Why do scales matter?

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

  1. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    scales are road maps. Everything we do comes from a scale of sorts, in multiple positions on the fret board. Even though we don't know any and refuse to learn them and maybe feel they are not necessary.

    Sit in front of a skilled player and play some stuff, they will tell you and SHOW you what scale you are playing out of and why the dots are connected.

    And you will say.."Ahhh, no wonder it all works and flows nicely".

    Ever wonder why we can't expand on our solo's and continue to play the exact same things and positions week after week , month after month, year after year ? Knowing 3 or 4 root scale variants up and down the fretboard and the chord shapes they form is like a 10 to the 3rd power of math ! And it doesn't take long, just some regular brief seat time. 5 min a day.

    Ever get lost driving in a 200 + home neighborhood with streets going every which way , but only ONE WAY OUT ? There are many of us guitar players who get stuck playing out of a single root position. It doesn't have to be that way ! :)
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
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  2. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Holic

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    Scales are an first organizational system that helps us make sense of the music and second practice tool to give us proficient access to common figures that occur over and over across thousands of pieces of music. Your understanding of the value of scale studies will increase with your experience and understanding of the music itself.
     
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  3. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Meister

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    Scales are critical to understanding a lot of how music works, what to play with a given set of chords, how to construct chords, etc. They are the basis of most everything. They are also just the same 12 notes arranged in different patterns. This can be a little mind boggling for a duffer like me.

    Chord tones and arpeggios are taken from the scale relevant to the key of song, and provide another set of patterns to work with - these patterns provide even more useful pathways to creating melodies that work. Still built off of scales, though.

    There are many seasoned professionals who recommend focusing on learning your chords and arpeggios built from the chords, and then learning scales from there -- Carol Kaye is one I've read recently.

    As a beginner who's been playing on and off for more than half a century, I find all of it to be fascinating, confusing, and rewarding.
     
  4. Gene O.

    Gene O. Tele-Holic

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    Scales, chords, patterns, shapes, technique, etc... all the things you have to learn inside and out so that you don't have to think about them as you play.
     
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  5. Bluetelecaster

    Bluetelecaster Tele-Holic

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    I learned to play Scruggs style banjo at 13. I didn't then nor can I now reD a single note of written music. Everything at first was taught to me through tabs. When I caught on , then I was able to pick everything up by ear( on banjo) Through the years guitar has been totally different for me. So I'm finally taking guitar serious, and feel like learning scales is something I really need
     
  6. Sounds Good

    Sounds Good Tele-Holic

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    I know when i first started i went through how all the scales were linked and all the flavours they could produce, and playing exercises in certain scales and things like that and how certain bands used certain scales etc. Also how they could even break rules and even mix up certain scales to good effect similar to how the Beatles did to mention one band.

    Also i took a look at the circle of fifths this taught me how one can go out of scale to a certain extent, and how all music was formed within the circle of closely related scales. Maybe also work the whole tone and chromatic scales they are very useful for you solos.

    Could be best if making up your own music just to use a few scales and work your ideas through, i think often the rule of k.i.s.s. is a good way to aviod the mind getting over heating with to much scales and theory at times.
     
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  7. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    if you stay standard, first visualize the octaves

    then the note names in those octaves

    then print out scale maps

    but don't think you can then make good melodies

    melody construction is its own separate learning job
     
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  8. The Angle

    The Angle Tele-Holic

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    Like many things, scales seem useless . . . until you learn them so well they're automatic. Then you'll shake your head over what a fool you used to be, like every kid in elementary school who asks "why do I need to learn grammar? I talk good already."
     
  9. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    They protect dragons. Unless you're talking about the other kind of scales, in which case, how else are you gonna know to lay off the bacon-wrapped snicker bars?
     
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  10. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Bluetelecaster, your banjo playing utilizes scales. “Informally” trained musicians in some basic manner understand scales. If not, they would not be able to play because as noted I; this thread scales are the basis and the explanation for what we do musically. It is sort of an ‘egg and the chicken’ thing....but the music came before the theory, imho. Those of us who are not formally trained can play but have difficulty analyzing and discussing what they play.
    What throws you when playing guitar is that the intervals from string to string are different and therefor the known shapes that you play on the banjo do not directly transfer to the guitar. A few lessons on scales and chord construction from scales would open doors for you. I would suggest that these lessons be given by someone who can introduce you to scales on your banjo as well as the guitar....and correlate the two instruments.
     
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  11. Mrbob135

    Mrbob135 Tele-Holic

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    I have always thought of scales as the musical alphabet. Reciting the alphabet from start to finish doesn't say anything meaningful, but you need all those letters to form the words you use to express your thoughts. Eventually, you don't think about the letters you are using, or even the words you are using to express your thoughts, they just flow out of your mouth as the thought forms in your head.

