Why do scales matter?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by CrashandBurn, May 6, 2019.

  1. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Afflicted

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    Learning scales gives you a great way to organize the fret board.

    When my brother and I were 13 and 8, he took lessons from a jazz player. This guy gave him lots of scales and exercises. My brother would show me what he learned and for about year and half we really worked at it.

    It definitely gave us a good foundation.
    By the time we got a Beatles song book we could easily work through the songs.
     
  2. Jim622

    Jim622 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    There is a lot of food for thought in this thread. One of the great strengths of this site is the vast store house of knowledge of its members.
     
  3. Bergy

    Bergy Tele-Holic

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    The necessity of a vast scalar dictionary is pretty genre specific. Generally speaking, I think scales are very important. They are the collection of pitches that sound the most "in" (musically expected). They are especially important when you are playing a musical style that expects harmonic specificity. In genres like Jazz, Prog Rock, Bluegrass, musicians are expected to basically change scales when the chords change. That is a whole lotta scales in a bebop tune. You wanna have a pretty good scalar dictionary in yer brain in that situation.

    Some genres are less intense on the scalar demands. I love playing the blues. Some of the folks I know, do a pretty convincing job of playing the blues only using a single scale for an entire solo. That is referred to as "harmonic generalization" and isn't always a bad thing. But you do need to know that one scale, or else you will sound musically incoherent to lots of people. Even people that don't play music can tell when something is going awry during a solo.

    I would wager that very few of those great guitar solos that we all would cherish are performed by guitarists who are throwing darts at a fretboard. They certainly almost all know a few scales.
     
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  4. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    Here's what I wish someone told me 30 years ago: Can you be a guitar player without learning scales or theory? Yes you can. I thought I could. I wish someone told me not to. About 10 years ago, I decided maybe I should check out this music "theory" business. I didn't go at it like a chore, I just started practicing scales and learning about intervals, modes, chord tones, etc. Over time, it has proven to be useful and enjoyable to have some understanding of how music works and the language used to discuss it.

    Maybe a golf metaphor will work. Can you play golf in bare feet, never take a lesson, play with only a 7 iron and a putter? Sure you can. It is more work to learn about all those other clubs, and tees, and how to swing properly, but... the best golfers use all the tools available.
     
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  5. TeleFunk Man

    TeleFunk Man Tele-Afflicted

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    it's mathematical.
     
  6. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    practically speaking, let's say you know your G major pentatonic scale

    G A B D E, G A B D E, etc

    now, how many 3-note chords can you make out of those letters? I see some:

    GBD = G
    GAE = A7 no third
    DEG = Em7, Cm7 no fifth
    EGB = Em

    so you can play G maj pent over tunes with those chords in it

    but notice none of those chords is a C or a D, a IV or a V chord like in blues

    see, the full major scale will give you just two more notes:

    C (the fourth, a 'sus' sound)
    F# (the major seventh, or 'leading tone')

    but with THOSE notes, you can make all kinds of new chords! most notably, the IV and V chords we all know love and rely on

    G A B C D E F#

    major scale -- it's not just about "playing scales" it's about putting more colors on the palette so you can unleash some serious harmonic potential
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
  7. duzie

    duzie Tele-Meister

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    Knowing scales and sequencing them can add another element to your soloing.
    Why exclude that from your toolbox!
     
  8. aadvark

    aadvark TDPRI Member

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    Scales are one part of what should be a holistic approach to becoming the best guitarist you can be. As mentioned above, scales & arpeggios help develop muscle memory - so that we don't have to think about them at all when we play. Its about fretboard navigation... as important as developing your ear, technique, studying the work of the previous masters, developing improv skills and theoretical and compositional skills.... all very useful. Scales and arpeggios are essential building blocks in most styles. And apart from anything make excellent warmups. They are not diametrically opposed to any other approach to learning... just one part of the big puzzle. have fun and play....
     
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  9. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Learn and practice scales, then dig into which scales sound good with which chords—in different contexts.

    You'll know what notes to play over given chords. The chords themselves may make more sense.

    I also like the approach of thinking "chords -- arpeggios -- scales" — which is theoretically backwards, but most of us learn chords before we learn scales or theory.

    I'm currently composing a piece of music written around an "artificial scale" that doesn't harmonize into chords the way a "natural" scale does, but working with this weird scale has opened some interesting theoretical/compositional ideas for me.
     
