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How to use the scales?


(@clau20)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 351
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Hi again, I have another question for our great guitar player

I learned 2 scales, Pentatonic E Minor and Pentatonic D Minor (sorry if I mispelled it, not sure about the word)

I can do them up and down, but don't really know where to start to improvise something that'll sound good...

I also have some difficulties to remember where are all the notes from the scales all over the neck. One by one I have no problem, but when I try to mixed them, I often hit a wrong note

Do you have some trick for me?

Thanks again!

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "


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(@corbind)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1744
 

I'm not a lead player so toss my advice if wanted. "I can do them up and down, but don't really know where to start to improvise something that'll sound good... " If you know the patters you can hit any of those notes (hopefully out of order the way you practice them) you should be cool.

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


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(@combs)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 30
 

I am a little in the same boat. I have been a good lad and have been practising the guitar friendly scales CGDAE in first position. I can get the notes in sequence and I can even read most of them in standard notation (I have a little trouble once I drop below C5 and those dreaded leger lines). I can play the scale backwards and forwards. If you asked me to play the A's for instance, I would have to think about it for a moment though.

I have tried calling the notes as I am playing them through and I think this is helping. It is gradually comming, but is going to take some time. There must be a better way to do it though.

If it sight read for instance, I can without too much hesitation put the finger in the right spot, but ask me what note I just played and I have to convert it again to a name. It should really be seamless. I should see a note on the staff as B and my finger should go to the right spot.

Doing scales while reading notation is a no brainer though. I am not working the notes, but just following the pattern, which is teaching me nothing.

I am wondering if I should get some completely randomly generated notes from the scale, notate them and then play them - while calling the note name. Should cover learning the notes in the scale, playing from notation and learning which notes is where by name.

Any thoughts?


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Randomly generated notes are excellent for improving sight reading, because they're random - your ear can't anticipate where you're supposed to go next. And sight readng does make you pretty good at knowing which notes are in a specific key (or key signature). But it won't do much for your soloing ability.

Solos are made of scales, but kind of the same way houses are made of trees - if you took the whole thing apart and organized the pieces, it's easy to see the scale or the pile of lumber. But that doesn't mean you should study forestry to become a good architect!

Architecture is about space, and melody is about intervals. Trees and scales just happen to be the raw materials. What you really want to work on is how those materials can be used in different combinations, rather than the materials by themselves.

Start by learning the scale up and down, because that's how you understand what materials you have to work with - but once you understand it, you're ready to move on.

Once your fingers can play a scale up and down, play little bits of scale... three or four note runs. Start them from different notes, and get to know how those bits behave over different chords in the key.

Next, play arpeggios. Solos tend to focus on chord tones, so you want to know where those are for any given chord.

Then put the two together - do a bit of scale up, then an arpeggio down (and vice versa), landing on different chord tones. What you're trying to do is get your ear to anticipate the sound of different notes over chords, and get your fingers used to the ways to move between notes in the key.

Now learn to breathe. Study lines of wind instruments and vocals - they'll tend to move in steps (scale bits) or skips (arpeggio bits) until the performer needs to take a breath. After the breath, you can start a new bit of a line from somewhere else, taking a bigger jump - most beginning soloists jump around too much! Put the jumps only where the breaths go, and your solos will automatically sound better.

Fianlly, change your thinking about wrong notes. They're not wrong - they're just not scale tones. Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk once said "If a note ain't right when I start with it, it's right when I'm done with it." These 'mistakes' are really opportunities to do something fresh with the melody. In order to do that, you have to develop one more skill: listening to yourself while you play. If you listen critically while you practice and perform, you can't help but improve - you'll notice what works and what doesn't, and you'll figure out why. And best of all, you'll be getting better at sounding like you - the ultimate goal of soloing.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Ok, you are learning the minor pentatonic. It is a great scale because: it is easy and you have a lot of rock and blues (adding the "blue note") for playing. You don't mention if you can play them in whole the fretboard. You know there are several positions or patterns for each part of the fretboard and scale. If not, try to learn the five patterns. Practice the a pattern and when you get it, practice the next one. Go slowly.

You said you already know the E and D scales. Really you know all the scales. The E is "sligthly rare" because you can use the notes in the open strings. But really you know all the scales. For example, if you go up a fret with your E scale, you will be in the F scale ("go up" in the sound, move your fretting hand towards the guitar's body).

Usually it is also recommended "to name" the notes while you are playing them. For example, for the E scale: E, G, A, B, D. Thus you associate the notes and sounds and also the position on the fretboard.

