Rookie Question About Scales (and maybe chord tones)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by The Bass Abides, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. The Bass Abides

    The Bass Abides

    Mar 3, 2019
    Hey everybody,

    Please keep in mind that I am a 44 year old rookie! So......When learning scales one obviously works on the shapes and pattern of each scale. My question is (and this maybe ridiculous) but should I be trying to memorize the order of notes in each particular scale? Or should I just be focusing on memorizing the "chord tones" that correspond with each chord (is this what is referred to as a "triad?")?

    Man, I hope that made sense! Thanks in advance!

    teh-slb likes this.
  2. Fred Pucci

    Fred Pucci

    May 2, 2019
    Well, you are right to focus more on the chord tones which is the meat of our job, but the reason you want to pay attention to scale tones is simply to a) add some variety to your basslines, and b) to use as leading tones into the next chord.
    Not exactly sure what you mean by “the order of the tones”, but you would want to know the intervals as they pertain to the root (eg 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.). Going back to the value of scales, you need to know them in order to find the right chord tones (eg major or minor). Welcome to the club! Never too late to start and enjoy the magic of music and the bass in particular. GL!
  3. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    The bad news is you are too old for Jedi training. The good news is not too old for standing on a stage and drooling...err...I mean bass playing.

    Yep. The notes in a scale are 12345678, and chords are basically constructed by skipping a note, so 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. Stick with just 1, 3, 5 (and 8 for the octave) for now. Definitely want to learn those along with scales.

    And yes, you can learn finger patterns and just move it around for whatever key you want, but I would encourage you to learn the fingerboard and being able to find any note on any string, so in addition to learning finger patterns, try a scale and chord on one string only. Slowly and no metronome for now. Sing or say the note as you play them. Look at the fingerboard for now to burn it in your mind. Later, you can try without looking when comfortable.
  4. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Without an understanding of what notes are in each scale you will keep running into brick wall. For example; as mentioned chords are made from the scale notes, so if you do not know which notes are in each scale, good luck with getting the chord tones correct.

    Another example; C major scale has no sharps or flats, so it's Cmaj7 chord will have the R-3-5-7 notes of the C major scale in it's makeup, i.e. no sharps or flats.

    The D major scale will have two sharp notes, the F# and the C# so it's Dmaj7 chord will have a sharped 3 and 7.

    Back to OP's question - you need to know what notes are in the scale you will be working with, because those notes will be the chord tones you will be using for your chords.

    Happy trails.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
  5. I’d lean towards learning scales and chords tones separately.

    Learn your scales and the notes that make them up. The patterns stay the same for each key, but you need to know which notes are sharp or flat to more easily understand chord tones.

    i.e. C major scale has no sharps or flats…easy. Cmaj chord C-E-G no sharps or flats…still easy. 2nd chord you can create from the C major scale is Dm. Minor triads is 1-b3-5…..but C major has no flats? What…?
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Of course you'll need to know both.

    It's easy of you look at note names as repeating cycles
    The order of the scale notes is part of the cycle ABCDEFG (...ABCDEFG etc)
    The order of the chord tones is part of the cycle ACEGBDF(...ACEGBDF)
    (the cycle of 3rds, also the order of lines or spaces on the staff)

    The only tricky bit is knowing which notes are natural, sharp or flat for the scale or chord you are playing.
    That's what the key signature is for. If your in the key of A then its F#, C#, G#, for example.
    Memorizing which notes are sharp /flat for each key is just a matter of drills, like memorizing multiplication tables.

