A jamming/scales question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fourstringbliss, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. If I am playing with people, and someone says "Let's play something in the key of G" (as in a jam session with no particular song to play), does that mean that I have the notes from the G Major scale to choose from?

  2. Um wouldn't that be all of them?

    I am not trying to be all that sarcastic, that’s just the type of question that comes into my head all the time. I know what you mean but I can't even answer you or put it in a better way cause I just don't have the terms down enough to ask it.
  3. I guess you're not being all that sarcastic, but it wouldn't theoretically be all of them. I guess I'm just trying to see if my musical theory idea is correct. If a major scale is WWHWWWH, then there should be one sharp in the G Major scale: F#

    The scale should go: G A B C D E F# G

    I would think that if you are playing something in the key of G (assuming that meant G Major) then you have those notes to choose from if you want to stay in the key of G Major - anything else and you're either going modal or you're wrong.

    That's my theory. If I'm right, then if someone says "Hey, let's play something in C# Major", and you know where C# is and the major scale pattern, you would just need to play licks around those notes.

    That sounds too simple to me, but I just want to find out if it's right.
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    For a basic answer, yes, you do have all the notes of G Major to choose from. I've never really been a big fan of this type of "jamming" though, because it usually leads nowhere.

    The most important part of this type of jamming is listening. You want to really really listen to what's going on, because there's a good chance that G Mixolydian will work on occassion, or that a G Blues scale will be fine for soloing.

    Further, I've often found that when this type of jamming is done, it's done by the guitarist, who wants you to play some ostinato figure so that s/he can solo for many hours. I'm never really sure what's accomplished by this.

    Melodically, it's more interesting to solo over forms. Like, say, the blues form. A 12 bar blues progression is easy to remember, easy to hear, and contains tension and resolution that lends itself to better solos and more opportunities to develop your ear.

    So, for all intense purposes, yes you can just choose the notes of G Major. You'll probably want to avoid the 2 and the 4 on the downbeat, but like I said before, it's all about having really huge ears, and listening to what the other people are playing.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    That scale is correct.
  6. dabshire


    Dec 15, 2002
    McKinney, TX
    They could say "let's play in G", but then you would have to figure out which chords in that key they are playing...

    Each chord has a mode of the major scale associated with it. The mode gives you a better idea of which chord tones would fit so it doesn't just sound like you are playing random notes that happen to be in the key. You could just play any note in the G Major scale, but it would probably sound like ass...

    Now if they say something like "let's play a I IV V [blues/funk/ska/big 80's metal ballad/insert style here] in G", if you know some theory, you would know the chords are GMaj, CMaj, D7 and you could work from there...

    Do a search in this forum for "modes" and you should get some good info, as there are many here with much, much, much, much more theory knowledge and understanding than I have...

  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well yes and no. Just because a song is in a specific key doesn't mean all of the chords in that song are in that key. Plus there's some "common practice" stuff at work, when somebody calls a blues in G, the first chord is a G7 not a G major 7. But you don't call a blues in C and start on a G7, right?

    Likewise when you're dealing with musicians who don't have a very complete background, they say "in G major" when the first chord they play is a Gmajor and the second chord is a Bb major. They are basically building a song on the chord shapes they know (nothing wrong with that, many fortunes have been made that way).

    You might want to do a search on "chord/scale" or "harmony" to see the literally thousands of words that have been typed on this site concerning how to approach improvising lines over given harmonies.
  8. dabshire


    Dec 15, 2002
    McKinney, TX
    True. I guess what Xanadu needs to do is figure out what chords the guitar player is playing, and find modes that fit over those chords.

  9. I knew it couldn't be that simple! I've got a lot to learn...here's to the search function! :D
  10. Is there a reference somewhere that would show me the notes that a guitarist is playing when he/she plays a particular chord. I know that I could play the root note, but I have heard that the other notes that are fretted in a guitar chord will also work for me to play along.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    My signature.
  12. dabshire


    Dec 15, 2002
    McKinney, TX
    We all do. And it seems like the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know....
  13. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Ok so you want to jam in G but first you should know the chord progression, or given that you know the possible notes in that key, figure it out as you go along. For each key there is an order of note named chords. The types of chords they are is the same regardless of key, only the root notes will change. Here is a simple chart:

    I (tonic or root of key) = Major Chord
    ii = minor chord
    iii = minor chord
    IV = major chord
    V = dominant chord (ie 7th chord)
    iv = minor
    iiv = minor 7th, flatted 5th (can also be plain minor, although not strictly diatonic)
    and back to root

    This is just a general outline and all rules are meant to be broken but normally the strongest note will be the tonic. Once you know the tonic play by ear and get the chord progression. Once you know the chord progression, you can play the proper major or minor scales or arpeggios over each of the chord changes. For example during a blues progression each chord could be a 7th chord, ie, I7, IV7, V7. Thats not strictly within any key though. If it were it would be I major, IV major, V7. So the way I think about it is to just go chord by chord and forget about diatonics, and just play whatever notes fit into that chords sound. Like if it was a minor chord you could play a minor scale, a dorian scale, a phrygian scale, or lydian even, if major you could play major, mixolydian, ect.

