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Continuos Scale Practice - Weekly Key

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mrharrell, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. I’ve been trying to determine what scales to practice each week for my limited practice time… The idea is that I would take a key per week (i.e. Cmaj) and practice the continuos scales that would fall into that key each week. After thinking about my limited amount of practice time, as the weekends are just too hectic right now, I thought maybe hitting the scale for the key on Monday, then four more on each of the following days.

    So my question is this, what scales would you suggest focusing on for those four days? I was thinking the appropriate IV, V, and VI but I need a fourth suggestion. I want to hit the ones more commonly used in a blues/rock progression. The II seems like a good choice also, but if another is a better choice then that it will be.
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I think you are a little off on what a scale is and what the chord made from that scale are called.

    The same major scale would write the III, V and VI chords and then they become part of the scale/key. Here is the C major scale stacked in 3rds. In doing that we get the chords for that scale.

    C Major Scale stack in 3rds (every other note) = the notes and chords made from the C major scale:
    Notes	   Degree	Spelling		  Chord name      Function
    C		R	CEGB         R-3-5-7 	     Cmaj7		      I  (tonic)
    D		2	DFAC 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Dmin7		     ii
    E		3	EGBD 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Emin7		     iii
    F		4	FACE          R-3-5-7	     Fmaj7		     IV (subdominant)
    G		5	GBDF 	 R-3-5-b7	     G7		      V  (dominant)
    A		6	ACEG 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Amin7		     vi	
    B		7	BDFA 	 R-b3-b5-b7     Bmin7b5	     vii (diminished)
    This never travels well on the Internet, help me out by linning them up.

    Why is the D chord minor? If you compare the DFAC to the notes in the D major scale the D major scale will have an F# and a C#. Your DFAC has the 3 and 7 flatted for a spelling of R-b3-5-b7 and that spelling makes a Dm7 chord. All minor chords will have a b3. All major chords will have a natural 3. Notice where the 7’s and b7’s fall.

    Stacking any scale notes in 3rds will give you the chords made from those scale notes.

    OK the C major scale made the chords that are in the key of C.

    Now if you want to practice scales see what you can do with this.
    Bass Patterns based upon the Major Scale box.

    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    Want to run the C major scale. Find a C on your 3rd or 4th string and put the box's R over that C then play the R-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 found with the box. Want the C Natural minor scale. Use that same C and put the box's R over the C, but, this time play the R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7-8 scale degrees with the box.

    Now if you want to play the chord tones of the iii chord in the key of C major. What is the first note of the iii chord? OK it's the Em7 Chord. What is the spelling of the Em7 chord in the key of C? From the stacking chart I gave you the spelling would be R-b3-5-b7 and that spelling gives you a Em7 chord. Now if you want to practice playing chord tones of a specific chord - help yourself ........

    So if you want to play the scale grab the scale spelling and use it in the major scale box pattern.
    If you want to play the notes of the chord grab the spelling for the chord you want to play also from the box.

    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.

    I bet you have questions. Just ask.

    Have fun.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Do you have a teacher who can help you make the most of your limited practice time to achieve your goals? I am guessing that you do not have a teacher for whatever reason, and so you are hoping some complete strangers on the internet can give you shortcuts? I'll take a stab at it then...

    I am a big believer in "practice what you do." Does your band play a lot of scales? If so, then I think running scales over and over again is a fantastic use of your practice time. Are you in a cover band? Then a better use of your time is jamming along with the radio to learn more songs. Are you in a jazz band? Then a better use of your time is improvising over standards. Are you in a funk band? Then a better use of your practice time is practicing grooves with a metronome or drum track.

    My phlisophy relating to scales is: either you know them, or you don't. If I said, "play an A Major scale" could you do it? Once you've learned all 12 scales, you're unlikely to ever forget them. So, I don't really see the point in practicing scales over and over and over again unless your are a beginner, or that is how your band plays.

