Putting It All Together: Scales, Keys & Progressions

author: TeleYankee date: 05/25/2010 category: for beginners
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Scales, Keys, Progressions I have struggled for a long time to be able to understand the concepts of scales, how they relate to chord progressions, and what a key really means. After taking lessons, reading books, and still feeling like a mid-thirties musically challenged learner, something finally clicked for me. Here is one of the positions of the minor pentatonic scale:
We can tell that this scale is in A Minor for two reasons. First, let's look at knowing that the key is in A. We know this because the first note is an A note (5th fret Low E string). Whatever this note is tells us what key it is in. The next thing to keep in mind is the minor part. It is minor because of the scale. This is a minor pentatonic. Now is we were to take this same set up and move it up a whole step (two frets) then we would have a pattern that looks like this:
Here we are looking at a B minor scale. Why is it B? Because the 7th fret is a B note. Wherever we move this pattern on the Low E, will make the scale in that key. So how does this relate to chord progressions and song writing. Let's take any three chords... Bm, D, & G. Let's put these togehter is a very simple chord progression of Bm (x4), D (x4), G (x4), D (x4). If this was played, you could play the B minor pentatonic scale on top of it and it works with how the mind hears music. The reason it works is because that first note was a B chord. B chord as the first relates to the B minor scale. If we take another progression, Am, C, F, Em we could play the Am scale on top of it. What helps me is to create little riffs from the scale and play it on top of the chord progression. Here is an example of a simple riff taken from the Am Scale
This simple riff is just taking notes from the scale and playing them on top of a chord progression beginning in A. Try it out and it will flow. I know that this is a very brief introduction, but these concepts were very difficult for me to grasp but once they finally clicked, I went from someone who had played the guitar to someone who began to understand how the guitar works when it comes to music and especially playing with other musicians. Good luck!
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