Definitive Scales

author: IntlManOfMisery date: 07/15/2004 category: guitar scales and modes
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Everything you'll ever need to know about scales, modes and even a little bit about chords! What more could you possibly want? I decided to write this because there is lots of stuff on scales but they all seems to contradict each other or smart asses tear it apart at the end and you don't know who to believe. If anything is unclear, or I rambled too much, don't hesitate to ask and I'll clear it up. Firstly scales. Scales are made of 8 notes the eighth being the same as the first but an octave higher. They are made up of the pattern: Whole step, Whole step, Half step, Whole step, Whole step, Whole step, Half step. If this means nothing to you let me explain. Whole step means one whole tone or two frets on a guitar. Half step means one semitone or one fret on a guitar. So a scale in E major would just be:
E string:
-- 0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12 --= E,  F#, G#, A,  B,  C#, D#,  E

Or in C: B string
-- 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8 - 10 - 12 - 13 -- = C,  D,  E,  F,  G,   A,  B,   C
For the rest of the examples I'll use C because it has no bitchy flats or sharps. Now, some good news. The simple whole step half step pattern gives you any major scale. The major scale is the happy singing rainbow one you'll all be familiar with. Now, you may say, what about minor scales, dominant scales, pentatonics? Well there are two ways to look at reaching the minor scale. 1 Thing of it in terms of the major scale minor scales are just major scales with a flattened 3rd, 6th, and 7th. So where:
C major is: C D E  F G A  B  C
C minor is: C D EbF G AbBbC
The crushed bs mean flat, basically this means take the note shown and reduce by one fret that is, one semitone. So E or fret 5 of the b string becomes Eb or fret 4. 2 a different starting position for the whole step, half step idea to get the c natural minor or aelion scale (which is the minor scale above), you may just start on the 6th note. You're saying what the starstarstarstar, right? Let me show you, imagine a never ending flow of half or whole steps and the scale just picking up somewhere in there:
           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Major  :   W W H W W W H W w h w w w h

                     1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
minor  :   w w h w w W H W W H W W W h
The means wholes step (2 frets) and h means half step (one fret). The capital letters mean the bits that make up the scale. As you can see, the 6th note of the major scale, is the first note of the minor scale This can be a strange idea; a major and a minor scale contain the same notes. C major's sixth note is A. If you take the same notes, but go from A to A instead of C to C you get the A natural minor scale. Bizarre. As for dominant scales etc, they are just reached by starting and finishing on different notes of the same scale. For example the dominant or mixolydian scale starts on the 5th note, so in the case of C: from G to G in the C major scale. This scale can also be represented by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7. or C D E F G A Bb. Basically the way it works is that the more Ws you have before an H, the less flattened notes you'll have and in general terms more flattened notes mean a more dissonant or minor sound. So if you start on the 7th note you get this: HWWHWWWH. As you can see this immediately has a half step then only two whole steps before another half. In the C major scale the 7th note is a b and the b locrian scale is given:
B,Cb,Db,E,Fb,Gb,Ab.  Or
1 b2  b3  4  b5 b6  b7.
If you play this:
B string
-- 0 - 1 - 3 - 5 -6 - 8 - 10 - 12 - 13
You will see that it sounds pretty shitty or 'dissonant'. But you see that it contains the same notes as the happy major scale, weird non? So they only thing that determines the key is where you start. However occasionally youre brain may get lost, and although you start on a b it may still sound like C major. This is because your ear is more accustomed to the major scale and doesn't mind that you started on the 'wrong' note. The way to get the message to yo head, is simple. Just play it. Either on another open string or using your rhythm guitarist or bass. But if you have no friends like me, just let an open string ring. So try playing any of the patterns so far, except the first and let the g string ring out. Just keep playing with that g string J until you get bored and try another string. Try any string as they are all in the key of c. You may notice some interesting results: a string = minor E string = a crazy sounding minor entitled Phrygian D string = a less minor sounding minor called the dorian Now if you want to appear really clever but not really be much more so, learn the names of each scale you get from any starting note. 1. major- happy 2. dorian - 'sweeter' minor 3. phrygian - crazy possibly Spanish minor 4. lydian - basically happy, just an augmented fourth giving a bitter taste 5. mixolydian - dominant, bluesy, jazzy etc. 6. aelion - natural minor! 7. locrian - argh my ears. The sht about chords will come in a forthcoming lesson: I want to see if anyone can understand this before doing any more. Cheers for listening, unless you just skipped through it, in which case you disgust me.
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