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Scales over chords?

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(@clazon)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 502
Topic starter  

Unfortunately I still don't understand which scales to use over which chords.

Just from a bacis perspective, I would have thought an A minor pent would work well over progs in Am or C.

Is that right?

If so can I use E minor pent for G/Em and B minor pent for D/Bm?

"Today is what it means to be young..."

(Radiohead, RHCP, Jimi Hendrix - the big 3)


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

Well, sorta. Em pentatonic uses the same notes as C-penta, so over both keys you can use those scales. However, for blues/rock you usually take the minor pentatonic of the key you're in. So in Am you'll play in Am-penta and in C you'll be playing in C-minor penta.

For the rest it isn't about scales anyway. What matters is if a note sounds good at that time over that specific chord. Whether or not a note belongs to 'the right scale' doesn't really matter much.

The best thing you can do is get some backings (and yes, blues is the best way to start) and start improvising in minor pentatonic. Then try some other notes over each chord and see how you like it. Whistle a melody along and then try to play that melody. Scales should be used afterwards to analyze a piece, not as a primary guidance to which notes to pick.

Just my 2c. (Euro cents, so not the measely dollar cents some others here give)


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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I take a different approach than Sleutelbos, but it's sort of an all-roads-lead-to-Rome sort of thing.

My view is that scales and chords are intimately related, and the first step to being able to effectively solo is to be able to hit chord and melody tones.

I wrote out my "12-step program" in this thread.

The advantage of spending the time learning chord tones and how to use them is that you will develop your ear so when you get to step 12 you'll be able to hear what goes well and what doesn't.

When it comes to "what scales go with what chords" I distance myself from the typical crowd. In my view you really only need to worry about the major scale and alterations to that scale (for example a C7b5 obviously has a b5!).

For minor chords, I just use the minor chord harmonized on the relative major scale of the tune. So if I'm playing a Cm, I'll use the Eb Major scale harmonized on the C. It's modes in reverse :)

At some point you'll want to actually learn the 3 most important minor scales (natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor) the whole tone scales, the diminished scales, the pentatonic scales and maybe a few others. But when it comes to learning how to effectively solo, literally everything can be put in terms of modifications to the major scale.

"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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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

When it comes to "what scales go with what chords" I distance myself from the typical crowd. In my view you really only need to worry about the major scale and alterations to that scale (for example a C7b5 obviously has a b5!).

What matters is if a note sounds good at that time over that specific chord. Whether or not a note belongs to 'the right scale' doesn't really matter much.

Aren't we both saying that it's more important to focus on the chord itself and what notes sound good then on any global scales? So that when you run into a non-diatonic chord you will decide your choice of notes based on that chord, and not on the scale that might conflict?


   
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(@slejhamer)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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Yes, follow the chord tones as both gents are saying.

KP: That 12-step writeup is great! You should do a full-blown article for the GN main page. :)

"Everybody got to elevate from the norm."


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Aren't we both saying that it's more important to focus on the chord itself and what notes sound good then on any global scales? So that when you run into a non-diatonic chord you will decide your choice of notes based on that chord, and not on the scale that might conflict?

I think we are, though I think we get there by different routes.

For me, I do worry about the underlying major scale, you seem to be saying "don't worry about them."

"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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(@clazon)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 502
Topic starter  

Improv is so much easier if I know for sure that that note will sound ok over the chord.

So it's nice to have the fail safe that if I want to go up, I know I have to go up a half step/etc.

"Today is what it means to be young..."

(Radiohead, RHCP, Jimi Hendrix - the big 3)


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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Improv is so much easier if I know for sure that that note will sound ok over the chord.

So it's nice to have the fail safe that if I want to go up, I know I have to go up a half step/etc.

I think this statement, while true, is indicative of an underlying perception about what improv'ing is with which I completely disagree.

Improvisation isn't playing notes that just happen to not sound bad.

Improvisation is imagining a melodic idea, or theme, and expressing that idea 'on the fly.' You should know your idea will sound good not because the notes come from the right scale, but because you've already heard the idea in your head, and it's the idea you want to express.

Listen to some really good jazz masters trading fours . . . you'll hear one express a melodic theme, the next guy will take that theme and turn it upside down, or play it a third higher, or alter the rhythm, but they'll do something with the idea, then hand it back and the next guy takes it and plays with the idea even more, and on and on.

Scales give you the building blocks, but improvisation is about what you do with the building blocks . . . and it must be more than randomly stacking them up and hoping it doesn't fall apart 'cause none of the notes are "wrong."

Sometimes the very best solo's are all highlighting the "wrong" notes.

"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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(@dneck)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 630
 

You should know your idea will sound good not because the notes come from the right scale, but because you've already heard the idea in your head, and it's the idea you want to express. That is the best advise you'll ever get improv is "spontaneous composition" I like to look at it like every time you hit a note you have a decision to make you can either stay on the note your currently on (not obvious at the beginning especially if the chord changes) or move to the 11 other notes. And 6 of those 11 other notes happen to form what people have come to call "the major scale" which is a good place to start learning how to write melodies. And because everything is relative to the note you base the song or part of a song around, they call that first note the "tonic" And you can move any of those other 6 notes of the major scale in any direction where there is not already a note in your scale, or you can omit ANY of those notes. And if you move the tonic well then just move all the other notes too. When you think about the notes as intervals, you'll start to be able to just know that the next sound you want is "a perfect fourth" away or whatever you want to call it in your head, it is really arbitrary.

"And above all, respond to all questions regarding a given song's tonal orientation in the following manner: Hell, it don't matter just kick it off!"
-Chris Thile


   
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(@clazon)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Topic starter  

My point was that I frequently come up with melodies in my head and have no idea of how to express them, but I'd imagine 9 times out of 10 they're in a fairly standard scale. Hence why I said, if I "hear" a higher note, I know I'll have to bend it up a half step etc.

"Today is what it means to be young..."

(Radiohead, RHCP, Jimi Hendrix - the big 3)


   
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(@jimmy-hudson)
New Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1
 

Scales are chords, and chords are scales.

You have to play the changes. See if your chord says major, you are more than welcome to play any arpeggio or scale that says major as long as your 3 and your 5 are not changed. So there are 12 notes in music use whatever you want just resolve it correctly and you will be ok. You can only be one half step off at any point in time. Just keep your 3 and five over any chord and you will have a whole new realm of music open to you.

Remember if it sounds good it is good, no explanation is needed. If it sounds bad, you can be as theoritically correct as possible, but it's bad. Play first explain later, but over all play the changes.

Good Luck,

Jimmy Hudson


   
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(@jminor)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 168
 

Improvisation isn't playing notes that just happen to not sound bad.

Well Put :)

Insert random quote here


   
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