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Minor pentatonic--the "all purpose" scale?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by btrag, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. btrag


    Mar 7, 2005
    I don't remember where I read this, but, when I was just starting out on bass, I was told that the minor penta. is a default all purpose scale that will sound good with any popular music. The standard major (ionian) scale was another "when in doubt" scale to suggested for use.

    Now, I have the minor pentatonic "box" shape hardwired into my playing hand. First, is this information accurate? Second, how can I break this habit? I am learning modes, trying to integrate that into my playing.
  2. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Well. The way I see it, it doesn't really matter where you start. Minor pentatonics are good, but you have to realize that a minor pentatonic is really the same thing as a major pentatonic, you just start and end on different notes.

    The same goes for major modes. If you know the major scale, you really know all the scales. G myxolidian is just a C major scale that is centered on G.

    The great thing about bass is all this stuff translates really easily, and you only have to learn this stuff once, as opposed to 12 times like on a piano or double bass.
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    yes... as a generalisation, pentatonic minor will work (or at least, won't sound particularly dissonant) over the most common chords (minor, major, minor 7, dominant 7, sometimes even major 7 at a squeeze) just because the notes in pentatonic minor either:

    a. fit into the chord directly

    b. are 'open' sounding intervals like perfect 4ths

    c. are flattened 3rds or flattened 7ths

    for some reason, our ear accepts minor 3rds and 7ths in an otherwise major harmonic environment, a lot more readily than MAJOR 3rds & 7ths in a minor environment...

    the trouble with blasting minor pentatonic riffs all day long is it's such a familiar sound that you risk boring your audience and yourself to death :) lazy rock guitarists have been doing it for decades

    you've got the right idea about breaking out of it... modes... you don't have to go from pentatonic minor noodling to full-on modal stuff in one go, but adding in a 6th or a 2nd (appropriate ones obviously :) ) to what you're already doing can instantly add a lot of extra flavour
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002

    Respectfully, I dissagree with everything you say! :eyebrow:

    Altho, factually, relative major & minor pent scales are the same notes, they really arent the same thing. And I dont think treating them as such is especially helpful when you're starting out, other than to get your fingers in different places on the neck, which doent have much impact if you're playing the same notes.

    Same with major scale modes. Each mode has a distinct sound on top of the chord/ harmony it implies. You cant just noodle "any mode of C major" over a chord progession in the key of C and expect it to sound good and to have direction ...believe me I know :D

    Each mode is a scale in itself and should be throught of independantly, NOT just relating to the key centre. If you play B lochrian over a G7 chord you are not really playing B lochrian. All IMO of course.

    I think a good way to start on this route is to think of chord tones first and foremost, since over any 7th chord being played will make up 4 of the 7 notes in any scale you might choose. That way you can think of different scales as having differemt means of connecting the chord tones, the notes that define the harmony.

    Of course I am no expert in any of this, and I'd love to hear any opposing points. This is just my opinion :)

    I'm also not sure that you have to learn your scales 12 times on a double bass? Well, you do, obviously, but I dont this is any different to electric really. I have heard people say "guitar is easy, you just learn everything in E and move it up!" :D ..this maybe so, but it's not going to get you to learn the entire fretboard properly.
    Sure learning everything with open strings down the bottom of the neck isnt as vital on electric, but the 'shapes' are the same. I'm very new to DB so please correct me if I'm wrong :)
  5. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    The minor third played in a dominant chord is a #9, which is a pretty common dominant chord tone. Not sure I'd agree minor pentatonics work so well on maj7 chords.
  6. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    which is why I qualified it with 'at a squeeze'.... meaning you don't linger on the flat 7 for very long :)
  7. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    yeah, minor thirds sound nice against major thirds...in other words minor seconds are really popular in most music ....;-(
  8. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    well, in blues and music influenced by the blues, singers frequently blur the boundaries between major and minor 3rds.. it's not a case of setting up a jarring minor 2nd, just that there's something in between the major & minor 3rd that people respond to

    isn't that what they call the 'blue note'?
  9. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    no, the "blue note" is flat 5...
  10. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    that's a blue note :) most definitions i've read describe flattened alterations of the 3rd, 5th and 7th

    "A slight drop of pitch on the third, fifth, or seventh tone of the scale, common in blues and jazz"

    "A blue note is a variable microtonal lowering of the third, seventh, and occasionally fifth degrees of the major musical scale. This note is used frequently in blues music and gives a blues song its distinctive melancholy quality. "
  11. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    There are in fact, a whole range of pentatonic scales.
  12. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    yup... penta meaning 'five', 'tonic' meaning 'notes'... i.e. 5 notes per octave... you're absolutely correct, there's loads of em

    what he's looking for is practical advice on how to break out of his pentatonic minor habit... any thoughts on how & when to use these other pentatonic scales?
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Hmm, I thought the blue note was the minor 3rd against the major 3rd too? I read that somewhere, cant remember where now tho? The tunes used mainly major triads or 7th chords, and the minor 3rd was the accented note to give the bluesy sound?

    The piece I read that said the origin of the blue note was from early gospel style singing. I cant imagine church goers back in the early part of the last century wouldnt have been singing flat 5ths?! Of course I may be completely and utterly wrong :D
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    A quick googling, it seems we may both be right :)

    "blue note: A slight drop of pitch on the third, fifth, or seventh tone of the scale, common in blues and jazz. Also bent pitch."

    So, basicallly a flatted chord tone. Nice
  15. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    The only time I ever use any scales of any type, is for creating melodies. eg Solos

    Most, if not all of my Grooves Patterns are based around fundamental harmony.
    - Major, Minor, Dim, and Aug Triads.
    - Extended Chord patterns: 7th, 6th, and Sus4.
    - Altered Chord patterns: 9th, 11th, and 13th.
    - Inversions

    These grooves are created out rhythm styles:
    - Arppegios
    - Walking bass
    - Riffs
    - Root note
    - Syncopated rhythms

    So for playing grooves within a rhythm section, I don't think about scales, I think about chord patterns and the 5 basic ways you can use chord patterns.

    And I leave scales are for creating melodies.
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Five-note scales are more "all-purpose" than seven-note scales, simply because there's less chance of hitting a wrong note. Minor pentatonic is a great all-purpose scale, but standard major (a seven-note scale) is not. It would be much better for you to learn major pentatonic, and use that as your all-purpose major scale.

    I think it's fine for a beginner to start with major and minor pentatonics. Learn the two, and also train your ear to recognize the difference between major and minor, so you know automatically when each penta scale should be used. Once you get the hang of that, you could take some lessons or teach yourself the seven-note modes. Major, minor, mixolydian, and dorian are the most common for popular music.

    I do highly recommend lessons, however... a good teacher will do wonders for your playing. Good luck! :)