#1
I've been playing guitar for over two years now, and I've learned principally by looking up tabs on this site. I think I've learned pretty fast, and I can do some advanced techniques, like sweeping. However, the one thing that I really want to learn is music theory, because I'd really like to be able to write my own music, and, above all, improvise.

I don't really have access to a teacher, because I live in a fairly rural part of NC, and I'm not sure where to find a teacher, and I'd have a hard time finding one that would teach in the style of music I want to play. I've tried to learn theory several times now on my own, by looking up lessons on the internet, or from my theory book (The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory), and whenever I start reading them, I feel like a complete idiot. I don't understand anything. It really makes me feel depressed about my playing.

I've been using the program Fretboard Warrior to memorize the notes of the fretboard, and I plan to learn to read music over the summer. The main thing I've tried to learn from the lessons is scales. I don't understand them. Well, I understand how they're put together, and how music is created from them, but I don't understand how to practice them.

Generally, lessons instruct you to play a scale shape over and over up and down the neck, to memorize it. Not only does that not appeal to me (I've spent hours doing it), it doesn't make much sense to me. This kind of practicing seems to me to be what gets most players stuck in that box everyone's always complaining about. Sure, it'll help you learn the scale shape, but once you've got it memorized, you're basically doomed to that box. Playing the box shape up and down, then simply moving up half a step and repeating it, doesn't teach you where to go when you're playing in a certain key. This is the main roadblock I'm running into whenever I try to improvise. I'll just play the notes in the box because I associate that particular scale with that particular shape, not the notes within the scale, just the shape. And it ends up sounding like crap, and then I start getting depressed about my abilities again.

I hope that made sense. Can anyone offer me any advice as to how I can learn scales and know how to play them in the same key over the entire fretboard?
My band, Escher
My progressive rock project, Mosaic

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#3
scales are pretty easy because you know when a note is not in the scale. if it sounds wrong it probably is. to get better at scales, just do them alot. play them fast and slow and everything in between and you'll become a ton better
#4
Quote by :-D
Learn some theory. Try the theory sticky and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory.


Did you even read the original post?

Idk what to tell you OP. I'm pretty much in the same boat as you
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#5
Learn the scale in one box, then learn it (the same scale) in a different box on the fretboard. Carry on doing this till you've learnt all the boxes around the fretboard of that scale, then you'll be able to play in that key anywhere.

Learn, som theory about notes and how scales are formed because the above version is kind off unrealistic.
#6
Learn the basic shape, then just stick a chord progression on a loop and start to practice improvising using your different scales. The more comfortable you get with them the further outside the boxes you'll go until you can go all over the neck within that scale. That's when the real fun starts, like adding little chromatics in to make it more interesting.

If you know where the notes on the fretboard are already, then once you've learnt that box shape you'll know where the notes you need to play are and how they relate to each other interval-wise. It just takes perseverance and practice to get to a standard where you can go all over the place with it, IMO starting with the first box shape is the easiest way to start it off.

EDIT: Just to add, the part where you improvise over a loop is very important and a very effective way of not only learning the scale, but learning how to use it in a way that's musical. Anyone can go up and down the same eight notes all over the place, the real challenge is making it sound interesting.
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Last edited by timi_hendrix at May 23, 2008,
#7
i find that the trick is in learning where the notes for that scale on the whole fret board not just in the box shape they tell you to learn if you have an idea where the notes you need to keep in key are along the whole fret board you arent limited to just the box pattern
#8
Quote by GodofCheesecake

Generally, lessons instruct you to play a scale shape over and over up and down the neck, to memorize it. Not only does that not appeal to me (I've spent hours doing it), it doesn't make much sense to me.


The basic idea is, you practice ascending and descending scale finger positions
until you have them pretty well memorized, and then (and this is the point where
a lot of people simply stop) you move on to other scale traversals and patterns.

You've done ascending and descending 2nds (it sounds like over and over) how
about 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths and 7ths? Do some ascending and descending
diatonic triads, or 7th arpeggios. Do them in all inversions. Do them across all
6 strings within a finger position, or take fewer strings and move the pattern
consecutively up and down the neck through positions.

The list is endless and I think it's pretty clear that the more ways you can comfortably
go through a scale, the more the scale will seem to be just everywhere on the neck.
#9
Quote by yellowshirtguy
Did you even read the original post?

