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Country scales

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Krunoslav, Jan 22, 2021.

  1. RowdyHoo

    RowdyHoo Tele-Meister

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    Great question. I’ve not found a succinct answer to this yet and am looking forward to hearing from the group!
     
  2. mojavedesert

    mojavedesert Tele-Meister

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    Pedal steel, lap steel, the sound is from Hawaii.
     
  3. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr Tele-Meister

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    The biggest thing about going from rock to country is that rock soloing is mainly a minor tonality. Even in a major key, you play a lot of blue notes, b3 and b7 with a lot of blusey bends.

    Country soloing is mainly in a major tonality, maybe 90% or more. That means playing mostly major scales and major pentatonics. Playing over the chord changes, open strings, and steel guitar-ish bends are very common.

    By playing over the changes, on a 1,4, 5 or I IV V progression, I'm thinking E, A, E, A, E, B or whatever as it's going along. I'm staying on an E major scale but I'm emphasizing the chord tones of the A and B when I get there. You can outline the chords in your solo so that the listener can tell what chord it is even if you're playing solo.

    Go for a mostly a clean sound and precise playing. Without a little or a lot of gain, it may be a challenge to play with a clean sound. You may find you need to work on rhythm and phrasing in new ways to make it work. Good luck!
     
  4. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    Ah, slack key. Yeah, those guys invented horizontal (lap) slide (same time as Blues players broke the neck off wine bottles to invent bottleneck slide?)

    Played in a Hawaiian band with Ivan and David Malo. Some of those players really had that fingerstyle played on a guitar tuned to a chord thing. I couldn't do it.
     
  5. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    i'm sure there's gotta be somebody out there who's developed a barry harris "bebop" major/dominant etc scale for country. i mean the barry harris scales are actually good places to start for country and some chromaticism too.

    arguments against theory don't make any sense. people like a lot of classic jazzers or country folks who didn't know theory a written or overly pedantic sense knew theory in the sound sense and by chord movement. they knew when they were throwing extensions in something, they knew substitution tricks, whether they knew how to articulate that in speech/writing properly or not. they were familiar with the moves and probably creating schema in their own heads apart from written convention. it's not just willy nilly like blues guys or rockers can get away with.

    now, regardless of whether you want a theoretical approach or not, luckily country solos are often as structured as jazz solos, not noodly like blues or rock solos. so there's a lot you can just learn by learning a songs chords, and then learning someone's solo note-for-note on those chords and then looking where the lines fit on which chords for safekeeping in your head for the future. you learn a language by immersion better than analyzing grammar rules. even just learning a few solos, it'll seep in one way or the other.
     
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  6. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    1 major scales. Add diminished 7ths but not too many.
    2. Solo the melody, learn the vocal melody before you “solo endlessly” and then you can depart from it as needed.
    3. Use a lot of really clean double stop bends
    4. Play clean and pay attention to your picking hand. Get used to picking close to the bridge and so on.

    that should get you started!
     
  7. mojavedesert

    mojavedesert Tele-Meister

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    A lot of classic type country doesn't use hammer on, pull offs, it's just good, accurate flat picking, and hybrid finger work. Another difference than playing rock or blues.
     
  8. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    This part is right on. You learn to play by learning what good players play.

    That's how we learn to talk, by repeating what adults say. You can't just get a dictionary or picture book and "solo endlessly", you have to communicate in phrases and sentences.

    IMO, theory is more useful to describe what's going on and to communicate with other players, than to direct what should be played. Studying Grammar and Spelling doesn't guide your story, it just makes it readable.
     