Finally, you ask about the use and improvisation. I think it will come with the own use and practice. Try to learn some solos which use pentatonic scales (you are also asking for solos in another thread). The blues is a good way to go. Alot of blues use minor pentatonic. For rock, Led Zep's Stairway to heaven is a good example. No so easy but you can play it. Santana's Europe is a another example. You play a whole minor pentatonic in the initial phrases. Knopfler's Local Hero is also very easy and very nice. You will see you will play notes in the scale and notes out of the scale. Usually the second group are notes present in the chord which is sounding.


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(@frank2121)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 269
 

Once your fingers can play a scale up and down, play little bits of scale... three or four note runs. Start them from different notes, and get to know how those bits behave over different chords in the key.

Next, play arpeggios. Solos tend to focus on chord tones, so you want to know where those are for any given chord.Then put the two together - do a bit of scale up, then an arpeggio down (and vice versa), landing on different chord tones. What you're trying to do is get your ear to anticipate the sound of different notes over chords, and get your fingers used to the ways to move between notes in the key.

.

fantastic analogie .. could you give a example about what you mean? is what your saying, if your playing a C then i should solo with G E C notes , then play the C chord and on to the next chord like Am....sorry iam a little lost excatly what to do

great question clau..


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(@clau20)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 351
Topic starter  

Thanks all for your advice! :)

Ok, you are learning the minor pentatonic. It is a great scale because: it is easy and you have a lot of rock and blues (adding the "blue note") for playing. You don't mention if you can play them in whole the fretboard. You know there are several positions or patterns for each part of the fretboard and scale. If not, try to learn the five patterns. Practice the a pattern and when you get it, practice the next one. Go slowly.

Yeah I can play them in the whole fretboard.

I noticed that the scales patern of E and D are almost the same, am I right?

My guitar teacher said something about that, I can't remember exactly. Something like when you play the E scale starting on the 12 fret, this pattern is the same when you play the A scales, starting on the 5th fret

So, the pattern are the same for all scales but they are just starting on different fret depending on which scales you play?

Another question about the scales, if I'm right about what I've just said... Are the pattern always followed the same order for each scales?

Don't know if you understand my question ... Not easy to translate that in english

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "


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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

Then put the two together - do a bit of scale up, then an arpeggio down (and vice versa), landing on different chord tones. What you're trying to do is get your ear to anticipate the sound of different notes over chords, and get your fingers used to the ways to move between notes in the key.

.

fantastic analogie .. could you give a example about what you mean? is what your saying, if your playing a C then i should solo with G E C notes , then play the C chord and on to the next chord like Am....sorry iam a little lost excatly what to do

great question clau..
Ok, say you're playing a C7 chord. Start on a chord tone -- any chord tone, and C, E, G or Bb and play up the scale for 2 beats using eighth notes -- so say you choose Bb, you'd play Bb, C, D, E, now you want to go back down on an arpeggio, so you'd go C Bb G E back down.

But remember this is just an exercise. You can do this stuff in a solo (lots of guys do and it sounds good) but the intent is to learn how the scalar notes and chord tones work together. It's bringing melody and harmony together.

Another exercise I like to get folks to do is to just think up a melodic line -- and hum it. Now pick a key and play what you just sang in that key. You'll often find that you'll have non-scale notes. That's ok -- it means you understand that melody need not be constrained by key and chord. But you will find that the melody needs to support the harmony at key points or it all sounds wrong.

If you play something under a C chord and you never once hit a C, E, or G note, it might sound a bit off. But at the same time, if you never leave the C scale, that will sound a bit off as well.

Back to Noteboat's architecture analogy -- You can make a perfectly functioning house that is perfectly square, filled with square rooms, and straight walls. But what a boring and actually ugly house it would be! Good architecture gives you unexpected surprises -- nooks and crannies and alcoves and setouts with different sized rooms and different proportions so that the person is drawn into and engaged in the space.

In the same way with music, solos that stick strictly to chord scale tones tend to sound cardboard and uninteresting after a bit. Doing that is a great way to build up confidence in the listener that they know where they are in the song, but once you have an established base, you have to surprise them, or you'll lose their attention.

So start with these (and other) exercises, but don't fall into the trap of trying to solo "by the rules." Instead, you have to let your ear guide you, and if your ear tells you that this solo under a C major really needs an Gb at this particular point . . then follow your ear and forget the rules.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Clau20

Yes, there are 5 positions or "boxes" in the Pentatonic Scale. Here are the 5 positions for the G Minor Pentatonic:

Now if you want to play in A, you simply shift each box up one whole step (two frets) on your guitar. Easy.

So the 1st postion is at the 3rd fret in G, 5th fret in A, 7th fret in B, 8th fret in C (no flat or sharp between these notes), 10th fret for D, 12th fret (and open) for E.

If you look at each box you will see it is just the same 5 notes over and over.