Idk what to tell you OP. I'm pretty much in the same boat as you

Whoops, I basically skimmed over it. Either way, you offered absolutely nothing so I don't see why you bothered to say anything. Maybe this will help you out as well though.

TS, here's a little crash course:
The good thing about scales on the guitar is that once you figure out a specific way to play the scale, all you have to do is shift the root note to figure out how to play that scale in a different way. Keep in mind that you'll see a lot of scales (especially on here) referred to as numbers. This refers to scale degrees, and everything is related to the major scale, which contains scale degrees 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. In C major, your scale is C D E F G A B and each letter corresponds to a number. The root (C) is 1, D is 2, E is 3, and so on.

After you learn the formulas to construct scales you'll be able to figure out the scales on your own. For example, if you know that the natural minor scale is made up of scale degrees 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7, you could construct a C minor scale using your C major scale. All you have to do is flatten the third, sixth and seventh degrees. In C major, those degrees respectively are E A and B, so they become Eb Ab and Bb. Thus, you can conclude that your C minor scale is C D Eb F G Ab Bb. If you know the notes of the fretboard, you'll be able to construct a shape for that scale and apply the natural minor scale anywhere.

Is this helpful at all?
#10
Thanks for all the replies. Yes, :-D, your second post was very helpful. I guess I'll keep at it.
My band, Escher
My progressive rock project, Mosaic

Quote by Lappo
clearly, the goal is to convert every thread into a discussion about BTBAM

BTBAM IS ALWAYS RELEVANT
#12
All right then. Modes.

The lesson on this site (C Major Scales) has them in an order in which it just looks like a major scale ascending up the neck, and each mode is simply the next scale box up. So, what determines the mode? Is it the root note or the position on the neck?

Also, the author of the lesson mentions that he has them in that particular order because that's the way they ascend the fretboard. But he goes on to mention that 'technically,' they're in a different order. So what determines the 'technical' order of the modes?
My band, Escher
My progressive rock project, Mosaic

Quote by Lappo
clearly, the goal is to convert every thread into a discussion about BTBAM

BTBAM IS ALWAYS RELEVANT
#13
Quote by GodofCheesecake
All right then. Modes.

The lesson on this site (C Major Scales) has them in an order in which it just looks like a major scale ascending up the neck, and each mode is simply the next scale box up. So, what determines the mode? Is it the root note or the position on the neck?

Also, the author of the lesson mentions that he has them in that particular order because that's the way they ascend the fretboard. But he goes on to mention that 'technically,' they're in a different order. So what determines the 'technical' order of the modes?

Oh sweet Jesus no, that's what leads to a huge misunderstanding of modes. The mode is determined by the harmonic context; read the sticky and you'll see that certain chords indicate certain modes. The "technical order" in a major key is this:
Ionian
Dorian
Phrygian
Lydian
Mixolydian
Aeolian
Locrian

There's much, much more to it than this and if you're just getting into diatonic scales, I urge you to forget about modes for the time being until you've got a grasp on diatonic harmony.
#14
There really isn't a problem with using shapes if you can really think about what you're doing with the notes in them. Get really familiar with the notes on the fretboard, then get really familiar with what notes are in each key, then you should be able to blend them seamlessly and be able to play in key anywhere...ideally. That's something we all strive for every day, to get more and more fluent.
#15
Quote by GodofCheesecake
All right then. Modes.

The lesson on this site (C Major Scales)


Apparently the lessons aren't peer-reviewed for content.

Not a very good lesson.

One way to look at it is that music theory isn't dependent on how the guitar
fingerboard is arranged. Modes, being part of theory, are the same. Only the notes
matter and you can play any mode in any position.

What that "lesson" is showing is finger positions going up the neck. That's all.
Yes, as it happens, ONE way of looking at modes happens to fit pretty well into
those positions, but they have nothing really to do with modes at all.
#16
Okay, wow, I guess I was way off. I should probably focus on understanding one thing at a time; I thought modes were simply positions of the major scale but it seems they're more complicated than that.