    I absolutely 100% do not see any value in practicing only one scale per week. If you are trying to master scales, then you absolutely want to practice everything you learn in all 12 keys, this should be your first impulse on learning a new bass line, "ok, now what does it sound like in the other 11 keys?"
  4. I don't think so... I understand your reply perfectly. What my goal here is take a key, say Cmaj, and concentrate on that scale on Monday, then on Tuesday Fmaj7, Wednesday would be G7, Thursday Amin7....

    So I am concentrating on a Key for the week instead of practicing my scales in a random fashion, as I had in the past. I also want to work on my ear a little bit, so I want to focus on a key instead of a scale. Make sense? I was expecting this to go to a modes discussion, which isn't really my idea either.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Fmaj7 and G7 aren't scales.

    Either we are having a language/vocabular miscommunication, or you don't understand the concept.

    Anyway playing "F, A, C, E" (the notes in Fmaj7) for an entire day probably wouldn't get me any closer to my own personal musical goals. But if it works for you, there is no right/wrong approach to the art of music-making! :)

    (edit) Personally, a much more useful exercise **for me** would be to spend a day coming up with bass lines that fit C-Amin-F-G7 (for example), internalize the sound of that progression, analyze the Roman numerals to understand why the progression "works," and then play that progression in all 12 keys. Then next day/week learn a new progression, and so forth.
  6. Well, my goal is to begin to hear keys or tonal centers instead of the individual chords. I typically get thrown into a song, as I play praise/worship, that I haven't heard before. I usually have the guitarist print me out chord sheets for the gig, and at times I get to look over them before the gig, but sometimes I don't. My ultimate goal here is to hear the tonal center, so in a live situation I don't have to keep my eyes glued to a sheet on the floor while playing a song I have never heard.

    I seem to have a real problem hearing the VI, or rather the movement to the VI when playing live. It seems that a lot of the CC/Praise stuff is I-IV-V, which helps tremendously, but not all of them are that sctructured.

    Does that make more sense, or did I just muddy the waters even more?
  7. But they have scales associated with them. If we are playing a I-IV-V in C, then I am going to be playing chord tones for the corresponding chords. If I am below the 7th fret I do fine, but if I feel the need for a higher pitched lick, then I run into an issue - hence the continuos practice.

    This is more of a practice for a live setting where I don't know the song, and want to play more freely without staring at a chord sheet.

    I got this idea from practicing arpeggios over a standard. For instance, running the corresponding arpeggios over the changes in Autumn Leaves, gets me prepared for those changes. And it is in a key, so what I really doing is practicing the appropriate arpeggios for that key. that's how I look at it, I realize I could be totally off base.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    That was very helpful, with more information where you are coming from, I understand the question better. :)

    I think you would benefit from a "diatonic harmony" course, maybe you can take one at your local community college or something? It is a lot to learn, I can't explain it all in a couple of forum posts.

    The first thing to understand is the difference between a VI and a vi chord. Lower-case Roman numerals are minor chords; upper-case are major chords.

    If the songs are progresssing I-VI (major) then that is a **completely** different animal than the incredibly common I-vi (minor) progression. If you're having trouble hearing I-vi then I recommend jamming along with the "oldies" station for a few hours, you'll get the hang of it, I literally cannot think of a more popular and familiar transition. In many songs, the sound of the vi will jump right out at you because it is the only minor chord among the major chords. :)

    ps If your band doesn't tell you what key the song is, that's kind of a dick move in my opinion. ;)
  9. theretheyare

