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Thread: Scales and how to improvise, basically.

  1. #16
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BiffyClyro View Post
    Hello again.

    I don't know if this is something easily done, but if I were to show you a small, simple riff, would you be able to tel me what scale is it based on and explain roughly how it was formed from that scale. I know everything is based on scales, but I don't understand how they come about..
    Probably take more than a small riff, but, go ahead. Ideally let us have 3 or 4 measures (12 to 16 notes) we should be able to do it from that.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 03-18-2011 at 10:47 PM.

  2. #17
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    RIFF 1

    A few more notes than requested but here it is:


    e]------------------------------------------------------|
    b]------10-11-10---------------------4-----------------|
    g]-10-11--------11-10-8-5-5-5--3-5-6---6-5-3p0-2-2-2-|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|
    a]------------------------------------------------------|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|


    RIFF 2

    Here is another one, the reason I'm posting it is because I'm wondering whether because there's a few parts where I'm playing two bits at a time that anythng changes in the writing process?

    e]--------------------------------------------------------------|
    b]------------------7p0-3-0--------14p0-10-0----------14p0-10-0-|
    g]----7----7----------------------------------------------------|
    d]----7----7----------------------------------------------------|
    a]-5-----5----7-7-7---------/14-14-----------14-14-14-----------| x2
    d]--------------------------------------------------------------|

  3. #18
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    OK let's see:


    e]------------------------------------------------------|
    b]------10-11-10---------------------4-----------------|
    g]-10-11--------11-10-8-5-5-5--3-5-6---6-5-3p0-2-2-2-|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|
    a]------------------------------------------------------|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|

    First thing I want to know is what notes are those so I transposed them from tab to the note names and found that we have.
    F, F#, A, A#, A, F#, F, D#, C, C, C, A#, C, D#, C#, C#, C, A#, A, A, A

    I notice there are a bunch of sharps so I looked at them to see if they would tell me anything. F#, C#, D#, A# OK all of those sharps are found in the B Scale.

    B Scale = B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#
    But, you do not have a B note in any of that. So I kept looking because I wanted to find a tonic (B) note in there somewhere to verify B as the scale. One thing we look for is the tonal center and B would have verified that.

    Next thing that crossed my mind - you do not normally find duplication of intervals, i.e. F and F# used in the same scale - and we have a lot of that here. That tipped me to thinking this was not going to fit any specific scale.

    Next thing I looked at is we have a lot of chromatic movement from the natural note to the sharped note of that natural, so I looked at the natural notes, discounting the movement to the sharped note and found......

    We have a lot of F, A, C notes and as the F-A-C notes are the 1-3-5 (important) notes of the F chord, in fact it's chord spelling. I think that riff is just an improvisation of F chord notes. In other words it does not fit into any specific scale. Just something played over the F chord. We do that quite a lot, i.e. base our improv on the chord's tones. A thought un-loosened - and I went back and checked - what are the first several notes of this riff? Yep, F-A-C. Now the other guys may see something I've missed.

    So --- you need a handy dandy scale chart to help with that other riff. Yep, see what you can come up with. Here is a scale chart.

    Major Scale Chart
    C D E F G A B...............Notice the C scale has no Sharps
    G A B C D E F#.............and the G scale has one, the F#
    D E F# G A B C#...........and the D scale keeps the F# and
    A B C# D E F# G#.........adds the C#. Then the A scale keeps
    E F# G# A B C# D#.......everything and adds the G#. See how
    B C# D# E F# G# A#.....it builds on it's self.
    F# G# A# B C# D# E#
    C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
    F G A Bb C D E.............Look what happens with the flat scales
    Bb C D Eb F G A...........F has one the Bb, then the Bb scale keeps
    Eb F G Ab Bb C D.........it's self and adds the the Eb. Same thing
    Ab Bb C Db Eb F G.......the sharp scales did...
    Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
    Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F
    Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb
    Memory pegs:
    See God Destroy All Earth By F#irey C#haos. Order of the scales with sharps.
    Fat cats go down alleys eating birds. Order of the sharps.
    Farmer brown eats apple dumplings greasily cooked. Order of the scales with flats.
    The key signature is showing three sharps. What scale has three sharps? C has none, G has one, D has two, A has three. Which sharps? Fat = F#, Cat = C# and Go = G# so the A major scale has three sharps, F#, C# and G#.