  9. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    I strongly disagree with a lot of things said here. I think Duane and Dickey, Clapton, and Joe Walsh, not to mention many other famous rock players, would be surprised to know that rock is all minor pentatonic based. That's total BS. If you listen to the great rock and blues players, they combine minor and major notes, often in the same lick (minor to major 3 slide or trill, among others). And, they use the major pentatonic as much as the minor, often combining major and minor pentatonic licks within a solo. I do agree that using chord notes is a very good way to add much more melodic flavor and expressiveness in your solos. Everything I do is pentatonic based, but I use notes outside of the pentatonic scales to enhance the creativity and melodic possibilities in my solos, and many times those are chord notes, to emphasize the chord that is happening at that time in the progression. I also play over the chords a lot, to give me more melodic possibilities. In All Along the Watchtower, for instance, I may use A minor over all 3 chords, but I'll also use F major over the F chord, and G major over the G chord. I do that a lot, in blues, and in rock, and I find it a lot of fun in songs that have a lot of chords, like Little Wing, Hotel California, Still Got the Blues, Europa, Spain, Georgia On My Mind, Stormy Monday, and many others. But, you can't expand your creativity and express yourself fully without knowing theory, and how scales relate to chords, key signatures, harmony theory, and every note on the fretboard. As I'm playing a solo, I know the name of every note, and also what scale degree it is in whatever scale I'm using, and how it relates to the chord I'm playing it over. Because of this, I can play in any key anywhere on the neck, without having to move to the common boxes.
    Finally, the reason that modes aren't useful is because people look at them wrong. Don't think of a progression that goes from an A minor chord to a D major chord as being in the key of G, which it technically is, because it's A Dorian, but it doesn't sound that way. It sounds like A minor with a major 6, because that raised 6 from F to F# is what makes the 4 chord a D major chord instead of a D minor. The same goes for a very popular progression in rock, for instance E, D, and A, what I call the money chords, because so many hit songs use that progression, like We Don't Get Fooled Again (although it isn't in the same key as my example), and a thousand other well known songs. So, my example is actually E Mixolydian in the key of A, where you're playing the 5, 4, and 1 in that key. But, it doesn't sound that way, so I don't think of it that way. I think of it as the 1, b7, and 4 chord in E, because that's how it sounds to me, E major with a b7. Once I started looking at modes in this way, they became useable, understandable, and not confusing anymore.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2021
  10. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    You know who used a ton of country-ish major licks and bends? Jimi Hendrix. Johnny Winter, too. Beginners wrap their ears around a Pentatonic Blues scale and it becomes a hammer, so every solo becomes a nail.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
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  11. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Afflicted

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    Not sure if this is right, but I would develop the "chicken picking" technique... Doesn't matter what notes you use, if you're chicken picking, it's country.
     
  12. Krunoslav

    Krunoslav TDPRI Member

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    Working on it, my friend.
     
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  13. Krunoslav

    Krunoslav TDPRI Member

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    Now there is a short, useful advice.
    Much obliged, Sir.
     
  14. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    You know the only idiomatic thing I can think of scale wise that’s really country
    is harmonizing a scale in 6ths and 3rds. Thats pretty damn country. These two harmonizing licks also have great utility in old school R&B/funk/soul music as well
     
  15. Krunoslav

    Krunoslav TDPRI Member

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    3r
    3rds maybe less so, but 6ths, hell yeah. I hear you. :)
     
  16. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    They are equally applicable, I use harmonized 3rds all the damn time playing country music.
     
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  17. johnny k

    johnny k Poster Extraordinaire

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    Open string licks are a nice addition too.
     
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  18. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Good, helpful thread! I've been exploring these issues. :)

    Hope this makes sense — try messing around with this, a sort of a hybrid scale/arpeggio:

    In C for example:

    Play a C major pentatonic scale with a "blue note" Eb added (flat 3rd scale tone)—except, omit the the 3rd (the E natural note).

    C D Eb G A (C)

    Learn the pattern in every position. (Note there's a half-step interval always followed by a minor third interval in the ascending scale.)

    Play the scale/pattern over a C or C7 chord (especially works great on 7th chords).

    Then try that same scale over the F chord.

    For a G7 chord, move the scale up two frets. Then back down two frets for returning to the C chord.


    Then — try using the same pattern except starting on F (instead of C) — and play that over the C chord. (Like using the C pattern over the F chord; gives you flatted 3rd and 7th tones of the chord.) This works great for dominant 7 chords.

    Mix & match, exploring ways to connect them.


    (This odd scale has been called the "Japanese scale" because played alone, it does have an Japanese/Asian music 'feel' to it.)



    I use these 'shapes' plus a 'modified mixolydian' scale—omitting the 4th scale tone and adding a flat 3rd between the 2nd and major 3rd notes.

    For example, over a C chord:

    C D Eb E G Bb (C)

    I've been playing around with alternating these "shapes" and finding some fun and workable solo approaches. A trick is figuring out they best flow from one to another when mixing them up.

    I started hearing similar licks/scales used in solos of some famous players, and thought "I must be onto something."
     
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  19. Jeremy_Green

    Jeremy_Green Tele-Meister

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    I don't know that country can be summed up by any one scale... Lot of Major sounds, Dominant sounds, minor sounds, chromatics, double stops, open strings, banjo rolls... It's really all about the attitude and the groove really. Oh and beer, fights, broken trucks and smoking hot girls!
     
  20. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Shortly after writing my post above, I saw this recent Rick Beato video where he discusses the same scale, and calls it a "m7 b5" scale—basically a minor blues pentatonic scale with the 5th flatted. He places the scale in a different context than I have, introducing interesting possibilities. As he points out, it's a good way of getting out of being stuck in a "blues box" scale shape.



    His "Cmaj7 b6" scale in this video is another one I'll be experimenting with.
     
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