    theretheyare Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    The way I approach this idea of limited practicing time, is to work on a different NOTE every day and expand that harmonically into scales, arpeggios and intervals. The idea is to hear/sing whatever it is you play, (avoid looking at the fretboard) so that (by listening) it makes sense musically, the ear is trained, and tone quality and phrasing is being worked on, instead of getting stuck in absentmindly rattling off fretboard patterns.
    Today: A
    1) Find every A note on the fretboard. Play each A carefully and repeatedly*
    2) Play basic triadic form on A (and their inversions) AMajor, a minor, A augmented, diminished all over the fretboard
    2) Play scales in A (major, minor, etc) all over the fretboard (over 1 octave, 2 octaves, 3 octaves if possible). Vary patterns (Up a third, down a second, etc
    3) Play Arpegios through all the harmoinic steps all over the fretboard (for example) in A Major: A-c#-e-g#/A-f#-d-b/C#-e-g#-b/D-f#-a-c#/...etc) vary patterns
    4) Play intervals hamonically: for example: Through the major scale in 6ths: A-f#-b-g#-c#-a-d-b etc
    5) different rhythmic groupings (triplets, 16thnotes, mix them up)

    *There was this trumpet player (classical orchestra soloist level, major conservatory teacher) who every free Sunday went to a practice room and played the same note for 2 hours-to 'get back in touch with the instrument" as he put it.

    Tomorrow: Eb

    And so on.

    Key is to accept that you never get everything done in 1 session - but you'll return to it in 2 weeks, taking a weekend off. :)
    This kind of stuff keeps one busy all life long.

    This can be varied millions ways, you get the idea. Hope it helps. Good luck and enjoy.
  10. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    OK it's Wednesday afternoon and I check my E-mail and find the songs for Sunday will be:

    Awesome God
    Did you feel the mountain tremble
    Grace Like Rain
    Humble Thyself
    That's why we praise him.

    That's six semi new songs that we will practice tonight and then an hour before service Sunday.

    You do not need all that scale stuff if you do the following. Your choice. Offered for what it is worth.

    Awesome God will be done in C. I have fake chord sheet music on this song using the chords of the key of C. First thing I do with the sheet music is get the fake chord into Nashville numbers. Now I like the lyrics with my Nashville numbers as I sing the song under my breath to keep up with when the chord changes will be coming.

    With Nashville numbers the C Chord becomes a 1 as it's the first chord in the key.
    Dm chord becomes a 2.
    Em chord becomes a 3.
    F becomes a 4.
    G becomes a 5.
    Am becomes a 6.
    Bm diminished becomes a 7.

    So on the fake chord I mark over all the C with a 1.
    All the F's with a 4.
    All the G's with a 5. --- etc.

    Then I pull out my major scale box pattern.
    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    And I get that into muscle memory. Notice it's generic if the song is in C I put the R over a C on my 4th string and then play the Nashville numbers I wrote on the fake chord. Next time we play that song a new vocalist may want it in D, no problem Nashville numbers are generic, I just move my box to start on a D.

    If I know my box's pattern I can play any Nashville number song. Practice time is cut by a hugh amount.

    Now this let's me pound out roots to the kick drum's beat all night long. Can I do more than roots with this? Sure. Say I'd like to add a 5 to the root note being played. Where will that 5th be? From the root, up a string and over two frets. Always.... Say I'd like to add an 8 octave where will that be? From the root I'm on up two strings and over two frets. Always.

    OK that is a short cut to get you playing songs with the Praise band.

    Use it if it makes since to you, if not; good luck with what you are doing.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Awesome advice as always, MalcolmAmos!

    What I particularly like about your approach, is you are not saying "learn 12 major scales," what you seem to be saying is, "learn THE major scale, then you can play in any key."

    I like. :)
  12. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    If you want something for the blues, practice the dominant scale or mixolydian mode for each chord of the I-IV-V. In the key of C play C7 arpeggio and scale 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7-1 then F7 and G7. Also play with the major pentatonic scale on each one 1-2-3-5-6.
    That will get you started on the common blues harmony.

    Good luck and have fun :)
  13. Thanks for the replies guys....

    Mushroo - yes diatonic harmony is what I need. Leave it to me to take something simple and turn it into a convoluted mess. Sorry about that. Also good to know on the uppercase/lowercase. I did not know that.

