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Do you play a minor scale in 4 frets or 5?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew Bryson, Apr 14, 2006.

  1. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I asked this question in a post in another thread, but I decided not to attempt a high jack of that thread and to ask the question in my own thread - sorry if you've already read the following post:

    I play a minor pentatonic like this:


    The reason I do it like that is because I play a minor scale like this:


    and the reason I play a minor like that is because I play a Major like this:


    So my major and minor are the same fingering patterns, except of course the minor has a lowered 3rd, 6th, and 7th.

    Am I the only one who plays scales in these positions? I'm used to seeing people posting their 4 fret minor or minor pentatonic scale patterns and I've started to wonder if I'm the only one primarily using the 5 fret pattern for minors?

    I learned my way from a good teacher when I first started and I've stuck with it. He may have steered me toward this style because at 6'6", I've got some pretty big hands and this works for me. He also taught me to cover 5 frets with 4 fingers (rather than the "finger per fret" rule) which of course goes right along with being able to play the minor scale this way. I play this way all the way down to the lowest frets.

    Does anybody else play the minor and/or minor pentatonic using the 5 fret position?
  2. Why limit yourself to one way or the other?
  3. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    +1 I teach my student(s) both ways... and in a tune, it just depends on where I'm at or where i'm going.

  4. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    nope, Use one way that works best for you.
  5. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    There's more than two ways.;)
  6. There are many ways to play the same scales. Learn as many as you can. Every different way improves your finger dexterity and command of the instrument. Depending where you are and what you want to do you can use one or the other to avoid having to move your hand to play a line.

    Its just crazy to limit yourself to only one way. Be fluent in every fingering you can figure out.
  7. +1 to that +1. I feel exactly the same way. It all depends on the situation. It's best to know ALL the ways to play a scale to create smoother transitions.
  8. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    I agree that both ways are fine and there are subtle differences. Sometimes I need the smoothness of not having to slide my hand, staying in a single position during the scale. I can't stretch 5 frets - only 4, so the major and minor scales works fine. Certainly there is no right way to do it, but I think you end up with a smoother scale when you stay in a 4 fret position. If the scale is pentatonic, I might not actually play the whole scale. That's when I will move positions because I like the tone of the flatted third on the next string up, especally if the scale starts on the E string of a 4 string bass. So, if I'm playing in the key of "A", I like the sound of the "C" note played on the "A" string 3rd fret, compared to the same note played on the 7th fret of the "E" string, and it also allows me to play variances like fifths of the "C" note to add interest, and that just sounds better to me played in the 3rd position because the fretting fingers you are using are generally the index and ring fingers -stronger. Also it sets you up for some nice slide opportunities to get back up to the 5th position to do some hammer on's and pull offs.
  9. I use the whole board, so many options, why limit yourself
    Have are few other ways to do a minor Pent, you can get creative.
    You can mix up the chord notes, play high and low.

  10. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia

    i actually play the same way myself (both modes and pentatonics). i see them as one huge scale that have different root notes. this way i can manuevre up and down the neck with only my technical limitations slowing me down.

    i believe the ability see see the fretboard as a huge scale is very important when soloing, because its makes it easier to put the idea in your head onto the fretboard.
  11. Exactly. And any of them can be useful, depending where you are in a given musical situation. You should be able to get to a lot of the notes you need from any position. Suppose you are in 5th position, with your 1st finger on the A on the 5th fret of the E string, and you're in A minor. You should be able to get to most of the the notes you need without shifting out of 5th position. Which would be yet a third fingering, and as you say, there are more.
  12. The problem is that in an actual musical situation, that one way may not work so well any more--for example, if you're out of position. If you get locked into a single way of doing things, you can actually handicap yourself.
  13. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Without given a musical context, I'll use 4 frets instead of 5. But, there a lot of reasons to use other forms and fingerings. Every option is worth exploring. There are some excellent posts here about using the entire fingerboard. If you are interested to getting into that, I would suggest getting in touch with Mike Dimin and getting a copy of his "Core Method". Its a very clear method of getting to understand the organization of the entire board.
  14. Just make sure you're not straining your hand to do it. I'm with Skel in that I can only reach about 4 frets at a time.