    Natural Minor Scale Chart
    A B C D E F G ................Notice how the 6th column of the
    E F# G A B C D................Major scale becomes the 1st column
    B C# D E F# G A..............in the minor scale and how the 7th
    F# G# A B C# D E............column of the Major scale is now the
    C# D# E F# G# A B..........2nd column in the minor scale. And
    G# A# B C# D# E F#........yep, the 1st column in the Major scale
    D# E# F# G# A# B C#......is now the 3rd column, etc. etc.
    A# B# C# D# E# F# G#....Ask your self why? Hint, think relative minor.
    D E F G A Bb C
    G A Bb C D Eb F
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb
    F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
    Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db
    Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb

    This may come in handy. http://www.smithfowler.org/music/Chord_Formulas.htm

    Your question on the two 7's over each other. That is a root-5 (D-A) pinch or pull off, done quite a lot. Pinch each of them and pull up - for one sound.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 03-19-2011 at 01:22 PM.

  4. #19
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BiffyClyro View Post
    RIFF 1

    A few more notes than requested but here it is:


    e]------------------------------------------------------|
    b]------10-11-10---------------------4-----------------|
    g]-10-11--------11-10-8-5-5-5--3-5-6---6-5-3p0-2-2-2-|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|
    a]------------------------------------------------------|
    d]------------------------------------------------------|
    Malcom's identified sharps, but IMO it makes more sense to look at the flats. The idea is to try and find a scale where all the note letters are used only once. (In B major, we already have an F#, and there is no F.)

    In that light, the notes come out as follows:

    Code:
    e]----------------------------------------------------------|
    b]-------10-11-10------------------------4-----------------|
    g]-10-11----------11-10-8-5-5-5--3-5-6------6-5-3p0--2-2-2-|
    d]----------------------------------------------------------|
    a]----------------------------------------------------------|
    d]----------------------------------------------------------|
       F Gb  A  Bb  A Gb F Eb C C C Bb C Db Eb Db C Bb G A A A
    There's still the issue of the G and Gb. But - ignoring the G - all these notes fit the Bb harmonic minor scale (Bb C Db Eb F Gb A). And the G could be explained as the major 6th, which you find in Bb melodic minor, or Bb dorian.

    For comparison, the Bb natural minor scale is Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab. That's the same notes as Db major (relative major). Harmonic minor raises the 7th of the scale (Ab to A in this case) in order to make a stronger resolution to the tonic (Bb). But that doesn't seem to be happening here (you're not ending your line on Bb).
    As well as raising the 7th, the minor key can also raise the 6th to make melodic minor (Gb to G in this key). Classically, that only happens when the scale is moving upwards (F G A Bb); coming down, the 6 and 7 would be flattened again (Bb Ab Gb F). But that's just a classical convention (and a simplification of actual classical practice in any case). In jazz, eg, melodic minor (raised 6 and 7) is used in both directions; and of course you can use any combination of 6 and 7 that you like.

    A few additional points:

    1. Which note (if any) sounds like the root to you? If it's a note other than Bb, then it could be a mode of that scale. Eg, a common favourite mode of harmonic minor is the 5th, known as "phrygian dominant" - this gives a flamenco sound, and is popular with neo-classical players such as Yngwie Malmsteen. If this is what's happening with your line, the keynote would need to be F. And although you start on F, it's not clear that you're hearing F as the keynote. (There's no F at all in the latter part of the line.)

    2. Is there a chord, or chords, that you are playing this over, or that you are linking to this line? (BTW, it's not a "riff". A riff is something a lot shorter and simpler than this, that has a strong rhythm and is repeated. You could call this a "lick", although again a lick is usually shorter.)
    Try playing the line over a Bbm chord, or maybe an F7, and see how it sounds. Also try playing a Bb at the end, to put a "period" on the "sentence".
    If you play the whole line over an F7 chord, that will make it sound like F phrygian dominant. Play it over a Bbm chord, it's just a Bb harmonic minor sound.

    3. Keys can change in the course of a piece (modulation). I don't think that's happening here because the notes seem consistent with Bb minor all the way.
    It's also possible that a single key scale can have passing chromatic notes inserted. So sometimes just spelling a riff or phrase out in its entirety doesn't give you a simple 7-note scale. You sometimes need to take an average - assess what the most commonly-used variant of one note is (eg Gb or G in the above line) - and also make a judgement about which note sounds like a keynote. (The latter is perhaps the most important clue as to what the scale is.)

