 'Note: These notes do exist, but are only written when the function of the note requires them in the case of the major seventh of C# being B# and not C, or the major third of C# being E# and not F for example' or something similar to that.

Last edited by Johnljones7443 at Feb 5, 2007,
Cheers bro, you da man.

I'm guessing you're bang into music theory!
Quote by Johnljones7443
It depends on the context.. the most common place to see an augmented 2nd interval is the _7#9 chord. Made up like.. 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - #9.. and yes, you're correct in saying that the augmented second is enharmonic to the minor third, so in this case - you have a major third and a minor third in the same chord, but the major third takes precedence (because the function of our chord is dominant) and we call the minor third an augmented second to show it's function within the chord. Resolving up a semitone to the seventh of the I chord for example.

You know, a year ago you may have well as been speaking Japanese, but now i know exactly what you're talking about.

I love learning.

Fsba, where are you at with theory stuff?
Oh man, this is EXACTLY the kind of stuff I need to be looking into. Thanks a bunch for the info! I'll be sure to study this one.

By the way, shouldn't this topic be pinned?
Very nice lesson, I've been learning all this stuff over the past couple of months and this was a great refresher.
wonderful job.

to add on to this i have a wonderful bass exercise on the modes. 3rd pattern runs, arpeggios in the modes. cool stuff.

Ill post it up soon
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Last edited by epy at Feb 5, 2007,
excellent article. I knew my basic major and minor chord constructions, but this really cleared up the modes for me.

Great job!
letthebassplay you are now a legend

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okay i just posted the exercise on ultimate guitar....its a guitar pro.....search bass exercise in the next couple of days
Fender '51 Precision Bass
Hofner Verythin LTD Edition Guitar in Walnut w/ Bigsby
Engelhardt ES9 Upright Bass
1968 Trayner YBA 1A MK II Amp
w/ 6x10 cabinet

www.iaminlimbo.com