    MalcolmAmos - what you described is basically the process I used when I was playing regularly at a church. I did it for nine years, then took three off and getting back into it now. That process worked great for me, and the organ player taught me a little about theory. I had just played in a couple of cover bands before starting at that church. About five years into that stint I started getting calls for youth gigs and such. Usually with just a day or two notice. I used that approach of roots, fifths, and the occasional pentatonic run all the time. It really was all I knew. I got really frustrated and ended up quitting. I know that I got the gigs because I played basic solid lines, but I just felt so caged. I can hear parts in my head but cannot play them simultaneously. If I can sing them, then if can figure them out. I don't want to toss out "Penny Lane" type riffs all the time, but being able to do on occasion would be fantastic.
  14. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    While I was studyinh music at college I did the following :

    1) take a bag and many sheet of paper that you cut in small pieces and write all 21 possible key ( which are also scale ) + all the modes with various starting point + Augmented and Diminish scale ... all of that will have its own little piece of paper

    2) Take one piece of paper and Play the scale in the first position, then 2 octaves and possibly 3 octaves ( use harmonics if you need to ) then do that from the lowest note possible of you bass ( if it fits the key at hand of course ) then on one string ( on all your string ). After that do the arpeggio on the same fashion.

    3) Sing all of it, before playing while playing it and after playing.

    4) Little improvisation with a loop machine

    5) Hate me but it is the way it was at college ... you don't know what s*** you could have to play or sing during an exam so you need to be prepare
  15. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I'm having some fun playing to some of the built in songs on my electronic keyboard. The keyboard has a "window" and the chord progression flows by as the song is being played. It is so small that I can not see it (old eyes) while I'm playing the bass, but, just listening and looking I can get a feel for the progression being used and then that gives me the key involved in this song.

    I then let the song run and staying in the key try to play with the melody. Sometime what I call echo melody, short licks using melody notes and then other times I'll try for the head itself. I'm having fun.

    Way back in my 6 string guitar days my instructor had me pick out by ear three melody lines per week. Simple songs, I think my first was Happy Birthday. Somewhere over the rainbow was an easy one. That is basically what I'm doing with the songs on my keyboard.

    Here is a paper that goes into detail on how we like to hear four note phrases, three close notes than a leap of at least a 3rd. Interesting part is what we do after the leap. http://books.google.com/books?id=Ht...result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Offered for what this is worth.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    It is as complicated/confusing, or not, as your teacher makes it. ;)

    I took a very quick look at that site, and the thing I didn't like about it, is the author doesn't analyze any actual famliliar music.

    You mentioned "Autumn Leaves" earlier, that song would be a great candidate for you to sit down at the piano and do a harmonic analysis. In particular, it switches back and forth between the relative minor and relative major, which I think will help you a lot to hear that I-vi sound.

    Frankly it sounds like you actually know a lot more than you let on, since you can play praise music, jazz standards, etc., and now it's simply a matter of learning some concepts/vocabulary to organize the musical information that's already in your brain. Theory is secondary to actually being able to play the music. Hope that helps you to feel more confident. :)
  17. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    On that theory thing. IMO theory is best studied from a generic paper or book on the subject of music theory, i.e. not specific to the bass.

    Take it to your easy chair, but, have your instrument handy. It's a journey best taken one step at a time, i.e. start on page one and speed read till you have to slow down. Thirty minutes per day is about right.

    Here is a video on the subject of harmonizing a melody. Good place to start. Then as you have done ask Google how to harmonize a melody and see what comes up.
  18. Hi mrharrell

    Try this:

    You can only have 6 series of root movements in a single key.

    down 5: I - IV - VII - III - VI - II - V - I
    up 5: I - V - II - VI - III - VII - IV - I
    down 2: I - VII - VI - V - IV - III - II - I
    up 2: I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - I
    down 3: I - VI - IV - II - VII - V - III - I
    up 3: I - III - V - VII - II - IV - VI - I

    none other

    After practicing them all (in major and in minor) you could select the ones you want to focus on, like the most common progressions or the ones you like best. Or maybe you could chain together fragments from different series.
  19. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    If you have very limited time to practice I would not spend it on scales. Learn songs.
    Go back to scales when you have more time to practice.