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Scaled out.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Sunday, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. Sunday


    Mar 30, 2005
    My question is one of the scale persuasion.

    I play mostly contemporary church music in my youth groups praise band, and while i've found that It's not diffucult at all to play root notes, i want to wander from that and make the music more interesting. My question is, when playing a song and the guitarist is playing chords, what notes are "ok" to use apart from the root? can i use any notes from the root's scale?
    When the guitarist is playing amaj can i play anything from that scale? and then when the next chord is say...dmin can i use all the notes from that scale also? How do i know what scales to use and what notes in the scales are ok?

    possibly my question has more to do with key. but mainly i'm confused.

    thank you for any answers!

  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You can do all that, definitely. As for how you know what notes work, your ear and experience will tell you that. It's not brain surgery, and the worst that happens is you get a funny look if you hit a bum note. So just have fun and play around at rehearsals.
  3. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    The easiest thing to do to get away from roots is to play chord tones rather than scales. Learn your arpeggios.
  4. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    You should generally try to relate the scales you play to the key the song is in, not the key of the chord.

    This is an important difference, and one of the reasons why the study of modes is so vital to traditional western harmony.

    Playing D minor over a dmin chord is fine, if the song is in D minor. If the song is in C major and you play a D minor scale, it will sound off even if over a D minor chord. Why? Because you will be playing notes that are not in the key of the song. In most cases the D dorian mode would serve you better.

    There are many good threads on this forums discussing modes and giving lots of ways to start studying them, you should give them a read.
  5. Sunday


    Mar 30, 2005
    Most excellent thanks guys.

    So each song is pretty much restricted to one scale is what i'm reading...i guess on from that would be figuring out what key a song is in, how would i do such a thing? do songs ever change keys?
  6. sedgdog


    Jan 26, 2002
    Pasco, WA
    I agree with dlloyd. Chord tones, chord tones, chord tones. I play Worship music every Sunday and use chord tones all of the time. The cool thing about chord tones is they are the "color notes" of the scale - you don't have to worry about notes like the 4th that may or may not fit. Chord tones always sound good! I would suggest learning these:


    That will cover 95% of your playing. Good luck. If you want some lessons on chord tones I know Cliff Engel at www.cliffengel.com will teach you this concept by correspondence. I have dealt with Cliff and can highly recommend him.

    All the best,
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Nope, you're missing it. First off, I totally agree that you should learn chord tones and I totally disagree that you should stick to the scale of the key of the song. Why? Let's say a song is in C, and you have a progression that has these chords:


    Well, the E has a note that isn't in the C scale (G#), and so does the Gm7 (Bb). If you stick to the C scale, instead of playing G# over the E chord, you would play a G, which clashes with that chord. And with the Gm7 chord, there is a Bb instead of the B in the C scale, and you're heading for some major clashes if you play a B in the Gm7. So while you should always consider the key when you play, sometimes you have to toss it to make other chords sound right.

    This is not something that you can learn overnight. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's a simple thing you can do within a few minutes. I'm getting the impression that you're looking for a magic bullet that will immediately get you playing past root notes by your readiness to jump all over the first detailed answer you got. It can take quite a while to figure it all out and be able to use it in a practical manner. Learn all your chords and the notes in each chord.

    And yes, songs can change key and do now and then. Don't confuse that with a chord change that takes the notes out of the key. Going from a C chord to an E chord isn't a key change. How do you figure out what key you're in? That can be tough and can't be explained easily. Sometimes it's just the first chord you play. Sometimes it's a feeling that everything you're playing in a song leads to a certain chord as being its "home chord." You never know. But once you learn how to do it, it's not that hard.

    I strongly suggest getting a good teacher based in music theory to help you figure all this out. You can learn it on your own but it's tough.
  8. Sunday


    Mar 30, 2005
    Unfortunently this magic bullet you mention, was my one last shot at redemption, the answer to save me. And there is none. I was hoping for a golden rule like "only use the notes from the chord".

    anways major thanks man, i think i've figured out that i do in fact need a teacher. Music theory is a mother and a half.

    and while on the subject....www.cliffengel.com, does anyone else know anything about him?

    Thanks for all the help guys, if nothing else here dawns the realization that i need a music teacher.

  9. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    What should also dawn on you is that you need to take more chances but you also need to listen to what other bassist's are doing. If you hear something that's hip and that you like with respect to what another bassist is doing in your genre, learn it, use it, make it your own. However in the mean time in between time you can branch out by using notes from the chord in addition to the root.
  10. sedgdog


    Jan 26, 2002
    Pasco, WA
    Yes, I have studied with Cliff for about a year. He is an awesome teacher who teaches by correspondence. Check out his web site for a tour of his lesson format as well as other great information.

    Good Luck,
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Funny, I didnt get that impression, I thought he just misunderstood, which is allowed isn't it?

    Sunday, as has been said, lessons with a good a teacher is ideal :) To get you started I'll elaborate on chord tones a little, I hope this helps a little

    Next time you play a tune, use root, 5th and octave shapes over every chord.
    You know the root, well the 5th is up a string and up 2 frets, or just down a string, so if you're playing D, the 5th is A, you have two options above and below the root. The octave is up two strings and up two frets, the same fret as the 5th but up a string.
    Root, 5th and octave should stand you is good stead for pretty much any chord. However, if that 5th sounds bad over a chord, it usually means it's ether flatted or sharped (more likely flatted) so next time that chord comes round, try dropping or raising that 5th a fret and see how it sounds?! ...and make a note of it on your chart for next time!

    Now, pretty much all the chords you find will have either a major or minor 3rd in them. A major 3rd is up a string down a fret. And a minor 3rd is up a string down two frets.

    You charts should tell you whether the chords you're playing are major or minor, so start experiementing with this and see how it all sounds. You can assume a chord is Major unless it says other wise.

    Play around with these notes... play a C on your bass, then and E and listen to how the major 3rd sounds, then play C and Eflat on your bass and listen to how that sounds. soon enough you'll hear that in the chords as the band plays them.

    That givrs you root, major or minor 3rd, 5th and octave to start.. Great things can happen using just those chord tones. MANY great bass lines use far less than just those notes! :)

    hope that helps a bit


    Oh and one more thing, start off by playing the root on beat 1 of the bar and using these other notes, the chord tones on other beats. That way the "root movement" (the way the root notes move through the song) stays solid and everyone will know where they are! If you keep the roots going nice and solid then you're doing your job, and you can start to play cooler stuff on top of that :)
  12. Bullet-Bob


    Aug 20, 2005
    I am just spectating, but thank you for that ecellent post Howard K. I learned something from it.
  13. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    Amen, Howard K, a guy who knows that you can be well versed in theory as well as understanding that the acid test is in the ear. No note is 'wrong' so long as the end product is pleasing to the listener.