Learning solos by knowing modes, scales, etc.

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blutic1
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Learning solos by knowing modes, scales, etc.

Post by blutic1 » August 20th, 2004, 10:01 am

I have spent the better part of two years memorizing how to play the five positional patterns and the six three-note-per-string diagonal patterns for all the modes, the major scale, minor scale, and the major and minor pentatonics. I pretty much have them down cold and I can easily play them in any key. I spent the effort to learn them because I believed it would greatly help me to construct solos, improvise solos, and learn solos. My questions is whether at some point (if I continue to practice) will I be able to listen to a cd and be able to determine what scale or mode is being used, so it will be easier to learn the solo? Currently, even though I routinely practice scales, it seems that I still have to pick out each note by ear.

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Post by stock28 » August 20th, 2004, 10:33 am

I did the same thing with the same thought process as you. I still cant pick them out either. I think you can learn to some extend but some just have an ear for it and some dont.

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Post by DemoEtc » August 20th, 2004, 10:36 am

That's actually what it's all about -- 'hearing it'. Practicing scales is good for finger dexterity and coordinating the left hand and the right. It shows you where certain sounds are on the fingerboard -- notice I said sounds and not notes? -- and you get used to rhythms and 'this note is higher than that one' sort of thing.

Scales don't automatically make you hear things better though. They're really good to do, but they're not the end-all answer to becoming a musician. Not even knowing a bunch of chords or their structure or getting deep into music theory. What it comes down to is listening; hearing something, either in your head or out in the world (a CD for example), and then being able to find it on your instrument. You still have to work through that process -- from what's in your head or ear, down through your hands and into the strings.

That is unless you were born with perfect absolute pitch and you can hear and know what each note is before you play it on the frets. That's a rare gift, and at least for the 2 people I've know born with that, it's more of nuisance.

But now that you've gotten technique down with scales, try to forget them for awhile and just listen. Listen and do what you're doing, which is playing it by ear and finding the notes on your guitar. That's a big part of the process -- hearing a solo or note or whatever, and then trying to dupe it. It may never become automatic even after years of experience, but it'll become lots easier. You'll hear something for instance, hit a note on the guitar, realize it's the wrong note, but immediately know where the right one is from the wrong one (up a string, two frets up or something -- a fifth), and then you hear the next one and 'know' it's the next note in the scale. It's 'relative pitch training' from a given note, you know where the next one is, whether or not you know the absolute pitch of the given note.

Just keep going like you are, but my suggestion is to not rely on scales so much; rely on your ear for awhile. Then the scales will fall into place.

Best regards.

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Post by DemoEtc » August 20th, 2004, 10:39 am

stock28 wrote:I did the same thing with the same thought process as you. I still cant pick them out either. I think you can learn to some extend but some just have an ear for it and some dont.
I don't think I've ever met anyone who was actually tone-deaf. It's my belief that 99% of people can develop good relative pitch recognition -- or 'ear.' It just takes concentration and being able to internalize sounds and then communicate them either by humming or singing them or by playing them on some instrument. Music is (supposed to be) way more internal than most people talk about.

Short version: Everybody can develop an ear for music. :)

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Post by blutic1 » August 20th, 2004, 11:18 am

I hear what your saying. I currently can learn slow melodic solos by ear, no problem. I can also recognize some of the common rock cliches that I hear on cds. But I don't see how you can learn the faster solos without knowing what scale is being used. However, my friend can do it though he has never learned a scale in his life!!

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Post by Badlands53 » August 20th, 2004, 12:05 pm

What I do is figure out the chords used in the song first, which greatly narrows down the list of scales likely to be used, then just try those scales:
If chords are E, C#, A, B, the song is likely in E major, so first I'll the C# minor pentatonic scale (especially in rock/blues) and the E major scale.

Also when you practice your scales, don't just do it for a finger workout. Listen to what it is your playing. It takes a while (I don't have it yet, but am starting to notice some improvement) but you eventually be able to hear a scale and think "Hey, that's Dorian". Then once you know the key, you can find out if its A Dorian, B Dorian, etc. Pay close attention to the intervals in the scales/modes. Each has its own unique interval pattern, so if you start to notice certain intervals used repeatedly in a solo, it will help you find the scale.
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Post by Wes Inman » August 20th, 2004, 6:48 pm

Blutic1

When you say faster solos, could you give a few examples?

You say you recognize cliches. Well, most super fast playing is performed with certain techniques which could be considered cliche's. For instance 3 notes per string runs, or tapping. You listen for that.

I am no way a super-fast metal type player. But when you hear this type of playing I think you have to listen to the overall sound if you know what I mean.

I don't think having a problem with super-fast playing is unusual at all. It is like that electronic kid's game Simon. It's easy when it flashes 3 different colors and tones one second apart. But when you have to follow and remember 15 different random notes and colors, it's tough. So there is nothing wrong with you at all.

