Help me with improvisation !!!

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by marcusmiller, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    I got a scale book.I know some of the major modes.But only in one position.The problem is
    i dont know how to solo over a chord progression. (when the guitar plays a song , i want to be able to solo over it)
    I can only do it on minor pentatonic (or blues)
    scale that is the most common one.
    I wanna solo in minor (aeolian) mode and also
    some jazzy solos (which are the most common jazzy scales ? ) I dont know which scale to play on which chord . PLEASE HELP

    we ll mostly play popular tunes (jazz standards and soft rock kinda songs in hotels and pubs)
    a guitar and me (singer&bass player)
  2. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    Songs that ll teach me the use of scales ?

    I have another question about the scales.
    Where i can find the name of the songs or the artists who use a particular scale mostly.
    For exemple when you listen to Led Zeppelin
    you get a millions of ideas for minor pentatonic scales.
    As for diggin in Mixolydian , major pentatonic , naturel minor , major scale Which stuff should i listen to ?
  3. As for listening, a lot of bluegrass music uses major pentatonic. Mixolydian is used by many muso's back in the 60's and 70's. Lennon and McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" is in Mixolydian as well as Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed". Dave Gilmour, of who is the guitarist from Pink Floyd uses Dorian mode a lot mixed with pentatonic licks. Flamenco guitarists use the Phrygian mode intensely as well as fusion guitarist Al DiMeola. "California Dreaming" is in Aeolian mode as is the guitar solo to "Hotel California" (but mixed with pentatonic ideas). For Lydian, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani use the mode extensively in their music. Governor Schwarzenegger's movie "The Running Man" has it's theme song in Lydian as well. And for Locrian.....??????? For Ionian, you don't have to look very far.

    As for their characteristics put in mundane terms:

    Ionian: happy major, "I feel so alive"...self-explanatory

    Dorian: the "happier" minor mode, very funky and jazzy as well

    Phrygian: very Mediterranean and exotic

    Lydian: kind of "sci-fi" sounding, also very dreamy and majestic at times

    Mixolydian: very "psychedelic" as well as "funky squad-ish" with the bell-bottom pants

    Aeolian: can be very beautiful, it can be used for a sad ballad or an up tempo angry-like and/ or rebellious tune. A very powerful and emotionally moving mode....

    Locrian: used to play over a diminished chord. It was named as the "Devil's mode" in the renaissance and was a taboo to actaully use back then.

    All of these "church modes" were all named after the ancient Greek kingdoms like the Athenians (the Ionians) and the Spartans (the Dorians).
  4. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    thank you so much.
    i think IONIAN is not so happy as much as the Pentatonic major.
    U2's Whos Gonna ride is in ionian and very dark
    song indeed.Of course it is very subjective but major pentatonic is the I FEEL ALIVE kinda vibe
  5. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    First off, you're not going to be very successful soloing over any scale if you only know it in one position. Practice the scales on the entire neck, preferably over at least two or more octaves.

    You don't mention the depth of your knowledge of chords either. Every mode has a corresponding chord which fits it. For simplicity's sake, let's stay in the key of C. C is the I chord, D is the II chord, and so on.

    C - Ionian mode - CMaj7
    D - Dorian - Dmin7
    E - Phrygian - Emin7
    F - Lydian - FMaj7
    G - Mixolydian(dominant) - G7
    A - Aeolian - Amin7
    B - Locrian - Bm7(b5) or B half-diminished.

    Transpose the scale into different keys; the relationship between scale degrees remains the same.

    By the way, the pentatonic major scale can be derived from the Ionian mode.

    As an aside, you might want to give your fellow TBers a try regarding theory questions before asking the pros. This is kind of a mundane question.

    Give some other schlubs a chance to look smart!;)

    For more info, click here.
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    OK, if you know the major modes, the thing we need to think about here is the relationship between key and chords.

    The modes are just a way of arranging the 7 notes in any key into one octave sequences on the fingerboard for ease of access (OK, they take on a bigger significance if we start writing 'modal' compositions, but for now, we'll stick with things in one key at a time!)

    So as bassists, what we get are the seven notes in the key arranged in a fashion where we have a pattern with each possible root note at the bottom of its own mode.

    The next level of breakdown we need to get under our fingers (actually, it's the first level of breakdown we need to get under our fingers, but as you know the modes already, we'll think of this as the second for now...) are the seven arpeggios in each key - root, third, fifth and seventh. If you take each of the modes as you play then, and instead of just playing from the bottom to the top, play only the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes. These are the 7th chord arpeggios that relate to a key. These are the notes that are specific to each chord.

    However, they aren't the only ones that will work. all the other notes in a particular key will work over the chords, they'll just imply different levels of tension and resolution (which after is what harmony is all about - resolution moving to tension and back again...)

