Blues Mode Mixture (Major/Minor) Theory Questions/Discussion

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by RPtele64, Jun 9, 2021 at 3:02 PM.

  1. RPtele64

    RPtele64 TDPRI Member

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    For playing blues (my favorite), one of the ideas, that I have seen and try to follow when mixing major/minor modes when soloing is as follows:

    (Assuming a song with a I-IV-V type progression, like a shuffle)

    When the one chord is playing, use the major pentatonic scale for the one chord.

    When the four chord is playing, use the minor pentatonic or blues scale for the one chord.

    When the five chord is playing play the minor pentatonic or blues scale for the five chord.

    So for example, if playing in the key of E,

    When E7 is playing use notes from the E major pentatonic scale.

    When A7 is playing use notes from the E minor pentatonic or blues scale.

    When B7 is playing use notes from the B minor pentatonic or blues scale.


    So here are my questions:

    1. How many of you have done this or try to do this?

    2. For those that do, how much emphasis do you put on having notes that overlap between both the E minor and B minor scale when playing over the five chord?

    The reason I ask is that it seems that when I try to play the B minor pentatonic or blues scale over the B7 chord, I I pick notes that dont overlap both E minor pentatonic and B minor pentatonic they can sound very out of place and not blues all, whereas if I just stay in the E minor pentatonic or blues scale it sounds very bluesy. When the wheels really fall off, using the B minor/blues over the five chord can damn near sound like a wrong note out of key....

    So getting back to my example.

    E7 chord is playing, I am playing riffs and notes out of position 1 of the E major scale (9th through 12th frets), perhaps focusing on the third and fourth string (playing the ninth and eleventh frets on those strings). Then the four chord starts playing. I can either go to position 5 of the minor pentatonic scale and keep everything rooted over the ninth fret OR I can slide up to play position 1 on the 12th fret. Cool, sounds good.

    BUT THEN THE FIVE CHORD GETS PLAYED and I go to position 1 of the b minor/blues scale (7th fret area). It can sound kind of weird if I play anything outside of notes that also line up with position 4 of the E minor pentatonic scale, so the 7th and 9th fret of the third and fourth string. If I try to play the high E string notes of the b minor scale over the B7 chord it can sound weird.

    Maybe I just need to find some new or better riffs when doing this....

    And not to worry, I PROMISE I don't get too in my head and try not to think too much or at all when actually playing, but I do try to take notice of what I like and don't like and what does and doesn't sound good (to me).


    So how do you guys mix major and minor scale ideas when soloing for blues?

    Cheers and happy playing.
     
  2. doghouseman

    doghouseman Tele-Holic

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    in your head man....


    If you listen to Clapton's solo here, i think the first solo not the second one, what you are describing is exactly what Clapton does. He starts in A major then switches to A minor. I think he ends the solo in A Major. But, you might learn some tips to your theoretical discussion by listening to this solo.

    The fact that Clapton played this live, off the cuff, when he was still in his early twenties, is testament to his genius. Definitely a solo worth studying. I think EVH said he learned this solo note for note.
     
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  3. RPtele64

    RPtele64 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks and I will check it out!

    TBH, there is not a solo I ever play that isn't off the cuff and improvised. I may have an idea of what I want to do ahead of time or may have a lick I keep coming back to during the course of the song but most of what I end up playing is just what comes out during the song. I dont have a single "scripted" solo in any of the music I play. Just isn't how I want to play the blues. YMMV, and please dont take this as a dig on people who play solos note for note. It is far from that, I just dont ever do it...
     
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  4. Thinline casket

    Thinline casket Tele-Meister

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    You're playing minor over the IV chord because it coincides with the dominant 7th for that chord. However, you're also overthinking it. Listen to BB, steal a few licks, then just play, play, play until you can play the next phrase you hear in your head.
     
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  5. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    In my jazz days, my general practice was to not repeat solos. When playing in a number of large jazz ensembles, same thing. I didn't think about it until recently, I was by farther along in soloing than the other members, overall. As a result, I got the majority of the solos.

    In my rock bands, I soloed in nearly every song. I never repeated a thing in solos. One of my first teachers had also taught Larry Coryell. He encouraged both of us, as well as his other students who were gigging, to never repeat a solo. It was a seat-of-your-pants situation. I can't imagine how many solos I played during those years. Thousands.

    After 14 years, got fouled up with tendonitis. The doc said I could probably play for 2 hours a day, which was not enough for what I wanted to do. I had a backup plan for years in case something happened. The plan was to become a composer and be a university professor. It took more than 15 years to land a really great tenured position had a very good school.

    After being on the faculty for 10 years, I had super-serious nerve problems in my legs. The nerve pain that I have had for 15 years was unrelenting, and still is. While in the hospital nearly totally paralyzed, I would mentally play blues guitar solos. When I came home, nearly in a wheelchair, I quickly bought a MIK tele on ebay. I can't tell you how happy and human I felt, once I plugged in and jammed with youtube stuff. I eventually formed a blues trio with fellow faculty members and students, playing something like ten years in and around Iowa City. A few years ago, my pain was so intense and unyielding, that I had to discontinue the trio, and I had to retire early. I also stopped developing my compositional abilities, not being able to handle the complexities, abstractions, and work time.

