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Most Important Scale (as per Scott's Bass Lessons)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LordGeezer, Feb 7, 2018.

  1. LordGeezer


    Feb 7, 2018
    I recently came across the episode of SBL talking about how the natural major scale (Ionian mode) is the most important scale that you should learn super well first and then navigate to all the other modes after. I guess I just wanted y'all's thoughts on instead of basing around the natural major scale, basing around the natural minor scale (aeolian mode), learning that super well and then exploring the modes from that. Perhaps just from the type of music I listen to, I'm inherently more comfortable playing in that scale than the major and melodies and what not seem to come more naturally to me. So would it be a bad idea for me to just go hard into the natural minor scale as like the parent of everything else, or should tough it up and play it by the book and do the natural major??

  2. Bondobass


    Mar 14, 2014
    Yeah, just gotta face the fact that the Major scale is the center of the universe.

    So, with everything referenced to Ionian(major scale): 12345678
    Dorian starts on 2nd note of the Maj scale: 23456782
    Phrygian starts on 3rd note: 34567823
    Lydian starts on 4th note: 45678234
    Mixolydian starts on 5th note 56782345
    Aeolian starts on 6th note: 67823456
    Locrian starts on 7th note: 78234567

    Practice all of them ascending, descending. Seems like a lot, but once you get it you got it.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Hi, and welcome to TB. ;)

    You don't say whether you are a beginner or a "seasoned" player. If it's the former, then yes, I agree with with SBL and would say that the major scale should be the first one to learn....thoroughly. Afterwards the minor and pentatonic can be tackled. If you are a beginner, the modes will come later, when you have mastered the above scales.

    Often when people talk about "learning" a scale they mean being able to play it from root to root all over the fretboard at a gazillion BPM's. This is no bad thing in itself but there is a lot more to it. "Learning" a scale should involve knowing how CHORDS are derived from them. You should also learn how to harmonise the major scale. Chords are what the bassist plays 90% of the time...not scales.

    Here is a link dealing with the scale versus chord issue :

    Chord Tones Are Primary | Bass Chord Patterns | StudyBass
  4. Bondobass


    Mar 14, 2014
    Yes indeed, same as I learned to play chords on guitar waaay before I knew anything about scales
    fearceol likes this.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    There are 12 major keys and 12 minor keys. These 24 keys are the foundational building blocks of Western music. Every competent musician should be fluent in all 24. Learning just 12 of the 24 gives you only half the picture.

    Major keys are usually taught before minor keys for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant reasons for teaching them in this order is that major-key tonal harmony can be simpler to teach than minor-key tonal harmony. In order to really understand minor keys, you need to know natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, altered dominant chords, etc. which can be overwhelming if you don't already have a firm grasp of major key music theory.

    A more basic reason to learn major scales first is that all scales are defined in relation to the major scale, or in other words, the major scale is "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8." For example the natural minor scale is spelled "1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8" because its 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are a half step lower compared to the corresponding notes of the major scale.

    It sounds like you are proposing to define the natural minor scale as "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8" and then define other scales in relation, so for example the major scale is "1 2 #3 4 5 #6 #7 8" because its 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are a half step higher than the corresponding notes of the minor scale? If so, that's just plain flat-out wrong! If you choose this path, you'll be confused by any music theory book, video, lesson, or website you try to learn from in the future, plus you will have a hard time verbally communicating your musical ideas to other musicians. ;)
  6. I feel that I must talk about relative and parallel modes. The above is relative mode spelling where the key changes, but, the notes remain the same. Then there is parallel mode spelling where the notes change and the key stays the same. Both get you where you want to be. But, if you have started thinking parallel and you see a relative post -- confusion happens. We both are going to make the point play in major if that is what your music is in, play in minor if that is what your music is in.

    I find parallel easier to use on the fly, the choice is yours, use what ever works for you. You have relative above, here is the spelling for parallel modes.

