Key, progression, pentatonics, modes, etc.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Arizona Jones, Jul 20, 2013.

  1. Folks,

    I have a very basic understanding of theory. I've figured out how to play in key, but I have a question.

    Say I'm playing a rockin' I, vi, IV, V progression in the key of G. If I want to use pentatonic scales I'm switching between G, Em, C, and D pentatonic scales, correct?

    Same progression, say I want to use modes, I'm switching modes as I move through the chord progression, correct?

    If you know, let me know, thanks.

    It sounds obvious, but I've been working all day and I'm a little out of it. :meh:
  2. Yes you can do that - the Em would like the minor pentatonic. Or play the notes of the chord (chord tones) or just stay on the tonic G pentatonic and gather your notes from that one pentatonic scale. As G is the tonic, this too will work. Look at the G major pentatonic scale; G, A, B, D, E. You've got all the root notes except the C plus you have the A and B for passing notes. I normally go chord tones and not pentatonic scales, I'll let those that use pentatonics speak about that. Notice Scott will use the droning E string for his vamp. Modes work best over a vamp, not a chord progression. Why? Modes want to sustain the mood and a vamp lets that happen. A chord progression does not sustain, it resolves back to the tonic I chord so no mater what you are doing modal wise you end up sounding like the tonic scale. All your modal efforts are wasted.

    What governs what notes will be used in your bass line is harmonization; if someone else is taking care of the treble clef melody we normally provide rhythm and harmony - to get harmony the melody line and the bass line need to share some like notes. How many like notes? One per measure gets harmonization, two are better and three are not necessary, but, do work; one got you harmonization. That is why roots by themselves work, and also why a root-five sounds better, want more throw in the 8 octave, still need more add the correct 3 or 7.

    Have you been introduced to the major scale box, and all that R-3-5 stuff? If not:
    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    G chord coming up, look for a G note on your fretboard.
    Place the box's R over that G note and play as many of
    the G's chord tones as you feel are necessary in that
    specific spot in the song. Key phrase being, as you
    feel are necessary
    . Root on the first beat and the
    five on the 3rd beat works; as will R-8-5-8, or R-3-5-7.
    Of course with 4/4 timing, four quarter note per measure.
    Basic Chord Tones
    • Major Triad = R-3-5
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5

    7th Chord Tones
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7

    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base. Want the C major scale? Place the
    box's R over a C note and play the R-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 scale degrees within the box. Want
    the A major scale, look for an A note and do the same thing you did with the C note.
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7 Yep place the R and then
    play the R-2-3-5-6 scale degrees within the box.
    • 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.

    Let the major scale be your home base then change a few notes and you have
    something different. No need to memorize a zillion patterns. Let the major
    scale pattern be your go to pattern - then adapt/adjust from there.

    You may want to copy this and put it somewhere handy, Much too much to remember with one reading.

    Have fun.
  3. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    What Malcolm posted is good stuff; I'll come at this from a slightly different angle. It sounds as if you're over-thinking this. Certainly you could switch between the root-based major and minor pentatonics, but why over-complicate things? You've already stated that you are playing I vi IV V in G Major, so why not just think G Major and choose the notes you want to play based on which chord you are on? All the notes from the various pentatonics you mentioned are already there in G Major. Think of one thing, not four.

    As for modes, I'm not sure I follow you. Technically, you are already using a mode: G Major = G Ionian. Now, most people don't consider G Ionian to be "modal" music. It sort of is, technically, but isn't really in common parlance. I don't follow how you would want to "use modes" in this context. Do you mean that you want to play outside of the key?

    This progression is a basic, early R&R progression - The Duke of Earl progression, and it isn't exceptionally well-suited for out of key interpretation. But let's look at the possibilities.

    In G Major, we have the chords


    So, there are four types of chords: Maj, min, Dominant, and min7(b5).

    You could treat both Maj7 chords as a IV chord instead of a I chord, or you could treat both Maj7 chords as a I chord. You could treat all three min7 chords as a ii chord, a iii chord, or a vi chord. You could switch the V and the viii for one another. But I doubt much, if any of this would sound good over an old-fashioned I vi IV V.

    If you want to add notes outside of the key in this context, try chromatic lead-ins to notes in the key of G Major. That can work.
  4. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I disagree somewhat with what's being said about modes here. You *can* apply the corresponding modes to the various chords in your progression. The result will not be "modal" music, but doing so will still help you keep track of which passing tones are appropriate to the home key.

    So, using your example of G, Em, C, D, you should mainly be thinking in terms of the corresponding chord tones. But when you want to get away from chord tones and add some non-chromatic passing tones, you definitely *can* think in terms of G ionian (aka G major) E aeolian (aka E natural minor) C lydian, and D mixolydian as a method of negotiating the fingerboard.

    Technically, you're still just playing notes from the G major scale. But by thinking in terms of modes, you have another way of looking at things, one I personally find helpful.
  5. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Yes you can do this, and for a number of years I did do this. But what this can lead to is a false sense that one understands modes. As you've stated, you are in the key of G Major. You are not playing E Aeolian, C Lydian, and D Mixolydian, you are playing in G Major.

    You may be playing the same notes as you would if you were playing in E Aeolian, C Lydian, and D Mixolydian, but the only mode you are using is G Ionian.

    Why is this, you may well ask? Because the tonal center of the piece is G Major. GMaj(7) is the I chord. Now, in a different piece of music, if a GMaj7 is the I chord, but the key signature has two sharps, the chord is derived from D Major. But if that GMaj7 is the tonal center of the piece of music, that is, it is functioning as the I chord, then you are in G Lydian.

    It's great if thinking of these chords in modal terms helps you, but understand what it is helping you with and what you may be "over-inferring" from this approach.
  6. Thanks all! It may take me a day or two to get me head around your replies.

    You know, what I think I'm really trying to grasp here is the best method to navigate the fret board. I know the key, I know the chords, and I can scoot around the neck pretty good grabbing the roots, thirds, and fifths of the different chords, and it sounds good, and it is very musical, to me.

    I think I was looking to pentatonic, and I guess the modes, as more of a way to remember fingering patterns. For example, when I go up to grab that Em I guess it is just easy for me to remember that minor pentatonic pattern.

    Someone mentioned this earlier and I liked the sound of it. If you are playing in G, then play in G, no need to add all these other elements.

    Maybe that is it. It think I was doing a lot of that anyway.
  7. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I kind of lost you trying to figure out what you said.
  8. dieselbass


    May 15, 2010
    Davis CA
    I have a basic understanding so far, but when here stuff above the octave, do you start over on the scale in the next octave, or go #9, 11,13 etc? Is this more of a jazzer kind of thing?
  9. dieselbass


    May 15, 2010
    Davis CA
    so, I'm wrong, #9 does not equal a 2nd in a major scale, but the 11 still works as a 4 I think.

    I meant to say when I hear stuff played as a fill that seems to go above the octave....
  10. I'll answer it this way. I do not go beyond the 8 and leave the higher notes to the solo instruments.

    I take care of the bottom end and let the solo instruments get the 9's, 11's and 13's.

    Melody does take more than just one octave usually at least an octave and a half.
  11. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    ^ This man speaks the truth. Although, you might have scalar runs to deal with every now and then. Get the basic structure of the chord correct, then use your ear to fill in the spaces between. I've found this to be the most flexible method, regardless of instrument.
  12. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    The reason for using terms like 9th and 11th in the second octave is related to harmony (chords). In western music, chords are traditionally built by stacking thirds (in other words, skipping notes as you go up the scale).

    So a simple major chord is root (or 1), 3, 5. A major 7th chord is 1, 3, 5, 7. If you go any higher, here's where you end up: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13. The 9 corresponds to the 2, the 11 corresponds to the 4, and the the 13 corresponds to the 6. In terms of chord construction, though, they're not functioning as 2, 4, or 6. I hope this makes sense.

    So, to answer your question a bit more simply, intervals such as 9, 11, and 13 are used when describing the notes in chords, not so much the notes in scales.
  13. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    A common misconception is that for a 9th to be a 9th, it needs to be an octave plus a whole step higher than the root note. You can voice that pitch down an octave, one whole step above the root note, and it still functions as a 9th, and you're still taking care of the bottom end. TB's own Scott Devine can show you better than I:
  14. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    GMaj7 can be the I chord in G Major or the I chord in G Lydian. In the former situation, you use notes from the G Major scale. In the latter, you use notes from the G Lydian scale which is derived from the key of D Major.

    I was stating this in the context of what constitutes modal music.