    I hope I was correct I am all self taught theory-wise, but that is what I gather of it...
  14. When you talk about chords here, what exactly do you mean in terms of playing? How do I play a major or minor chord?
    When you are talking about "ii = minor chord" when playing in G, do you mean an A minor chord? How would I play that?
  15. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Exactly right. In the key of G you have a G major, an A minor a B minor a C major, a D dominant, an E minor, an F# 7b5 (7th flatted fifth).

    There are many ways to play over an A minor chord. The simplest I would like to show you is to play the arpeggios. Basslines that use arpeggios a lot are like walking blues or jazz basslines. Simply change the arpeggio to match the chord you are playing over.

    G Major: Formula: 1, 3rd, 5th, major 7th.


    A Minor: Formula: 1, minor 3rd, 5th, flat 7th.


    D Dominant: Forumla: 1, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th


    F# b5 7 : Formula: 1, minor 3rd, flat 5, flat 7th


    There are the basic common arpeggio shapes. They are just a scale with bits cut away. These are the most fundamental chord tones. Note that any minor chord contains a minor 3rd and a flat 7th. A major chord contains a major 3rd and a major 7th. These rules are not in stone though, often in a blues format you can play a minor/major third.

    Another method is to learn you modes and play snippets or riffs off modes in the key you are jamming in. Like if you started on G play some G major scale riffs, move to A, play some A dorian riffs, move to D play some D mixolydian riffs. All the modes in a key contain THE SAME 7 NOTES. It's just changing the focal note.
  16. There are way too many options. All I can say is....Play ALOT of different stuff, see what sounds good and work out what made it sound good. Try flattening the 7th and see if you like it etc.
  17. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Something that comes with time and enough repititions of playing a certain scale or mode or arpeggio over and over and over and over again, is that you will begin to hear and understand that scale or mode at a deeper level. If you are jamming and your guitarist friend wants to play in G, then most likely what he really means is he wants to hear a lot of G notes (fundamental note) and lots of 3rds and 5ths. This is a really easy approach. Soloists usually like to hear a lot of root notes (G in this case) because it keeps a ground reference so they can create their solo over. It is like the G note is the canvas and the soloist is painting over the canvas using their pallete of the G major scale. This approach was/is used by cutting edge jazz musicians to allow a format for soloists such as sax and pianos to create rich harmonic tonalities over a single canvas, rather than an ever changing series of chords.

    My advice to you is to get your hands on a lot of blues tracks. Play by ear and figure out the note names. THe progression of blues includes a I, IV and V, with a turnaround at the last bar of each 12 measures. Don't worry about the turnaround yet, though. Now play a dominant arpeggio for each of the chord changes and listen to the soloist and see how it changes the music. This will give you an idea of what to play with your guitar buddy. I don't know what kind of music you play but if its rock or hard rock or metal then just make a cool riff that revolves around the G note and play that while he solos. Once you'ev got a foundation you can begin to move around more when you are more comfortable about hitting the good sounding notes... good luck. :bassist:
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That's an amazing coincidence, me too! Who'd have thought that guitarists were so alike all around the world eh? :D

    I agree, when I learn a new scale or chord or progression I make an effort to play with it as much as possible to let myself get into how it feels. I also try and write at least something (not neccessarily something good!) using it to help soidify the sound of it in my mind.

    I do the same with my students too, I gave one the natural minor scale and asked him to write a bass lines using only notes from that scale that captured the minor sound of the scale. He came back with a line that really used that minor sound, those semi-tones between 3&4 and 5&6 - I was well chuffed :) and I'm sure it helped him 'get' the feel of the scale.

    ...but that's a learning tool, so diff'rent I guess.
  19. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Simply put, MANY musicians only think in terms of major keys. Conversely, because our keyboard player prefers minor keys, a "key of G" jam automatically equates to a minor key.

    Either way, I always ask if they mean major or minor, then I listen, as jazzbo suggested, to determine which modes work best.