    Music works much the same way. You ask about the G major scale...what do you do with it once you memorize it?

    Try playing it against an A minor chord. Your A minor chord contains the notes A, C, and E...which are all found in the G major scale. Those should be your resting spots, notes that you land on or emphasize. The rest of the scale is a way to get you to those chord tones, while giving you a certain "flavor"...in this case, that flavor is Dorian. Hear that flavor, learn what makes that particular flavor work (in this instance, Dorian gives you a minor 3rd, natural 6th leading to a flat 7th...relative to the Am chord)...and when you want that flavor in the future for a solo or melody, you will not only know the recipe for that flavor, but where to find it on the neck.

    Now try playing that same approach over an E minor chord...a new flavor (Aeolian)...it is similar, yet different. Why is it different? It has the minor 3rd and flat 7th, but also has a minor 6th instead of a natural 6th...again relative to the Em chord. When you want that flavor, use that ingredient.

    Now try the G major scale over the rest of the diatonic chords (chords constructed from the scale) in the key of G major:

    G (G,B,D, adding an F# will make it Gmaj7)) - Ionian
    Am (A,C,E, add a G for Amin7) - Dorian
    Bm (B,D,F#, add A for Bmin7) - Phyrigian
    C (C,E,G, add B for Cmaj 7) - Lydian
    D (D,F#,A, add C for D7) - Mixolydian
    Em (E,G,A, add D for Emin7) - Aeolian
    F#Dim (F#,A,C, add E for F#min7b5) - Locrian

    Those are all of the modes for the G major scale...it seems overwhelming at first, but remember it is only a G major scale. Try them out, listen to the way the scale sounds against the different chords. Lots of flavors available from that one scale...

    It is worth putting the time in to learn your scales, it will help you so much down the road...
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
  12. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I don't think scales are "how music works". That's like saying the alphabet is how novels work.
     
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  13. Mrbob135

    Mrbob135 Tele-Holic

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    "but you need all those letters to form the words you use to express your thoughts" is what I said. Music works much the same way for me...YMMV
     
  14. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Yes but the scale is just the rudiments. You need to know how to type to write a novel (unless you are doing it by pen or pencil), but I wouldn't confuse learning to type with learning to write a novel.
     
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  15. Mrbob135

    Mrbob135 Tele-Holic

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    Just as the scale is just the rudiment, so is the alphabet. I'm pretty sure any author you may read has at some point early on learned the alphabet...and I am pretty sure none of them would dismiss the value of knowing it...
     
  16. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Going back to the original post:

    Scales are not *directly* important for solos, I hope we can all agree. There are some big missing steps between playing a scale and playing a convincing solo.
     
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  17. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

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    Maybe I don't understand what "directly" means in this context, but certainly parts or segments of scales are a useful component. I think of scales as a collection of notes, rather than 1, 2, 3 etc.; maybe what you mean is that playing scales up and down is not the way to construct a solo.
     
  18. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Yup, and not all notes are created equal. Chord tones and "avoid" notes and all that.

    I can also hear people who rely too much on scales when they solo.
     
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  19. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Totally with you.

    Elliot Easton remains an enigma to me. Berkeley school of music educated. I'm sure he knows a bazillion scales and modes, and whatever. But I NEVER hear them in his solos. Which are short and to the point. He's the exception that proves the rule for me. Uses all that theory to deploy short, meaningful solos that never, and I mean NEVER, come across as "scaly." A rare talent.
     
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  20. Mrbob135

    Mrbob135 Tele-Holic

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    Big Daddy, I'm not sure we ever disagreed. But since I wrote this post to try and help out the OP, I will make sure he doesn't misconstrue my meaning as you did.

    In my mind, scales are like the alphabet. As I said above, reciting the alphabet from start to finish doesn't say anything meaningful...Just like playing a scale up and down doesn't say anything meaningful. But you need all of the letters of the alphabet to form the words you use to express your thoughts...just like you need the notes from the scale to form musical phrases you use to express yourself musically. Eventually, you will no longer think about the letters or words...or notes or scales, and just speak/play.

    It makes sense in my brain when I think about it that way...but then again things in my brain don't always make sense to anybody else. OP - Learning scales will help you, as many have said. It is not the end all, but rather a starting point. A scale played up and down does not make a solo...but using one of my favorite solos as an example: the outro solo from Sultans of Swing...a classic by any measure, not once does it stray out of the F major scale. Just like J.K. Rowling had to arrange letters of the alphabet to form words to write Harry Potter, so too did Mark Knopfler have to arrange notes of the F major scale to compose his masterpiece...learn and have fun!
     
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