    The pain is still at the front of my mind all the time. The only way of controlling it effectively was by immersing myself in guitar blues solos. The emotional and physical release I get really helps with the pain. But it is never going away.

    I use a different way of conceptualizing blues solos than the OP. For me, the pitches that I choose have certain emotional qualities. The different emotional streams change the pitch motion over time. Too long to explain.

    The pitches played while individual chords are sounding, do not necessarily conform to the idea that they are harmonious. My sense of how strongly a note is related to a given chord is partially determined by melodic and harmonic events in the future.
     
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  6. Cosmic Cowboy

    Cosmic Cowboy Tele-Holic

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    It depends on the arrangement. A 3 piece (without a keys player) is fun because there is no chord underneath, so you can literally play anything over the changes.

    If you do have a keys, or a rhythm player playing dominant chords you get a little more boxed in by the progression.

    In blues, playing major over the 4 chord sounds cool too.
     
  7. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    On the four chord A7, try playing E major pentatonic BUT play G natural instead of G#...
    don't play the G# over A7... lean into the G natural.

    (Or think of it as a C# minor blues scale with a flatted fifth note.)

    Just some stuff to play around with!
     
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  8. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Afflicted

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    Agreed.

    OP, think of it this way -

    E7 - E G# D E
    A7 2nd inversion - E G C# E

    Note that the inverted A7 falls pretty neatly in the E minor pentatonic, especially if you add the scale's 6th (C#).

    As the B7, I personally play B7ish licks over a B7 chord in the key of E.
     
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  9. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    You can use the major and minor pentatonic of the 1 over all three chords, but you can also use the major and minor pentatonic of the 4 over the 4 chord, and the major and minor pentatonic of the 5 over the 5 chord.
    I play over the chords a lot, 'cause I have limited chops, and I can't just go forever on the minor pentatonic like geniuses like Jimi and SRV could without repeating myself.
    So, playing over the chords gives me more melodic possibilities so I don't get as stale and repetitive (hopefully anyway). And I might do a lick that starts on one scale and ends on another, following the chords.
    You can use the minor pentatonic of any minor chord over that chord, and the major pentatonic of any major chord over that chord.
    And, for a blues or rock feel, you can usually play the minor pentatonic of a major chord over that chord too, especially if it's a 7th chord, because a 7th chord is a major chord with a minor 7 on top, which gives it a major and minor feel at the same time.
     
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  10. RPtele64

    RPtele64 TDPRI Member

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    Quite the story and I am sorry to hear of your health issues.

    One thing you said did resonate with me- how the blues can lift your spirts like nothing else! I joke to my wife that my three favorite drugs are 1. Blues solos, 2. Sightfishing for redfish on the flats of Texas, and 3. White wine LOL.

    It is amazing to me how you can get lost in a solo. I love it when I am really in the groove and minutes turn to seconds and in what feels like the blink of an eye I have spent the better part of a hour (or more) just pouring it out over a shuffle in the background.....
     
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  11. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Do you want to use pentatonic scales or do you want to sound jazzy? How about both at once?

     
  12. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Jen Larsen is a good teacher. At about the 2:00 mark, he describes the altered pentatonic scale over the four chord, that I described above. Lots of goodies in this video, thanks!
     
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  13. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire

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    The minor pentatonic of the 4 chord tends to sound bad in a blues due to the minor third. I make it a point not to use the minor pentatonic of any 4 chord. Also, a dominant 7th has a major third, and would not really sound both minor and major at the same time. It isn’t the 7th which give s chord it’s minorness but the third. The minor pentatonic works over dominant I and V chords because it’s the blues.
     
  14. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    As for the 4 chord, I agree, to a point. I don't use the minor pentatonic of the 4 over the 4 chord, but I hear some blues players do it, and it sounds ok when they do. As for a dominant 7 chord, the major 3 with a minor 7 is to me what gives it a major and minor feel at the same time (and a blues feel), and why the major and minor pentatonic both sound good. That's how I see and hear it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021 at 11:58 PM
  15. fattboyzz

    fattboyzz Tele-Meister

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    You cant help yourself can you ? You enjoy talking down to people. Does it make you feel big ? Exactly why you are on ignore on Squiertalk !
     
  16. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire

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    Does a chord with the minor third and a major seventh also sound both minor and major then as well?
     
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  17. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I don't know who mentioned it but you have to be very careful about using the major pentatonic from the I chord when you're playing over the IV chord. That major 3rd (of the MP from the I) which becomes the major or natural 7 is generally an avoid tone on a (major or dominant) IV chord. Now, having said that, if you're aware that it's a potentially very sour note, and you treat it carefully i.e., as a passing tone - it can be quite effective. If you're not careful with it, it transports the player into amatuerland really quickly.

    *I'm also in the camp doesn't hear a straight Dom 7th chord as both major and minor. But hey, if someone hears it that way, cool. Everybody's ears are different. I do hear a Dom 7#9 as both maj/min though. Not because it has a b7 but because it has both a major and a minor 3rd.
     
  18. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    The minor third gives the chord a minor sound.
    The major third gives the chord a major sound.

    The choice of minor or major seventh isn't about minor or major sound. It's, uh, about ... umami?
     
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  19. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire

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    This information, of which I am already aware, is why I asked the question. It seems we have some confusion as to "what gives (a chord) a major and minor feel at the same time."
     
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