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Indian Scales & The Harmonic Minor

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by stephanie, Apr 30, 2002.

  1. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Yesterday at my lesson my teacher brought in some Uberman (I think thats what it was called--w/guitarist John Scofield) and was telling me about Exotic scales (hehe and I'm already a bit familiar with them from a few threads on TB...but was never exactly sure how to apply them), specifically Middle/Far Eastern...even more specifically Indian music (you know, that you'd play along with a sitar).

    Thought I would just pass this along to those who are interested in this type of music: If you know your harmonic minor scales (which my teacher calls the "Bastardized Hindu Scale" LOL), you can play along with this type of music. See, the Harmonic minor has an augmented 2nd in it and the 7th to 8th degree is a half step instead of a whole step, which gives it that "Indian" flavor.

    EX: C Harmonic Minor = C D Eb F G Ab B C. Ab-B is the augmented 2nd.

    You can also use these Harmonic Minor scales:

    C D Eb F# G Ab B C. Eb-F# and Ab-B are augmented 2nds. Take note of the #4 in the scale.

    C Db Eb F# G Ab B C. Eb-F# and Ab-B are augmented 2nds. Take note of the b2 and #4 in the scale.

    Now here is how my teacher told me to apply these scales. You must use only the notes in the scale. There is no set pattern (i.e you can use octaves or jump around). For example, here is a line I made up (using the 2nd scale mentioned): C G F# B C B Ab G. When you play these scales, make sure the notes 'flow'. Don't play them funky. They're meant to be 'ethereal' and expressive, depending on the music you are playing against.

    Hope this has helped anyone wanting to know about these scales. (Hope I haven't made any mistakes in this post :eek:, just relaying what my teacher taught me. Please let me know of any corrections.)

  2. this is something I was looking at recently-

    in a song in E I recorded recently with my original band in which I play a fill suggesting a scale with a flattened 2nd, major third, flattened 6th and major 7th,
    - in C the scale would be C,Db,E,F,G,Ab,B,C.

    I've found it corresponds to the Indian raga "bhairav"- apparently it's "associated with awe and fear, and suitable for performance at dawn".

    another song that uses it is "fear is the key" by Iron Maiden.
    I think "father figure" by George Michael features it briefly too.

    the B major 7th note is interesting, as when descending below the root a Bb can be used instead.

    what western scale is this?
  3. Strangely, I've found the melodic minor more useful for Middle Eastern and Indian-sounding stuff, probably because of the embedded whole-tone feel in the fourth and sixth modes.

    My favorite use for the harmonic minor and its modes are when playing over harmonically simple Latin tunes and when playing outside over regular jazz progressions. (Yusef Lateef, anyone?)
  4. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Oops. Something I forgot to mention is something called a Pedal Point. Not 100% sure what this means exactly (help??), but say you were playing one of these scales, say C Harmonic Minor, your pedal point would be (the note) C, i.e you must start on that note. (?)

    Does anyone know about this?
  5. That's pretty common in what little Indian music I've heard, yeah. Pedalling is a common device in a lot of Western music, too--with open power chord tunings (drop-D and its detuned ilk), it seems that half of the songs on the radio use pedalling off of an open chord.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    Mr. McBastard is spot on about the use of Pedals in much Indian and Western Pop music. In jazz, the most common pedal tone is the 5th of any given key center. For example, if a progression in C major went:


    It would not be considered horribly unusual for the bass player to play a single "G" Pedal beneath the entire progression if he/she wanted to built tension at that point.

    that's one of my favorite devices. It does get old after a while, though.

    that's a pretty tall order ;)
  9. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    ...still a little confused here. Does that mean letting the "G" ring throughout the whole progression? And in the case of my example using C Harmonic Minor, does that mean letting "C" ring throughout the line I play? I'm still not exactly sure what the term pedal means.

    Hehe...I came close on the name. :D
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The term "pedal" refers to one tone ringing throught a succession of chords. Usually, the pedal is the lowest note sounding. Unless I am greatly mistaken (always a possibility), the term originated back in the antiquity of THE LEGIT TRADITION and was used to describe the effect created when organists would play a sustained low note with their feet on the pedals of the organ while the chord progression continued in both hands.

    In today's world, it is usually we humble bassists who bestow Pedal points upon the music for the sustained good of all personkind.
  11. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Ahhh....much thanks. That's clearer to me now. :)

    (My cognitive functions haven't been at their best lately and I'm having a little trouble with things sinking in, heh, so bear with me if some questions have seemed a little...well...simple. :D)
  12. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    STEPLIVELY, you can either let the note ring or you can repeat the note.

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