Well, if I have any questions in the future, I'll just use this thread. I appreciate all the help so far.
My band, Escher
My progressive rock project, Mosaic

Quote by Lappo
clearly, the goal is to convert every thread into a discussion about BTBAM

BTBAM IS ALWAYS RELEVANT
#17
Quote by GodofCheesecake
Okay, wow, I guess I was way off. I should probably focus on understanding one thing at a time; I thought modes were simply positions of the major scale but it seems they're more complicated than that.

Yes. Like I said earlier, it's this approach that leads people to misunderstand modes and attempt to incorporate them in completely incorrect ways. It's good that you caught yourself, because digesting the concepts slowly will help a lot.

Once you learn a lot more about the theory behind diatonic harmony, modes will make quite a bit more sense. A lot of people talk about them as though they're some amazing fix to guitar playing problems, when they're quite limiting in reality.
#18
Quote by :-D
A lot of people talk about them as though they're some amazing fix to guitar playing problems, when they're quite limiting in reality.
How so?

Quote by :-D
The mode is determined by the harmonic context
what kind of harmonic context? Like a whole progression or each individual chord?
#19
Quote by GodofCheesecake
I thought modes were simply positions of the major scale but it seems they're more complicated than that.
NO NO NO NO NO! Many people think this, but it's wrong. A mode is a flavor of a "normal" scale that is formed by playing the notes of a different scale, using a different note as a root. For instance, D minor is D E F G A Bb C and D Dorian is D E F G A B C. That Bb vs B difference gives Dorian a slightly different flavor than the natural minor scale. D Dorian contains the same notes as the C major scale, however, once you establish the tonality as D Dorian rather than C major, you're playing the D Dorian scale (this should make sense) and not the C major scale, regardless of position; positions don't exist on other instruments so they don't matter in music theory.

This is a great paragraph on modes once you've read the other material (my sig, posts by other members). Without that background knowledge, this post is probably confusing.

Quote by demonofthenight
How so?

A modal progression will be 1 or 2 (maybe 3) chord vamps, not the complex progressions found in key-based music.

Quote by demonofthenight
what kind of harmonic context? Like a whole progression or each individual chord?
The progression. You're not playing G Mixo over the G7 chord in a Dm7 G7 D Dorian vamp.
#20
Quote by demonofthenight
How so?

what kind of harmonic context? Like a whole progression or each individual chord?

1. Strictly modal music necessitates simple chord progressions/vamps and limits you to using the notes of the mode specifically.

2. The progression.

I take it you knew the answers, you just seem to like arguing against everything that everyone says.
#21
Quote by bangoodcharlote
A modal progression will be 1 or 2 (maybe 3) chord vamps, not the complex progressions found in key-based music.

The progression. You're not playing G Mixo over the G7 chord in a Dm7 G7 D Dorian vamp.
Now I completely get yours and Mr Smileys view on modes. I've heard something similar before. Personally, I dont believe its the best way to view modes.

About the limiting thing. Have you ever tried going from one modal progression to another modal progression? I read a jazz book that talked about something similar (same place where I first heard that theory on modes you talk about).
#22
Quote by demonofthenight
Now I completely get yours and Mr Smileys view on modes. I've heard something similar before. Personally, I dont believe its the best way to view modes.

Could you elaborate on this?
#23
Quote by demonofthenight
About the limiting thing. Have you ever tried going from one modal progression to another modal progression? I read a jazz book that talked about something similar (same place where I first heard that theory on modes you talk about).
I've done things like playing Dm7 G7 8x and then Em7 A7 8x and switching between D and E Dorian. It's cool, but then you're doing the modal equalivant of a key change.
#24
Quote by bangoodcharlote
I've done things like playing Dm7 G7 8x and then Em7 A7 8x and switching between D and E Dorian. It's cool, but then you're doing the modal equalivant of a key change.
Exactly. Only difference is that there's a lot more you can do in a key than you can do in a mode.
#25
Right.

The whole idea is that a mode is unstable and will want to resolve to the parent scale. A simple progression with minimal/no use of chromatic tones allows you to force an unusual resolution (G7 to Dm7 rather than C). A key allows odd tones because it is stable.
#26
^EDIT: wow, I never thought about it like that. Interesting...
Quote by bangoodcharlote
I've done things like playing Dm7 G7 8x and then Em7 A7 8x and switching between D and E Dorian. It's cool, but then you're doing the modal equalivant of a key change.
By your definition of modes, can you change modes to a different mode altogether (Dorian to say mixolydian) or does it have to be the same mode?

