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Thread: Which scales to learn

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  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Question Which scales to learn

    Hey
    I'm busy making scale charts that I am currently memorizing. I was just wondering what scales you think I should have memorized. At the moment I have:

    - Major
    - Harmonic Minor
    - Whole Tone (an easy one ^_^)
    - Pentatonic
    - Blues
    - Diminished

    With regards to diminished scales, is just the normal diminished enough? I see there are others but I'm not sure how useful they'd be. Thanks for your time.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I just answered a similar question on another forum.
    http://www.guitarists.net/forum/view...9&thread=84855
    I did not mention Harmonic, melodic, diminished, or whole tone on the above site as I feel they should come after the ones I listed.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 05-09-2008 at 05:53 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    1.Major Scale
    This includes the following modes and pentatonics:
    Natural minor (aeolian)
    Mixolydian
    Dorian
    Lydian
    Phrygian
    Locrian
    Major pentatonic
    Minor pentatonic
    (Lydian, phrygian and locrian are the rarest modes, but have their uses; at least in jazz. Otherwise, you should get familiar with all these permutations of the major scale.)

    2. Blues
    = minor pentatonic plus #4/b5.

    3. Harmonic Minor
    5th mode, phrygian dominant, is lots of fun for Spanish/gypsy/neo-classical sounds. Generally, use of harmonic minor is limited to occasions when you want a pseudo-flamenco sound.

    4. Melodic Minor
    4th and 7th modes (known as "lydian dominant" and "altered") are very popular in jazz. One or two other modes also crop up.
    If you're not into jazz, tho - or not ready - you can do without this one.

    5. Diminished.
    Has 2 modes: Whole-half (used on dim7 chords) and half-whole (used on 7b9 chords). Again, not important until (unless) you get into jazz.

    6. Wholetone.
    Used on 7#5 chords. Rare outside jazz. (Not even very common inside jazz.)

    7. Harmonic major.
    Rarest of all, and some would say a sadly underused scale. Certainly not a necessary one (I've not had cause to use it in over 40 years playing), but interesting.

  4. #4
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    In practice I think the answer is that it depends on what sort of music you want to play.

    Technically the most important scale is definitely the Major Scale.

    That's because the Major Scale actually contains most of the other important scales. Eg all the major mode patterns are in fact just versions of the major scale patterns (exact same notes in exact same order in fact!). And the pentatonic scales are just versions of the major scale, with 2 notes taken out.

    However, if you want to play classic electric blues stuff, eg Clapton, SRV, Albert King etc., then personally I'd start with the five minor pentatonic patterns (the major pentatonic patterns are exactly the same, so you don't need to learn those as well).

    Once you've learnt the minor pentatonic patterns, it's easy to add a flat 5th to make the so-called Blues Scale, ie that's just adding one extra note.

    The pentatonic scales turn up a lot in almost all types of music, inc. metal, shred, rock, jazz, fusion etc. So they are not just for blues.

    But if you are really not interested in blues, and want to concentrate more on modern "rock", and perhaps progressing into fusion and jazzier styles, then you do need to learn the Major Scale patterns, and also learn how that produces all the modal patterns (they are all the same patterns, but you need to know why D-Dorian is the same as C-major, etc.).

    For the jazzier stuff, Melodic Minor and Half-whole Diminished are used a lot by players like Holdsworth.

    But when you say "memorise" all these scales, what do you actually mean?

    It's a tough job to memorise all possible patterns of all the common scales, in all keys and in all positions, and most people take a lifetime slowly doing that.

    Instead, I think a good way to "memorise" the patterns is to take one type of scale, say minor pentatonic, and just try playing along with a Jam Track or a Drum Machine, improvising with minor pentatonic in all positions, ie connecting the patterns up and down the neck. Then try the same thing in various different keys.

    When you're comfortable with that (may take years lol!), try it with the major scale patterns.

    Next, try different scale patterns over different chord types. Eg play major scale over the I-chord, but maybe try other scales over the ii-chord, IV-chord and V-chord etc. If you don't know what scales can be used over different chords, then a good deal of it is explained in Chris Juergensen's book (Infinite Guitar), and also demonstrated in detail on the excellent Scott Henderson DVD (Jazz-Rock Fusion).

    I also like the sound of Harmonic minor, eg in neo-classical rock styles (such as Malmsteen).

    The other thing to be aware of is the choice between 3-note-per-string scale patterns (ie "3nps"), typically used by shred players like Paul Gilbert, versus the more traditional patterns which have 2 notes on some strings. The 3nps patterns are better for shred stuff because it's easier to play very fast alternate picked scale runs with 3 notes on each string. On the other hand, 3nps requires much bigger stretches, which can be difficult & uncomfortable unless you have large hands.

    Last thing - scales aren't the only thing to use for soloing. You also need to remember all the main arpeggio patterns, in all positions and all keys. So that's the same amount of work as learning all the scales.

    So there's a lot to learn.

    But as I say - I think it's easier not to specifically attempt to "memorise" each pattern, but instead to jam/improvise against a drum machine (or similar) and just learn by constantly using all the scale patterns that way.

    All just my opinion of course, and JonR will correct me if I'm wrong (because he's an authority on this stuff, and I'm not).

    Ian.


  5. #5
    el jeffe
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    You can also look at it like this:
    the top 4 notes of the Major scale are G A B C
    the lower 4 notes are C D E F
    If you keep the root and the 5th the same, then you can lower the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, and raise the 4th. There are 32 combinations within. Check out what you like.

    For example, if you have a mixolydian top, then it's a lowered 7th. If you combine that with a lydian bottom, then you've got mix/lyd, otherwise known as Lydian Dominant, the 4th mode of the melodic minor scale. I don't think all of the combinations have specific names, but there are a ton of options you can check out.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by giggedy
    You can also look at it like this:
    the top 4 notes of the Major scale are G A B C
    the lower 4 notes are C D E F
    If you keep the root and the 5th the same, then you can lower the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, and raise the 4th. There are 32 combinations within. Check out what you like.

    For example, if you have a mixolydian top, then it's a lowered 7th. If you combine that with a lydian bottom, then you've got mix/lyd, otherwise known as Lydian Dominant, the 4th mode of the melodic minor scale. I don't think all of the combinations have specific names, but there are a ton of options you can check out.
    Giggidy, have you ever looked at this idea from the point of view of Tetrachords? With two basic (the Major and Minor) Tetrachords you can build practically all of the most common scales. Just those two will get you about halfway through the "32 combinations", then you can take it one step further and builr and build all kind of scales. Broke out this way they create some great improv areas too.

    Here's my 10 part series on creating scales based on Tetrachords: http://mikedodge.freeforums.org/tetr...-knew-t18.html

    It's an easy way to memorize two little things and cover A LOT of ground. Check it out.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malice-Mizer
    Hey
    I'm busy making scale charts that I am currently memorizing. I was just wondering what scales you think I should have memorized. At the moment I have:

    - Major
    - Harmonic Minor
    - Whole Tone (an easy one ^_^)
    - Pentatonic
    - Blues
    - Diminished

    With regards to diminished scales, is just the normal diminished enough? I see there are others but I'm not sure how useful they'd be. Thanks for your time.
    Your list is fine. Just be sure to learn the arpeggios/chords that go along with each and practice playing them starting on different scale degrees (i.e. modes but thinking of them as seperate entities isn't necessary). Practice making sequences etc. with those scales. Those are really the only scales you need. Natural minor should be practiced as a variation of harmonic minor.

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