Your buddy either listens to these solos over and over many times, or he is slowing the solo down. They have players for that.
If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis

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Post by blutic1 » August 21st, 2004, 5:18 am

I'm not talking anything like Yingvey, just songs like ZZTop, Guns & Roses, etc. I know how to determine the key of a song and then choose scales that work. I do it for impov all the time. I was just wondering if people can actually learn to recognize the sound of scales and thus determine the likely patterns the performer is using.

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Post by Wes Inman » August 21st, 2004, 5:16 pm

Most Rock music is played with the Minor Pentatonic and Major Pentatonic.
Other scales like the Dorian are used, but not as frequently. The Mixolydian is used in blues frequently.

If you listen to any particular artist for awhile, you get to know their playing style and favorite scales.
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Post by Snoogans775 » August 21st, 2004, 9:00 pm

As far as learning solos goes, with each song I learn, the solos start to seem slower than they actually are, but it seems that what helps me the most is defining each interval independently, unless it's a lick or riff I've heard before(cliche)
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Post by planetalk » August 23rd, 2004, 8:23 am

blutic1 wrote:...I was just wondering if people can actually learn to recognize the sound of scales and thus determine the likely patterns the performer is using.
If the solo sounds good, then the player was basing it around the chord tones, because that's what good solos use: chord tones. I recommend you pick a couple of these solos you like apart, just to prove it to yourself. Chord tones are the glue.

If the solo was a good one, the player wasn't using patterns, he/she was creating melody. Patterns don't create melody, at least not memorable ones. Melody loves chord tones.

So try forgetting about the scales and the modes and the clutter, and start plotting out chord tones. The scales/modes will take care of themselves once you do that ... or at least that's what happened to me, about 30 years ago. Once I realized that great melody is based around chord tones, I never looked back.

Of course, you may well be talking about scales/modes being used AS a solo. If that's what you mean, then disregard this. I have no advice for that kind of playing, as it leaves me cold.

This is just my advice, of course, but I have been playing since 1961, so I do feel like I know what I'm talking about.

Kirk

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Post by cnev » August 23rd, 2004, 9:47 am

Plantalk,

Could you expand alittle more on what you mean by using the chord tones to create a solo?

I think I have the general idea of what your talking about but if you can give a short example that would be great.

Chris

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Post by planetalk » August 23rd, 2004, 9:54 am

I actually did a lesson for this at http://planetalk.thatllteachyou.com/chordtones/

There's even a little movie.

Kirk

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Post by markminni » August 26th, 2004, 8:35 am

Learn the chords first, it will narrow down the scale or scales used in the solo.
Find the first note of the solo, and the last note of the solo. Now you know where you need to start and were you need to end up. 99.9% of the time they are the same note (probably a different octave but the same note) thats the Key or Root of the overall solo.
Now take the solo and break it down into licks. Again learn the first and last note of the lick first, this will make it easier to figure out what comes in between. once you leaned the first lick do the same with each lick. This will make it easier because you only need to concentrate on smaller portions of the solo at a time, and if the guitarist is using more than one scale in the solo it will be less confusing.

Remember to listen to the lick over and over till you could here it in your head when it is not playing anymore.

Or if your like me and hate transcribing solos. Learn the opening lick, the ending lick, any of the licks inbetween that really stick out of the solo. Figure out what scale they are from and improvise the rest. It will still sound good and it will add your style of playing to the song.

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Post by argus » August 26th, 2004, 9:06 am

cnev wrote:Plantalk,

Could you expand alittle more on what you mean by using the chord tones to create a solo?

I think I have the general idea of what your talking about but if you can give a short example that would be great.

Chris
Say you're playing over C-F-G... You could just noodle around in C major, but if you were using chord tones you'd concentrate on playing one or more of the CEG in the C major chord, the FAC over the F major, and GBD over G (or GBDF over G7). This is where arpeggios pay off.

This approach is also really useful if you're playing over a non-diatonic progression. Say you threw a Bb in there, making it C-Bb-F-G. You could use the chord tones for all the chords - over Bb you could use the notes BbDF (the rest of the chords I covered before). Even though the key is C, the harmony strays from C major when you hit the Bb chord. If you were playing the notes of the C major scale for the whole progression as you could over the first one I showed you, you'd find that the B in the C major scale would clash with the Bb in the Bb major chord.

We could extend this to a slightly more out-there progression as an example - G#m-C#-E-B-D. Let's look at the chord tones for all these - G#BD#, C#E#G# (C#FG#), EBG#, BD#F#, DF#A. These don't fit into any one scale, because all in all we use EFF#G#ABC#DD# - 10 notes out of 12. In this case you'd be best off concentrating on mostly just chord tones for all the chords.

If you're just playing in one key, then you can do pretty much anything, but if not then chord tones can really help. Even in one key, focusing on chord tones can really help you get a sense of what's going on.

Finally, if you play chord tones there is absolutely no chance of you hitting a bum note.

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