Quote by :-)
Could you elaborate on this?
Personally I think modes are so much more than a thing thats sort of like a scale. You seem to use modes primarily for progressions.
I see modes as describing how a melody is going to sound like over each individual chord, instead of the whole progression. So if your playing the notes of the C major scale over say a G chord, over that chord the melody is going to sound mixolydian. But if the same notes are played over an F chord, its going to sound lydian. But you dont have to keep to the C major scale. You could play lydian over that C and ionian over that F, giving your melody a completely new feel.
#27
Quote by demonofthenight
^EDIT: wow, I never thought about it like that. Interesting...
By your definition of modes, can you change modes to a different mode altogether (Dorian to say mixolydian) or does it have to be the same mode?

Personally I think modes are so much more than a thing thats sort of like a scale. You seem to use modes primarily for progressions.
I see modes as describing how a melody is going to sound like over each individual chord, instead of the whole progression. So if your playing the notes of the C major scale over say a G chord, over that chord the melody is going to sound mixolydian. But if the same notes are played over an F chord, its going to sound lydian. But you dont have to keep to the C major scale. You could play lydian over that C and ionian over that F, giving your melody a completely new feel.


The melody will cover the entire progression, not just the one chord. Listen to the whole picture, I kind of know what you mean but I wouldn't look at it like that. What if you have CM, FM, G7, could you play C Ionian, F Lydian then G Mixo? No the whole melody will sound just like C Ionian.
#28
Quote by lemonofthenight
I see modes as describing how a melody is going to sound like over each individual chord, instead of the whole progression. So if your playing the notes of the C major scale over say a G chord, over that chord the melody is going to sound mixolydian. But if the same notes are played over an F chord, its going to sound lydian. But you dont have to keep to the C major scale. You could play lydian over that C and ionian over that F, giving your melody a completely new feel.

Okay, I get what you're saying; I obviously don't view it as such, but I guess it's these viewpoints are what have spawned countless arguments over the last couple of months.

I'm having fun with your name too now.
#29
Quote by demonofthenight
^EDIT: wow, I never thought about it like that. Interesting...
By your definition of modes, can you change modes to a different mode altogether (Dorian to say mixolydian) or does it have to be the same mode?

Personally I think modes are so much more than a thing thats sort of like a scale. You seem to use modes primarily for progressions.
I see modes as describing how a melody is going to sound like over each individual chord, instead of the whole progression. So if your playing the notes of the C major scale over say a G chord, over that chord the melody is going to sound mixolydian. But if the same notes are played over an F chord, its going to sound lydian. But you dont have to keep to the C major scale. You could play lydian over that C and ionian over that F, giving your melody a completely new feel.
If you were to do that you would imply a new harmony in the first place and it would be essentially an F major/possibly ionian tonality. That's definitely an interesting way to think of it though, a nice trade of ideas. That falls a lot more under the parallel way of thinking than the modal, the modal being to ME, a lot less practical, especially in a jazz setting, which is what I enjoy.
#30
Quote by ouchies
The melody will cover the entire progression, not just the one chord. Listen to the whole picture, I kind of know what you mean but I wouldn't look at it like that. What if you have CM, FM, G7, could you play C Ionian, F Lydian then G Mixo? No the whole melody will sound just like C Ionian.
No, because the same note would sound different over chords. The chord progression might imply ionian, but to me, nothing in the rest of the chords says ionian.
For example, play a melody. Than play that melody with a C major chord vamp underneath, than play that same melody with a G7 vamp underneath. You can honestly say that all sounds like ionian. The melody sounds different over each different chords because of the harmonic intervals.
Look at it from my perspective, I think in intervals when I improvise/write melodies. To me, modes are a list of these intervals.
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#31
Quote by demonofthenight
No, because the same note would sound different over chords. The chord progression might imply ionian, but to me, nothing in the rest of the chords says ionian.
For example, play a melody. Than play that melody with a C major chord vamp underneath, than play that same melody with a G7 vamp underneath. You can honestly say that all sounds like ionian. The melody sounds different over each different chords because of the harmonic intervals.
Look at it from my perspective, I think in intervals when I improvise/write melodies. To me, modes are a list of these intervals.Enjoy yourself.