Now, wanna know something really cool and easy? To play the Major Pentatonic, you just move down (toward the headstock) 3 frets. Easy. :D

So, if the A Minor Pentatonic Scale 1st position is at the 5th fret, the A Major Pentatonic Scale 1st postion is at the 2nd fret.

Learn each box. The 1st, 2nd, and 4th positions are the most widely used because they are very easy to fret.

As for how to play solos, start listening to very easy solos and try to copy them. This will develop a good ear. You will start to recognize certain licks as soon as you hear them.

Go back and listen to the Blues, this is where modern guitar came from. Find stuff like this that you can hear and follow and copy. Stuff like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtm66Z3lebc

Man, that is some great guitar. But it is slow enough to follow along. And you can learn a lot of technique by watching the Masters like B.B. King. I learned how to vibrate my wrist for vibrato from watching BB King. Learn this one solo and you will be pretty darn good.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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I noticed that the scales patern of E and D are almost the same, am I right?

My guitar teacher said something about that, I can't remember exactly. Something like when you play the E scale starting on the 12 fret, this pattern is the same when you play the A scales, starting on the 5th fret

The patterns? Yes, there are 5 patterns. There was a post... Ok, I found this tool (it is made for a GN member).

http://chordsandscales.co.uk/tools/pentatonic_scale_tool.html

Select the "Box 1", i.e. the pattern 1. You will recognize the pattern. Then, select "Minor root". The "yellow dots" show where the root note are located. If you play the 12th fret, 6th string, you have an E (or if you play it opens): it is a E minor pentatonic scale. If you play the 5th fret, 6th string, you have an A: it is an A minor pentatonic scale. What will occur if you play it on the 3th fret, 6th string?
So, the pattern are the same for all scales but they are just starting on different fret depending on which scales you play?
Correct! :D

Now select the "Box 2". Where is the root note now?

The patterns are always the same. In fact they only give a way to play the notes with your four fingers in a more or less comfortable way. When you are playing you use several patterns. You can go for the #1 to the #2 to the... The important is where the notes are over the fretboard, the patterns is a way to learn them.
Another question about the scales, if I'm right about what I've just said... Are the pattern always followed the same order for each scales?

Don't know if you understand my question ... Not easy to translate that in english
Don't worry, I'm Spanish!

But I don't understand the question! :(

The minor pentatonic scale (as all the scales) is defined by different intervals between the notes. The pattern 1 "is connected" to the pattern 2. The #2 to the #3... and the #5 to the #1 again! Every pattern shares a "row" with the next one and with the previous one. Select a root note, the patterns will tell you where the other notes are in the fretboard.

Does it answer your question? :D

PS. Sorry if I didn't use the correct terms sometimes. Perhaps one of our teachers or more experienced members can explain it more "academically".


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 15 years ago
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I'm so slow!

Wes explained the same while I was writting. In fact Wes explained it in the post I was looking for and with that picture.


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(@clau20)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 351
Topic starter  

Thanks again for your help Wes, Nuno and KingPatzer!

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "


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(@kevin72790)
Prominent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 840
 

Clau20

Yes, there are 5 positions or "boxes" in the Pentatonic Scale. Here are the 5 positions for the G Minor Pentatonic:

Now if you want to play in A, you simply shift each box up one whole step (two frets) on your guitar. Easy.

So the 1st postion is at the 3rd fret in G, 5th fret in A, 7th fret in B, 8th fret in C (no flat or sharp between these notes), 10th fret for D, 12th fret (and open) for E.

If you look at each box you will see it is just the same 5 notes over and over.

Now, wanna know something really cool and easy? To play the Major Pentatonic, you just move down (toward the headstock) 3 frets. Easy. :D

So, if the A Minor Pentatonic Scale 1st position is at the 5th fret, the A Major Pentatonic Scale 1st postion is at the 2nd fret.

Learn each box. The 1st, 2nd, and 4th positions are the most widely used because they are very easy to fret.

As for how to play solos, start listening to very easy solos and try to copy them. This will develop a good ear. You will start to recognize certain licks as soon as you hear them.

Go back and listen to the Blues, this is where modern guitar came from. Find stuff like this that you can hear and follow and copy. Stuff like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtm66Z3lebc

Man, that is some great guitar. But it is slow enough to follow along. And you can learn a lot of technique by watching the Masters like B.B. King. I learned how to vibrate my wrist for vibrato from watching BB King. Learn this one solo and you will be pretty darn good.
Wow great post Wes. I hope that post helps Clau just as much as it's already helped me in the ten minutes since I read it, lol.

And yea guys like Jimi, SRV, BB and Albert taught me that too. Vibrate the wrist, not just the fingers. ;) I just wish my other skills would catch up with me. But don't we all?


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