    So we've got some kind of harmonic hierarchy now - we have chord notes and we have, for want of a better word 'colour' tones - the 2nd, 4th and 6th notes of each mode.

    What this means is that ultimately, any note in the key can work over any chord in the key. The artistic decision is to decide which ones are the 'good notes'. The notes in the chord are going to be neccesary for outlining the movement of the chords. The 'colour' notes are going to increase the ambiguity of the progression if you use a lot of them in the bassline, and are going to help to make your playing sound more melodic and less like a slightly stilted walking jazz line.

    So what to practice? Get those 7 arpeggios down, so that you can play them in any key (BTW, 'play in any key' doesn't mean that you have to practice them religiously in all 12 keys, it just means that you have to know them as they relate to one another as a pattern, rather than only knowing them relating to a fixed root. So if you can play all 7 in C, A and Eb, and can switch from one to the other, chances are you're doing OK... nothing wrong with pracising them in all keys, just not totally neccesary...)

    Now, as soon as you can, get yourself some sort of chordal accompaniment to play over - could be band in a box, could you you recording some chords onto a tape deck, could be an Abersold play along, best of all, get a looper of some kind, and start to make some music. Start to make some musical decisions about the sounds you like and the ones you don't like. The notes that work for you and the ones that don't. The kind of lines that sound jazzy and the ones that sound like funk.

    The arpeggios and modes are just mathmatical and geometric relationships. The music is in how you play them, how you relate those shapes to what you hear. Start with just a one chord vamp if you like, but make some music. Don't get bogged down in just doing exercises. All those exercises can be made into music by contextualising them. It's not hard, and it makes practicing a whole lot more fun...


  7. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    I really appreciate your help.
    Thanks for your time.
  8. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    i realise some colour tones dont work so well with every chord.But playing them in a chromatic shape works well.Why so ?

    I also couldnt get what u mean by :
    " BTW, 'play in any key' doesn't mean that you have to practice them religiously in all 12 keys, it just means that you have to know them as they relate to one another as a pattern, rather than only knowing them relating to a fixed root. So if you can play all 7 in C, A and Eb, and can switch from one to the other, chances are you're doing OK... nothing wrong with pracising them in all keys, just not totally neccesary...) "
    How can i learn them other than fixed to the root ?
    Sorry maybe i have to ask these to fellow TBers?
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Sorry, clarification -

    If you learn a pattern as it relates to C major, and practice that all the time, when you shift to Ab Major, you're screwed... The thing with bass is that the relationship between the notes in each key is the same - the physical interval between the root and the sixth of a major scale is exactly the same whatever key you're in. So what you need is to have those intervals under your fingers whatever key you're in - so that the shapes are related to eachother, not to where the dots are on the fingerboard.

    On a sax or piano or whatever, every key is going to require a new pattern to be learned, along with developing the corresponding muscle memory to deal with it. That's not the case on bass

    I hope that's a little clearer...

  10. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    thank you
    yes i know all the intervals in a geometrical fashion on the bass.
    i can find them in any given key.
    As they come from the major scale it is dead easy to find them.
    I also found an easy way to learn a scale in different positions (in order to play it in more octaves). For exemple the second position of the D Dorian is the same as E Phrygian . (i mean the extension )
  11. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Yeah, that's right. The trick here then is to see those modes as one 'grid' across the neck - an available pool of notes that you can dip in and out of, notes that in the millions of combinations that are available say different things, put across different degrees of tension and resolution, so CIonian, Ddorian etc are all seen as basically the same thing, the bit that's shifting in your head is the root, and how you slice it up in argeggio terms. The modes are probably best thought of going up in thirds as 13th chords, just to emphasise the harmonic function of each note. this is especially useful when you start thinking about alterations that take you out of the key - b5/#5, #11/b13 etc. If you're looking at those as being whole new scales, you're probably over complicating things. If you're seeing it as one note needing to change to give you that sound, that may be easier to get a handle on.


  12. So, would it be good to start with the the Ionian (major scale) mode like 1-3-5-7-5-3-1 then shift to 3-5-7-1-7-5-3, etc until I have ehausted that particular scale in that particular mode? Use it in two or three places on the neck for versatility?

    Also, if I am learning the different modes in all 12 would there be better ones to learn to start with? I mean I could just start with clean C and use the circle of 5ths to go around the keys, but might there be some that are more commonly used and start there?

    Stumpy :ninja:
  13. I would like some help with this as well.

    I have scatted for years but the transition from the voice to the fingers on the bass has me a little perplexed.

    Could someone help me with that transition? I would like to learn Jazz style soloing if that helps any.