Well the melody wouldn't resolve the same so technically it wouldn't work over a G mixolydian vamp. And the V7- I is implying C Ionian.
#32
Quote by demonofthenight

Personally I think modes are so much more than a thing thats sort of like a scale. You seem to use modes primarily for progressions.
I see modes as describing how a melody is going to sound like over each individual chord, instead of the whole progression. So if your playing the notes of the C major scale over say a G chord, over that chord the melody is going to sound mixolydian. But if the same notes are played over an F chord, its going to sound lydian. But you dont have to keep to the C major scale. You could play lydian over that C and ionian over that F, giving your melody a completely new feel.


I do kind of get where you're coming from. Like if you're playing over a proggression of G C Em D you can play the one set of notes (from the Gmaj scale) over the G chord and it will sound major, but when you play the same notes over the Em chord it sounds minor.
#33
Quote by 12345abcd3
I do kind of get where you're coming from. Like if you're playing over a proggression of G C Em D you can play the one set of notes (from the Gmaj scale) over the G chord and it will sound major, but when you play the same notes over the Em chord it sounds minor.
E minor and G major contain the same notes. One shouldnt sound any different to the other when its played over that progression.
#34
Quote by 12345abcd3
I do kind of get where you're coming from. Like if you're playing over a proggression of G C Em D you can play the one set of notes (from the Gmaj scale) over the G chord and it will sound major, but when you play the same notes over the Em chord it sounds minor.
It is much too confusing to keep thinking about the mode changing as the chord changes. If you're changing modes at every chord, then it's okay. You could play G Ionian over G, C Mixolydian over C, E Melodic Minor over Em, and D Lydian over D, but don't think of it as G Ionian, then C Lydian, etc. It's just G major over the whole progression.

Demon: There are two ways modes can be used.
1. Standard modal progressions-what I have been describing.
2. Adding in tones to the pentatonic scale. I can play a lick in the Am pentatonic scale and then add in an F# note, all over a standard A5 C5 D5 rock progression. I'm not playing modally, but I am using the Dorian SCALE. This is how modes can be used in rock music. Use of few "modal tone" in your pentatonic licks, or maybe even quite a few modal tones.

And Demon, the G major scale will sound different over each of those chords. Play it and see.
#35
Quote by bangoodcharlote
It is much too confusing to keep thinking about the mode changing as the chord changes. If you're changing modes at every chord, then it's okay. You could play G Ionian over G, C Mixolydian over C, E Melodic Minor over Em, and D Lydian over D, but don't think of it as G Ionian, then C Lydian, etc. It's just G major over the whole progression.
It is confusing, but if you think about the harmonic intervals and how they're working and interacting it makes sense.
We should be looking and studying the very fibres of the music we make, the intervals, both harmonic and melodic. I think the modes should be used to term what happens when a particular group of these intervals are used more frequently than others, and give a distinctive quality.
But I also believe modes can also describe how a chord progression sounds like.
Quote by bangoodcharlote
Demon: There are two ways modes can be used.
1. Standard modal progressions-what I have been describing.
2. Adding in tones to the pentatonic scale. I can play a lick in the Am pentatonic scale and then add in an F# note, all over a standard A5 C5 D5 rock progression. I'm not playing modally, but I am using the Dorian SCALE. This is how modes can be used in rock music. Use of few "modal tone" in your pentatonic licks, or maybe even quite a few modal tones.
well thats your point of view and probably the point of view of most people that study music. I see it differently, is that wrong?
Quote by bangoodcharlote
And Demon, the G major scale will sound different over each of those chords. Play it and see.
Wait, thats what I'm trying to tell everyone. What I was saying is that playing an Em shape over say a G chord will sound the same as a GM shape over that same G chord.
Each individual note will sound completely new over a different chord. But will sound similar if its the same harmonic interval. It's a difficult way of looking at things, but everyone should be challenged to some point.

Just as a disclaimer, I wrote this stuff when the weirdest things are making sense...
#36
I assume I shouldn't bother reading this whole debate, since it doesn't seem to do with my questions and will probably just confuse me...
My band, Escher
My progressive rock project, Mosaic

Quote by Lappo
clearly, the goal is to convert every thread into a discussion about BTBAM

BTBAM IS ALWAYS RELEVANT