    If you know your fingerboard well it doesn't matter if you're out of position.
  15. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Thanks for the kind words
  16. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    You should aim to be able to play every mode of every scale, starting with the root on any string, with any left hand finger.

    And to be able to switch between them. Fluently.
  17. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Why start with the root?
  18. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Good point.

    I used the root as the starting point because it was convenient. It's probably also a throwback to when I studied (classical) clarinet and scales were taught root to root and back.

    I'll briefly try to explain the exercise I used to use. I'd appreciate some feedback on it.

    I'd take a particular key per week and go through the modes, one per day. A typical week would be as follows:

    Monday: C ionian
    Tuesday: D dorian
    Wednesday: E Phrygian
    Thursday: F lydian
    Friday: G mixolydian
    Saturday: A aeolian
    Sunday: B locrian

    I'd use this as a warm up, learning the fingerboard and modes at the same time. If it were the Monday, I'd start off playing one octave scales starting from C in all positions...








    Then I'd go on to two octave scales, shifting positions, basic arpeggios, 7th chords, 9ths, inversions, etc., saying the note names as I played them.

    Then I'd go on to practice playing melodic phrases using the scales and arpeggios I'd been practicing using a basic backing track. These would be in key, but would not necessarily stick to the mode I had been warming up in, so I might be applying stuff I'd learnt in F lydian over a D dorian backing track, etc.

    Gradually the scale fragments interlock. The idea I had was that it would get me out of thinking in boxes and be able to use the entire fingerboard. I think I was successful to some degree, but didn't take it as far as I might.
  19. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    What has helped me the most over the past few years is focusing on how scales are constructed by playing scales on three, two, and even one string. Then you connect the scale fragments as necessary. Then you can become free of patterns in general and move up and down the neck as needed.

    Another thing I've been working on via Adan Nitti is connecting mode fingering and in doing so cover most the neck and see all the notes in a key center. In this case if thinking natural minor start with your Aeolean mode fingering and connect the rest of the modes up and the neck. Now you know that minor key's notes over the whole neck and not just a pattern in one postion. What I do to practice this is play up a mode plus one note that take me to the next mode and I go down that mode then up one note to next mode and up that mode and so on.

    That works more me might work for you.
  20. With respect, I don't know how useful that is, because in a sense, it can be thought of as just doing a C scale from a non-root starting (and ending) point.

    My bias (and I admit it's just that), were I as admirably systematic as you, would be to make each day a different mode, but use the same root each day. Thus:

    Monday: C ionian
    Tuesday: C lydian
    Wednesday: C mixolydian
    Thursday: C dorian
    Friday: C aeolian
    Saturday: C phrygian
    Sunday: C locrian

    or something like that. That would expose you to more patterns from a given starting point and work your fingers more. And I'd recommend not "segregating" the modes like that but playing them next to each other, so that you can better appreciate the differences in sound and fingering.

    As a digressive sidebar, one reason I'm not a big fan of the C ionian, D dorian, etc. approach is that I have the impression it may be encouraging players to "over-modalize" things, if I may coin a term. By that I mean the idea that every time you change to a different chord, *even in a completely diatonic progression*, you *necessarily* move to a different mode. This approach basically turns all music into modal music from the bassist's perspective, and I can't see a really good reason to make that leap. For me, most of the time, if you're playing a simple C-F-G-C progression in a country or folk song, for example, there's no point in thinking C ionian/F lydian/G mixolydian/C ionian. That's needless work, and it ignores the fact that a single prevailing tonality/modality (such as C major) can embrace chord movement perfectly well without postulating any shifts to different tonalities/modalities. It's much better IMO, for a progession such as that, simply to think of oneself as making different note selections within C major. This is a version of the blanket/parent scale approach Chris Fitzgerald talks about in the stickies.

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