    Quote Originally Posted by BiffyClyro View Post
    RIFF 2

    Here is another one, the reason I'm posting it is because I'm wondering whether because there's a few parts where I'm playing two bits at a time that anythng changes in the writing process?
    It shouldn't, but let's spell the notes out again:


    Code:
    e]---------------------------------------------------------------------|
    b]----------------------7p0-3-0----------14p0-10-0----------14p0-10-0-|
    g]-----7-----7---------------------------------------------------------|
    d]-----7-----7--------------------------------------------------------|
    a]-5-------5------7-7-7-----------/14-14-----------14-14-14-----------| x2
    d]--------------------------------------------------------------
        D  D/A D D/A  E E E F# B D B   B  B   C# B A B  B  B  B  C# B A B
    This is clearly the D major scale (D E F# G A B C#), although the strong emphasis on B in the second half suggests you're thinking B minor (relative minor, same notes with B as keynote).
    The simultaneous notes at the beginning are just a D power chord. (I've only written "D/A" because it's easier than writing A below D.)

    It looks to me as if the chords would be D at the beginning, and Bm starting at the "7p0" on 2nd string.
    The repeated E note in between could be harmonised with an A or Em chord.
    The C# note later on is not part of a Bm triad, but would work as the 9th of the chord. Likewise the A would be the 7th.
    Last edited by JonR; 03-19-2011 at 01:59 PM.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Malcom's identified sharps, but IMO it makes more sense to look at the flats. The idea is to try and find a scale where all the note letters are used only once. (In B major, we already have an F#, and there is no F.)

    In that light, the notes come out as follows:

    Code:
    e]----------------------------------------------------------|
    b]-------10-11-10------------------------4-----------------|
    g]-10-11----------11-10-8-5-5-5--3-5-6------6-5-3p0--2-2-2-|
    d]----------------------------------------------------------|
    a]----------------------------------------------------------|
    d]----------------------------------------------------------|
       F Gb  A  Bb  A Gb F Eb C C C Bb C Db Eb Db C Bb G A A A
    There's still the issue of the G and Gb. But - ignoring the G - all these notes fit the Bb harmonic minor scale (Bb C Db Eb F Gb A). And the G could be explained as the major 6th, which you find in Bb melodic minor, or Bb dorian.

    For comparison, the Bb natural minor scale is Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab. That's the same notes as Db major (relative major). Harmonic minor raises the 7th of the scale (Ab to A in this case) in order to make a stronger resolution to the tonic (Bb). But that doesn't seem to be happening here (you're not ending your line on Bb).
    As well as raising the 7th, the minor key can also raise the 6th to make melodic minor (Gb to G in this key). Classically, that only happens when the scale is moving upwards (F G A Bb); coming down, the 6 and 7 would be flattened again (Bb Ab Gb F). But that's just a classical convention (and a simplification of actual classical practice in any case). In jazz, eg, melodic minor (raised 6 and 7) is used in both directions; and of course you can use any combination of 6 and 7 that you like.

    A few additional points:

    1. Which note (if any) sounds like the root to you? If it's a note other than Bb, then it could be a mode of that scale. Eg, a common favourite mode of harmonic minor is the 5th, known as "phrygian dominant" - this gives a flamenco sound, and is popular with neo-classical players such as Yngwie Malmsteen. If this is what's happening with your line, the keynote would need to be F. And although you start on F, it's not clear that you're hearing F as the keynote. (There's no F at all in the latter part of the line.)

    2. Is there a chord, or chords, that you are playing this over, or that you are linking to this line? (BTW, it's not a "riff". A riff is something a lot shorter and simpler than this, that has a strong rhythm and is repeated. You could call this a "lick", although again a lick is usually shorter.)
    Try playing the line over a Bbm chord, or maybe an F7, and see how it sounds. Also try playing a Bb at the end, to put a "period" on the "sentence".
    If you play the whole line over an F7 chord, that will make it sound like F phrygian dominant. Play it over a Bbm chord, it's just a Bb harmonic minor sound.

    3. Keys can change in the course of a piece (modulation). I don't think that's happening here because the notes seem consistent with Bb minor all the way.
    It's also possible that a single key scale can have passing chromatic notes inserted. So sometimes just spelling a riff or phrase out in its entirety doesn't give you a simple 7-note scale. You sometimes need to take an average - assess what the most commonly-used variant of one note is (eg Gb or G in the above line) - and also make a judgement about which note sounds like a keynote. (The latter is perhaps the most important clue as to what the scale is.)

    It shouldn't, but let's spell the notes out again:


    Code:
    e]---------------------------------------------------------------------|
    b]----------------------7p0-3-0----------14p0-10-0----------14p0-10-0-|
    g]-----7-----7---------------------------------------------------------|
    d]-----7-----7--------------------------------------------------------|
    a]-5-------5------7-7-7-----------/14-14-----------14-14-14-----------| x2
    d]--------------------------------------------------------------
        D  D/A D D/A  E E E F# B D B   B  B   C# B A B  B  B  B  C# B A B
    This is clearly the D major scale (D E F# G A B C#), although the strong emphasis on B in the second half suggests you're thinking B minor (relative minor, same notes with B as keynote).
    The simultaneous notes at the beginning are just a D power chord. (I've only written "D/A" because it's easier than writing A below D.)

    It looks to me as if the chords would be D at the beginning, and Bm starting at the "7p0" on 2nd string.
    The repeated E note in between could be harmonised with an A or Em chord.
    The C# note later on is not part of a Bm triad, but would work as the 9th of the chord. Likewise the A would be the 7th.
    What I don't understand is when you say things like: ''the Bb natural minor scale is Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab.''

    http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/gui...2=Get&choice=1

    That's what I use for scales. That shows the scale you mentioned? I don't understand where you get those 6 notes from?

  6. #21
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    Forget about those online scale/chord generators, you want to learn to how to construct the scales (first major, then minor) for yourself...there is tons of info on this site, and on the web in general, working through the lessons on this site in order is a good place to start:

    http://www.musictheory.net/lessons

  7. #22
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BiffyClyro View Post
    What I don't understand is when you say things like: ''the Bb natural minor scale is Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab.''

    http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/gui...2=Get&choice=1

    That's what I use for scales. That shows the scale you mentioned? I don't understand where you get those 6 notes from?
    Natural minor is also known as Aeolian mode, if that helps:
    http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/gui...t&t=0&choice=1
    That site only shows sharps, which means the scale is spelled incorrectly.
    A# minor scale should be: A# B# C# D# E# F# G# (note E#, not F)
    If spelled as Bb minor, it would be: Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab.
    As you can see,this is simpler because it only has 5 flats, where A# minor has 7 sharps.
    (Scale sites like that one frequently offer only one enharmonic option, usually sharps. The software, or its algorithms, can't - it seems - make the necessary adjustments to give enharmonically correct scales.)

    The important rule here is "one of each note letter, and only one".
    It doesn't matter in practice, of course, because "E#" is exactly the same sound as F. But getting the right enharmonic is important for understanding theory, and for writing in standard notation (so each note appears on a different line or space).

    Here's the scale in half-steps, compared with A aeolian (natural minor):
    Code:
    A aeolian or natural minor
    |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
    A     B  C     D     E  F     G     A
    Bb/A# aeolian or natural minor
       1     2  b3    4     5  b6    b7    1
    |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
       Bb    C  Db    Eb    F  Gb    Ab    Bb
       A#    B# C#    D#    E# F#    G#    A#
    It might seem crazy to call C "B#" and F "E#", but that's what we have to do if we call the scale "A# minor", to preserve the "1-of-each-note" rule. It would be worse when we go to harmonic or melodic minor: G# would become "Gx" (G double sharp), and F# would become Fx.
    Much better to look at it as Bb minor!

    BTW, here's the scale you were using:
    http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/gui...t&t=0&choice=1
    - with the sole exception of your G natural on open 3rd string. (again, all the sharps should be read as flat versions of the note above.)
    Last edited by JonR; 03-19-2011 at 06:01 PM.

  8. #23
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    Hey Guys,

    I don't know how possible this is, but could I post a song and you guys were to analyse it and break it down and try and give me an understanding of how the song could of came about and how the different parts link to each other.

    Also, if it is possible, can you use as simple terms as possible as I am a complete Music Theory noob.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by BiffyClyro View Post
    Hey Guys,

    I don't know how possible this is, but could I post a song and you guys were to analyse it and break it down and try and give me an understanding of how the song could of came about and how the different parts link to each other.

    Also, if it is possible, can you use as simple terms as possible as I am a complete Music Theory noob.
    Sure go ahead...maybe consider starting a seperate thread for it.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by walternewton View Post
    Sure go ahead...maybe consider starting a seperate thread for it.
    Sure, keep an eye out for it on this section of the forum.

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