    However, All of the above is a sort of "top-down" understanding of scales and chord tones, with no regard for the underlying logic and theory. Learning and understanding how scales and chords are constructed, that is probably a subject for another thread.
    Mushroo likes this.
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    You are both confusing altered intervals with the accidentals used in key signatures. The minor triad does not have a b3, it has a minor 3rd. DMaj7 does not have a sharped (?) 3rd and 7th, it has a major 3rd and a major 7th.
    The key signature for Cm has 3b, namely Bb, Eb and Ab. The interval C-Eb is a minor 3rd, not a b3.
    The key signature for D Major does indeed have 2#, but the interval D-F# is a major 3rd, not a sharped 3rd.
    Don't forget that the Cm triad can appear as ii, iii, or vi in the major keys of Bb, Ab and Eb respectively, as well as i, iv or v in Cm, Gm and Fm.
    @The Bass Abides - I recommend focussing less on patterns and more on learning the notes in the key and how to harmonise, ie create chords from, those notes. The patterns will emerge for you all by themselves, but don't let them beguile you with the prospect of an easy shortcut...
  8. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Both! Unfortunately, that's often the answer. There's a lot to learn. Figure out how to break it down into small pieces and work on just a little bit each day, and you'll get there eventually. You won't have it all memorized in a day, but if you're organized and can set aside just a few minutes a day to work on it, it's amazing what you can get over a period of a few months.
    teh-slb likes this.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    One of the top reputations a player can have in baseball is to be known as a "5-tool player." The 5 tools in baseball are: 1) hitting for average, 2) hitting for power, 3) fielding, 4) throwing, and 5) baserunning.

    Likewise in music, I'd say a "5-tool player" is a bassist who can: 1) read, 2) write, 3) hear, 4) sing, and last but not least, 5) play.

    So if you want to be a "5-tool bass player" then I recommend spending about 1 month learning to read, write, hear, sing, and play all 15 major scales and all 15 minor scales. If you memorize just 1 scale (only 7 notes!) per day then learning these 30 scales is not an overwhelming goal.

    To answer your specific question, yes you should learn all 7 notes of each scale. But as @mambo4 mentioned, this is actually very easy, because every minor or major scale has the 7 letter names ABCDEFG. Obviously which letter you start on depends on the scale, and most scales have sharps or flats, but it is always those 7 letters ABCDEFG. (You wouldn't, for example, ever see a major scale or minor scale containing both Db and D#.)
  10. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Scales and chord tones are the same thing if you really look at it. The implied chord tones are the rest of the notes in a scale that aren't played in a regular triad (3 note chord). They're just in a different order. Learning this concept is how I learned both at the same time. Same notes... different order.
    The Bass Abides likes this.
  11. teh-slb


    Sep 21, 2018
    I'm not great with scales (also: not sure if this relates to scales), but my life took a turn for the better when my teacher "forced me" to learn all of the neck. Thanks, teach!
  12. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    And you are all probably doing a good job confusing the beginner OP.

    Yes, the D major scale does have the two sharped notes but the D chord is still made up of the 1,3 and 5 of the D major scale. The 3 and 5 just happen to be sharp notes.

    When writing scales lots of people these days use b3 rather than minor 3 or even iii to signify a minor 3rd. I know from other threads that SteveCS is very pedantic about what words and notation to use and he is generally correct however bringing in other information without explaining it thoroughly just makes for information overload.

    Actually i highly recommend taking the shortcut. People, particularly those who start later, really just want to get playing music, not studying it.

    I started off with learning the Major scale pattern.
    Then i learned the major and minor chord shapes relating them to that major scale. This was followed quickly by learning where to use the b7 note, then the 6 and more.
    This enabled me to be up and playing songs with a group very quickly with nothing more than the chord chart.
    The more you learn the more you want to know and that's where TB has taught me a stack of info.
    The Bass Abides likes this.
  13. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    When I said let the patterns reveal themsleves, this happens the minute you work out your second key... Its not like you have to wait for a certain level of proficiency or you've done all 15 major keys...
  14. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    Fair comment.

    In my case, i've got a terrible memory so trying to learn and remember exactly which notes are in each scale was near on impossible. Using the pattern method I simply had to learn the pattern and refer it to the tonic or root note. Keeping it basic, once I'd learned the major and minor scale patterns and the major and minor chord shapes I was able to play in any key as long as I knew where the tonic (or root) note was.