    Major modes:
    Ionian R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base for major modes.
    Lydian R-2-3-#4-5-6-7 change one note.
    Mixolydian R-2-3-4-5-6-b7 change one note

    Minor modes:
    Aeonian R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Home bass for minor modes.
    Dorian R-2-b3-4-5-6-b7 Change one note.
    Phrygian R-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Change one note.
    Locrian R-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7 Here you change two notes. And a one chord vamp of the m7b5 chord seems to work best with Locrian.

    What is the difference in each of the above? The modal mood. If your songs wants a specific mood find the mode that gives that mood.

    If I want to play in Dorian I use my major scale box and flat the 3 and 7. Simple as that. But, I need a modal chord vamp droning to let Dorian's mood develop. Read that again.

    I use the major scale box and then adjust the spelling for what I need. I do not have a zillion different patterns. THE MAJOR SCALE pattern is my go to pattern.

    Great thing about modes -- when played over a modal vamp the modal mood develops. However, when played over a V-I chord progression the modal mood normally can not cut through the tonal center of a V-I resolution. Modal vamps do not resolve, thus let the modal mood develop. Tonal music will use a V-I chord progression. Modal music will use a one or two modal chord vamp. One chord being the key and the other chord having the signature note of the mode you want to use. Dorian's signature note is the natural 6 mixed in with the b3 and b7.

    Now back to the OP's question. Major scale or minor scale. What you use depends on the music you play. My Country is 99.9% major. My Praise is 90% major. So Major is where I find everything and then adjust the b3, b6 & b7.

    My point. What you do depends on the music you play. Normally modes are for the solo instruments. Getting any lead break solos? If not put modes on the back burner.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
    smeet, projectapollo and lowplaces like this.
  7. Chris Doherty

    Chris Doherty

    Jan 31, 2018
    There's a pretty strong case to be made that the Lydian and Locrian modes should be the most important ones, but the reality is the Major scale just is, because music just evolved that way.
    IamGroot likes this.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    we can describe any number using the digits 0-9, so we learn them well.
    We count 0123456789 and then we 'loop around', adding a decimal place.
    it may be just as valid to count 4567890123
    but your numbers will be unreadable to others
    and you will need to keep translating them.
    why not just learn 0123456789 in the first place?

    we can describe any note, interval or chord as it relates to the major scale,so we learn it well.
    we count Root, Maj 2nd, Maj 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Maj 6th, Maj 7th, varying as needed.
    it may be just as valid to relate them to the natural minor scale
    but intervals, melodies, and chords will be unreadable to others
    and you will need to keep translating them.
    why not just learn the major scale in the first place?
  9. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    I do see where the OP is coming from. When I played guitar and started learning to solo I was taught the minor pentatonic first as it's a quick way to get into improv soloing that works with a lot of modern music. Simply locate the root note of the scale and play away. The song's in a major key? No problem, locate the root note, slide back three frets and play the same minor pentatonic pattern and you're actually playing the major pentatonic scale.

    In saying that, when I started playing bass I started off with chord tones (Just like guitar where most of us start with strumming chords) but now the major scale is home to me. It is what I base everything around now..... but if I'm playing a song in a minor key, or playing blues and other similar rock music, I'm pretty handy at throwing in licks using the minor pentatonic scale between chords.:) :bassist:
  10. LordGeezer


    Feb 7, 2018
    Okay, so I definitely agree with what ya'll are saying about the natural major scale being sort of the benchmark from all other diatonic (i think that's the right word?) scales are derived. I would say i am well acquainted with the notion of thinking of all intervals in relation to the major scale, more so than some of my friends who are far better musicians than myself, for instance when I explained to a friend that the phrygian scale is the major scale but with a minor second, third, 6th, and 7th he just kind of looks at me cluelessly, but then after hearing some phrygian guitar for a minute can almost instantly improvise to it no problem hahah.

