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Thread: Minor Scales

  1. #1
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    Minor Scales

    I have just completed a chapter on minor scales. It covered relative minor scales, harmonic minor scales and melodic minor scales. I understand the basics in that I know how to count them out but what I would like to know is which scales should I try to learn first? My instrument is guitar. I have no idea when to use these various scales.

    I assume that the melodic and harmonic scales are for improvisation and do not have a key signature like the relative minor. Am I correct?

    Thanks so much for everyone's help.

    Wishing you the best,

    Gil

  2. #2
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    Key signatures for melodic minor and harmonic minor will be the same as natural minor for a given root, with accidentals used in the score to account for differences.

    I'd suggest reposting your question in the "Music Theory" section - as the most heavily trafficked subforum of this site (which, frankly, doesn't have a lot of active users) you're likely to get the most views/responses there.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by walternewton View Post
    Key signatures for melodic minor and harmonic minor will be the same as natural minor for a given root, with accidentals used in the score to account for differences.

    I'd suggest reposting your question in the "Music Theory" section - as the most heavily trafficked subforum of this site (which, frankly, doesn't have a lot of active users) you're likely to get the most views/responses there.
    Thanks Walter. I will do that.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilcarleton View Post
    .... what I would like to know is which scales should I try to learn first? My instrument is guitar. I have no idea when to use these various scales.
    I've recommended it here many times before, but get the DVD from Scott Henderson. Ie this one -

    http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/0711948/details.html
     
    That will show you in detail when, how and why to use all sorts of different scales, modes and arpeggios, with what are imho masses of beautiful improvised playing examples.

    That’s the short answer.

    Here is the longer answer …

    …. although more recently I have partly succumbed to the constant protestations from jazz musicians that it's better to play from chord tones (rather than from specific scales), and I now also practice with that idea quite a lot (see below re the two books from Garrison Fewell), I continue to rate that Scott Henderson DVD as strongly and fully as ever - it's the one single guitar instructional source of any kind that I really would pay ten times the asking price for ... and I mean that literally.

    Apart from the Henderson DVD, there are also two books by Frank Gambale which describe almost exactly the same method using all the same scales and arpeggios (http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/033414/details.html and http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/033352/details.html). Those books obviously have the advantage that they provide you with a printed copy of all the material, so you have that as a hard-copy reference to use and learn from. However, they cannot of course match a DVD in showing you clear close-up film of what Henderson is actually playing and explaining in person.

    The Henderson DVD also has the huge advantage that the entire second hour of that DVD is devoted to explaining how to phrase in a musical way using the various scales and arps. Ie he explains how to create musical phrases by various means of timing, rhythmic accents, passing tones etc. None of that is discussed in the books by Gambale.

    OK, so that is the strongest possible recommendation for the Henderson DVD - just get it, it will be the best money you ever spent on anything to do with learning guitar.

    Of course it goes without saying that you must at all costs avoid what I have found many people doing with a DVD like that, and simply watching it as a piece of film. That’s obviously no use at all. You have to use the DVD as a source of everyday practice and learning. IOW - you have to sit down with the DVD, with your guitar in hand, and with a stack of note paper and a pen to make TAB notes to transcribe and explain everything Henderson plays on the film. To that extent, re. transcribing it all on to paper, as I said above, the printed books by Gambale provide you with a ready printed hard copy of most of the material.

    On a wider note, just re. the traditional jazz approach of improvising from Chord Tones - I looked at a number of books that are frequently recommended on jazz guitar forums (jazzguitar.com and allaboutjazz.com) and frankly I found them all very poor indeed. However, the aforementioned books by Garrison Fewell are a notable exception - Fewell presents a logical and clearly defined method of improvising, not from any specific scales or arpeggios, but instead from Triad extensions of the I-chord in a typical jazz ii-V-I progression. In case that sounds limited - afaik, in jazz, most if not all chord progressions actually boil down to a version of ii-V-I.

    So the method which Fewell describes can be used in almost any jazz situation, and indeed can be used to improvise in any other genre such as rock, blues, and of course also in fusion (which is what I’m using it for).

    Fewells method (versions of which have also been described by others in the past) does not directly play from chord tones in the sense of requiring you to recognise by ear each specific passing chord. Instead, by playing triads from extensions of the tonic I-chord, what this method does is to automatically focus on the main tones from each chord in the progression. IOW it’s a systematic method to focus your playing more closely around the chord tones, but without the “Zen-like” need to recognise each passing chord directly.

    Because that method is based on the need for you to learn 6 or 7 triads in various positions all over instrument for each ii-V-I progression, it’s also forcing you to learn the fretboard really thoroughly in terms of notes, intervals and positions.

    To show how well that method works, Fewell explains that he has analysed the playing of most famous jazz guitarists inc. Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell and many others, and he found that they were in fact all playing from that triad approach.

    However, I should stress that whilst the material in Fewells books is not particularly complicated or hard to understand, I would not recommend that approach for beginners who do not already have a good grasp of the sort of scale and arpeggio ideas that Henderson teaches on his DVD. IOW - imho that sort of jazz chord tone approach is really only for more experienced players (or players who are specifically concentrating on traditional pure jazz) who want an alternative to the method of playing from specific scales, modes and arpeggios.

    Links to both books -

    http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/0155566/details.html

    http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/0711948/details.html
     
     

  5. #5
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Aeolian's v chord is minor but Harmonic minor's V chord is a Major chord or a Dominant Seventh chord (V7). Basically you play harmonic minor when your progression goes to the V or V7. Technically you would be playing the fifth mode of Harmonic minor which would be the Phrygian Dominant mode (also called Phrygian Major) and resolving to the i min chord. Or you can play harmonic minor of the i min chord that has a major seventh(1mMaj7). Those are the main two scales to worry about here with regards to Harmonic Minor modes. It's your neo-classical go to. Melodic Minor itself may be used as well here but it's less common and you could look up it's usage in this context. I'm no expert but this is the basic gist of it i think. I'm sure someone here could elaborate more on it.

    I would learn the melodic minor modes first and use them as their own modal scales in their own right. You can also look them up online and learn more of how or when they are used. There are more of them that are useful. The more the merrier I say. There's probably some good info on them at jazz guitar lesson sites.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

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