    I understand and agree that learning to read and knowing the notes in every scale is a very good thing to have but for me as soon as I started trying to learn the theory before being able to play something my eyes glazed over and I couldn't retain anything. Now a few years down the track I am learning more theory as I am able to refer it to things that I already play. To me this makes sense as the music came first and theory was developed to explain how it came about.
    SteveCS likes this.
  15. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    It's unfortunate that you think I'm just being pedantic. People would not use boat, ship, canoe and barge interchangeably, yet it seems in music the interchange of words with seemingly similar meaning is acceptable. I believe it's because the majority of people 1/ don't know any better, 2/ have been taught by people who don't know better, and (worse still) 3/ are now teaching the next generation that won't know better. The example you give perfectly demonstrates this point...
    'b3' is a relative term that implies something altered with respect to something else, presumably a major third, but I can't tell without further context.
    A minor third (m3) is an absolute thing - always 3 semitones.
    The 'iii' is used to identify the mediant chord of the major key, not an interval. We know it's from the major key because in the minor minor key the mediant chord is major or augmented, so would be III or III+...
    So three very different concepts being used interchangeably. It's no wonder threads like these get into a mess...

    So it's not about being pedantic but about trying to raise the bar for musicians, especially bass players, to know and use the language of music correctly. It makes life so much easier...
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
    bfields likes this.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I'm as pedantic as the next guy ;) but even I acknowledge, there are multiple systems of music notation, used by different groups of musicians, in different contexts. For example, if you are reading TAB, you would not expect the TAB notation to follow the same rules as standard music notation!

    The "1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7" style of notation is called "scale degree" and it is used by a specific group of people, for a specific purpose. It is not the same thing as standard music notation and doesn't follow the same rules and conventions. The group of people who use this notation are students at schools like Berklee who need an easy shorthand for comparing and studying scales. The answer "altered with respect to something else.. but I can't tell without further context" is "the major scale" (in other words 1234567 is the standard major scale/ionian mode) and I think you know that. ;)

    It's also closely related to the Nashville Number System, which again, is just a different style of notation that follows its own internally consistent rules, no better or worse than standard music notation, and exists for a specific purpose that is useful for a specific group of musicians.
    BAG and SteveCS like this.
  17. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    IMHO, Jargon is fine, and often necessary, when confined to use within the specialist purposes for which it was conceived, but loses credibility when used out of context or in the general discussion where more common language is more appropriate. Of course this is just IMHO.
  18. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    Of course he knows that... he is just being deliberately difficult (or pedantic) and it doesn't help beginners at all.

    I don't know a decent musician out there who wouldn't know immediately that b3 would be referring to the third degree of the major scale flattened a half step, or that 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8 is a minor scale.
    Language and concepts do change over time and just because something was notated one way for a long time doesn't mean there is not an easier way.
    Mushroo likes this.
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    OK, I do see where you're all coming from. I'm not being deliberately difficult, I just find it easier and more intuitive to consider the minor key in it's own right rather than by comparison the major key. Sorry for the derail/distraction...
    BAG likes this.
  20. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    IMO You gotta know the notes in each scale first. We build from that, here are some Dirt Simple memory pegs that helped get me started. For example:
    Dirt simple cheat sheet stuff.
    What notes are in the E major scale?
    Write them out using no sharps or flats E, F, G, A, B, C, D. Then go back an insert the needed sharps. Using this memory peg, cheat sheet, or what ever you would like to call it.

    See God Destroy All Earth By F#irey C#haos.
    C scale has no sharps or flats
    The G has one, which one?
    The D has two, which two?
    The A has three, which three?
    The E has four, which four?
    The B has five, which five?
    The F# has six, which six?
    The C# has seven, which seven?

    Now which sharp? EDIT This is not correct E major has 4 sharps.
    Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds.
    So the first sharp used will be the F#, the second sharp will be the C#, the third sharp used will be the G#, etc. and when you get to the E major scale it will have 6 sharps, the F#, C#, G#, D#, A# and E#. Fat cats go down alleys eating birds...

    Yep there is one for the flat scales also, I let someone else post it.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
    The Bass Abides likes this.