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  10. CrashandBurn

    CrashandBurn TDPRI Member

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    This is a great discussion and is very helpful to me. Thanks all!
     
  11. Jim622

    Jim622 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I agree. Thanks all.
     
  12. kbold

    kbold Tele-Holic

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    Everything comes back to scales.
    A melody is built up from a sequence of notes in a scale.
    A chord is a number of scale notes played simultaneously.

    You can take any scale and see the chords embedded in the scale.
    For example, in the C Major scale, you have:
    C C6 CM7 Dm Dm7 Em Em7 F FM7 F6 G G7 G9 Am Am7 (and others)

    So from a soloing point of view, you can use the C Major scale over any of these chords. Observing the root note of the chord helps.

    In practice, reverting to Pentatonic scales helps.
    For example, within the C Major scale are the following Pentatonics:
    C Maj Pent and Am Pent (Both the same pattern, but with a different root note)
    F Maj Pent and Dm Pent ( " )
    G Maj Pent and Em Pent ( " )

    So you can link the Pentatonic to the cord:
    C chords >> C Maj Pent , Am chords >> Am Pent
    F chords >> F Maj pent , Dm chords >> Dm Pent
    G chords >> G Maj Pent , Em chords >> Em Pent

    So by just using 3 Pentatonic patterns, and making the pattern Major or Minor (depending on the root note), you're covering a lot of chords.
     
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  13. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

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    Everything everyone said, above. You should have music cross referenced as many ways as you can, and knowing scales and having them under your fingers is one of the ways.

    For me, playing old country and western swing, arpeggios and the melody of the tune are the most important things. They are all found (mostly), with the notes of whatever major key the tune is in. And the exceptions are relative to another major or mixolydian scale.

    They are just collections of notes, plus your favorite exceptions, wherein you find the sounds you hear in your head.

    For me, mostly major, mixolydian, diminished and some blue notes or a bit of blues scale.
     
  14. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well put. Then you can play the notes correctly in creating a solo.
     
  15. Bluetelecaster

    Bluetelecaster Tele-Holic

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    Great thread!!
     
  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Music tends to contain a series of different notes.
    The difference between the notes is called an interval.
    Scales are patterns of intervals, like morse code.

    You can certainly reject learning scales and instead learn every notes numerous positions on the fingerboard, and learn every note that sounds good and better etc in a given key.

    I didn't learn scales when I started playing what turned out to have many similarities to scales, but I listened to the singer rather than the chord progression, and played notes that sounded good with the vocal melody.
    Noticing that quite often in popular music the notes that sounded good created patterns on the fingerboard, which turned out to be scales, I ended up learning scales despite myself.

    The way scales can go wrong is if you just play up and down scales in the right key you may not be playing music.
    Like running the alphabet in morse code.
    You need something to say but you need to be able to find the letters in the words.

    Sort of like a set of tools that you learn the functions of.
    Using them doesn't automatically build a house.
    You need to learn scale so you can put the right things in the right places.

    Selected intervals.

    Seems by your question that you wish to play an instrument, but it is not clear that you wish to play music.

    You ask why scales, but to answer, I ask, why music?
    What is it that you want to do?
    Your answer will inform our answer WRT why learn scales.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
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  17. aadvark

    aadvark TDPRI Member

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    "Music tends to contain a series of different notes.
    The difference between the notes is called an interval.
    Scales are patterns of intervals, like morse code". (Telemnemonics)

    Well put, I was going to say: and before scales there are INTERVALS. If we know how to hear and play intervals, then everything else can follow....

    I taught theory and composition at university for many years and.... no matter what the musical language, having a good grasp of the way intervals go together - both linearly and vertically (melody and chords if you like)- is very helpful for a musician. Study your counterpoint too!

    its ALL good, though, and ultimately I would say: you'll find your own path, each of us has a different one, enjoy the journey! :)
     
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  18. aadvark

    aadvark TDPRI Member

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    what did you mean Cm7 no fifth?
     
  19. Scorch

    Scorch TDPRI Member

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    Maybe learn a few bluegrass tunes, turkey in the straw, Arkansas traveler...that can really show you how snippets of scales are used in tunes.
     
  20. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    sorry, no root
     
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