    That being said, while playing the minor scale I am still very aware of the presence of the b3, b6, and b7. So i suppose to better ask my question. Is it okay for expend most of my energy first learning my way around the fret board on the natural minor scale with a strong awareness of the structure of the major scale and its intervals, duly noting which ones are "flatted"?
    Elfsocks likes this.
  11. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Or maybe practice the natural minor but name the scale after the third note.
  12. Yes if most of your music is in a minor key you could let the natural minor scale be your go to scale and sharp the b3, b6 & b7 back to a natural note when you are playing in a major key.

    As my music is mostly in a major key I let the major scale be my go to scale - and then adjust the b3, b6 & b7. But, ....................

    .................. scales are used to get our fingers moving on the fretboard and then when we play melodically. Most of the time we are providing harmony aka playing chord tones - the root, third, fifth and seventh interval of the chord we are using. Which ever way you go major or minor your chord spellings will now have to be put into memory. Cmaj7 is R-3-5-7 and Cm7 is R-b3-5-b7.......

    I would recommend you think major and adjust from that. Why? Major is the basic foundation of music.

    Your choice...
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  13. inanimate_carb


    Aug 11, 2016
    Take Scott’s advice verbatim and work on it exactly as he says - he knows his stuff. Pay more attention to his material and directions than to what you see here on TB. It’s easy to get confused and the last thing you want is to be working on incorrect stuff. It’s hard to unlearn. Do it right the first time. Scott gets paid to present the right info. Others just wish they did.

    I absolutely promise you that the work you put into the major scale will be rewarded, as it is the basis for all other theory study down the road, as well as in any classroom. You can also use that major pattern and tonality over minor chords. You may not know how yet but it will come in time.
    LowActionHero likes this.
  14. ThuzzleFump

    ThuzzleFump All your bass...

    Nov 15, 2015
    You forgot the Jennian: 8675309
  15. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    The natural major and natural minor scale are the same scale, same intervals, just that the major starts on the 1st note and the minor on the 6th. In both cases you win, a you’d be always trapped within the major scale.

    The idea that there is a scale more important that others is, in my opinion, pretty basic. Perhaps a strong message to make you study.

    What is important, is the relation of the notes (intervals) you play against the harmony (chord), the timing and expression of the notes. All the notes are important and have an effect in the context, depending what you want to express.

    Scales are important, provide structure, but remember to avoid getting imprisioned by standard structures, explore your own expressions and combinations that sound good to you

    Free the notes!!!
  16. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    The reason he says this is because most unschooled players truly do not utilize or understand the harmonic applications of the major scale. They think in small boxes and make little rules like “ill just flat the 3rd/6th etc and stay in this box”

    That makes for pretty generic basslines compared to the power of understanding all the harmonic layering, substitutions and multiple patterns that can be leveraged from this scale.

    Once you can play it all over the neck and use substitutions on the fly while improvising, you will truly have the ear for the next level of harmonic substitutions.

    But most guys either fast forward through the major scale in their urgency to learn modes. Or they take it past that and want to learn melodic minor and advanced concepts way too early into the process.

    You have to really master the major scale before your ears and mind will be developed to take things up a notch. But thats not sexy so a lot of guys dont do it. Hence the lesson.
    Spin Doctor and fearceol like this.
  17. MixBass


    Feb 23, 2006
    L.A. Harbor
    Co-founder. GrabAxe
    I agree with SBL, I call Ionian the mother mode. I would argue more people know the sound of do re me etc than any other mode.
  18. packrat

    packrat Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2017
    Sydney, Australia
    true of modes, but more people probably know the pentatonics :)

  19. gully_jones

    gully_jones Stone cold groovy man Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2012
    Technically, I agree but on TB the most important scale is bathroom, postal, luggage etc.
  20. I’m way more at home with the natural minor than the natural major. When I started playing I was coming from guitar so I just kind of applied my guitar knowledge to bass and went from there. I really wish I had spent more time on major stuff early on.
    I’ve seen several replies that it’s all the same notes. That’s true but feel and phrasing are way different. For me, the longer I spent in minor, the harder major became to play.
    Have fun!
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