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minor scales ... ok ... but which one and how ?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by NJXT, Feb 21, 2001.


  1. NJXT

    NJXT

    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    As I have said before, I've played bass several years but I have severe flaws in theory, because I'm 95% self-taught.
    So I have a couple of questions about minor scale(s) :
    1) The song/chord is minor, so , as a bassist, I am supposed to play a minor scale. Ok, but which one : melodic, harmonic, another-"ian"-ending-mode-that-I-don't-know ? How do I find out (without my not-so-good-ears) ?
    I mainly use pentatonic in this case because it's easy and avoids me asking myself this very question. But I would like to use the fullest harmony available.
    2) The melodic minor is different when descending it or ascending it. Ok, I get that.
    But you are not always really descending or ascending a scale, are you ?
    Most of the time I'm "moving" in the scale (I don't know how to express that correctly. Is it clear ?).
    How do you know you got to pick the ascending or descending notes ?
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Maybe someone could help with your questions if you would post the changes to the song you are referring to. It's kind of hard to reply in the abstract.
     
  3. NJXT

    NJXT

    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    Ok, so it's based on the chord changes of the song(s) ?
    That's already a beginning of an answer, thx.
    Perhaps someone could make an explaination based on an example or give me a link ?
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ok. Supposing your song is in the key of A minor, and the chord sequence goes like this:

    Ami.....Cma.....Dmi.....Fma.....Gma.....Ami


    If you combined all of the notes in all of those chords and arranged them in ascending order, you'd get the following:
    A...B...C...D...E...F...G...A, which would give you a Natural or Aeolian minor scale.

    But if you were to slip an Ema chord anywhere into the above sequence and do the same thing, that chord contains a G#, and that complicates matters...because now your scale reads:
    A...B...C...D...E...F...G...G#...A . I don't know if this scale has an "official" name, but I call it a "bebop minor" scale, because of its usefulness in teaching beginners to solo over basic minor jazz tunes. But for most pop & rock songs, you'd never approach it that way. Instead, the easiest approach would be to play out of the Aeolian scale through all of the progression EXCEPT where the Ema chord is - and over the Ema chord, you'd raise the G to a G#, thus making it a "harmonic minor" scale (if you raise the f to F# as well, then you'd have an "ascending" melodic minor scale).

    The important thing isn't really what you call it, but how it sounds when you play lines over the progression. Most people agree that, in the above example, it would sound bad to play a "G" in you solo while there is a G# going on in a chord and vice versa.

    Hope this helps.

    P.S. - feel free to post the chords to your song if you want any worthwhile specific advice.
     
  5. NJXT

    NJXT

    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    Ok, thx again to Chris and thank you Ed "King" Fuqua.
    That brings me back to my first self response to those questions : take lessons.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ed,
    While I would not even think of implying that you were being abstruse twice in one week, I gotta admit, the above parted my hair (er, my scalp, anyway...) right down the middle. Whaddup?
     
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Now I'm sticking my neck waaay out with this question and will look ignorant, but "suckaz gots tah know", what is DURRL and who is Ed Harris?

    jason oldsted
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think Ed and Chris have given you a lot of stuff and of course it's all 100% correct ;) But it might help to expand on the thing about the function of the chord in this context. One of the first things you learn in Jazz is that a minor chord in the song doesn't necessarily mean you need to play a minor scale as such. So if a Minor7 chord is actually "functioning" as the II chord of the key, then you can play the Dorian - which can be thought of as a mode of a major scale. But you could have that same Minor7 chord in a song, "functioning" as something else and a minor scale might be more more appropriate.

    This is just a simple example and "Janet & John" to Chris and Ed's more erudite expositions ;) but I thought it might help to get a handle on this.
     
  9. Another aspect here, is what are we talking about? Soloing or support? If you are working on your walking bass lines, then the chord notes are what you should be concentrating on. The scales are fine if you want to hone your soloing skills, but even here, the chord is still king. If you apply the common notes of a progression, as was mentioned above, and form a composition (solo) based on that, your solo is going to have a lot less character, IMO, because you are essentially ignoring the character of the individual chords. This was a feature of bebop sax players in the 40s and 50s, playing over clusters of chords, rather than indivdual chords, and that's why their solos often sound like they're just running scales. Melodicism is rooted in the tonal character of the chord.
     
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I don't know which sax players you are referring to, but more often than not, when I hear a bebop player, what I hear them doing is running CHANGES, not scales. This is not a bad thing or a good thing, it's just a style. Melodicism is rooted in the character of a melody. Chords simply color that melody. But again, that's just my .02.
     
  11. i know i can't be the only person who doesn't understand this... at least i hope not
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Well, that's kind of a long story, and I'm not sure if it's worth explaining, but...

    Ed and I were having an off-line discussion about something, and he was telling me about some dumb guy he met from Georgia who thought he played as well as the guys from new York, even though he couldn't walk a line that made any sense. The story reminded me of an old skit from the old "Newhart" show which included three brothers (two of whom were apparently mute) whose signature line was, "Hi...I'm Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." So the name "Darryl" became synonymous with "dumb hick from the South". Ed used to lay that moniker on me just to mess with my head 'cause he's this big important cat from NY and I live in Kentucky (he's allowed to make deep South jokes 'cause he's a good 'ole boy originally from GA). The rest is to be found in a DB thread called "Kay S-1: what's a reasonable price?" down in DB Basses. Not that it's all that interesting, but if inquiring minds need to know......:cool: