scales over chords

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JWC, Apr 25, 2001.

  1. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Can you play the whole scale over a chord? For example. The guitarist plays a C maj. Then I play the whole C maj. scale over that. Then he plays a G maj. I play the whole G maj. scale over that if I choose. Then he plays an A min. I play the A min. scale over it if I want. Can I do this? Play an entire scale over the corresponding chord?????
  2. Sure, why not? I actually did that in a song with my old band. It was just a fill, though.. I heard the scale in my head for that part of the song, so I played it. There's no rules with this stuff.
    Instead of playing the straight scale, try mixing up the order of the notes to make a cool lick.
  3. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Thanks Dave. The reason I asked that was to make sure that if I do that I am staying within the right key.
  4. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    not to actually do what I asked, but thanks again.
  5. Jake15


    Jan 17, 2001
    USA, PA
    I beleive in that cadse you would use an appegio.(playing the notes of the coard seperatly)
  6. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Yes but theoretically, you can play all the notes in the scale of the corresponding scale?

    G7 chord- G7 scale etc.?
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I would take issue with this and if we are talking about a regular bass line and not a solo, then I would say the answer is no, unless you do want to sound "out".

    Of course there's no right and wrong in this, but in any scale, certain notes are going to sound "stronger" or more consonant and certain notes are going to sound weaker or more "out".

    So if we're talking a straight major scale, then he strong notes are going to be root, III, V, and VII - the other notes are usable - especially as passing tones, but if you sustain a long note on one of the weaker notes, it is probably going to sound just plain wrong and the audience will think you played a bum note.

    OK - you can stand up and explain that - no it was in the same key, but I think you have to try and play things that sound right - both to you and to the audience.

    There is the idea in Jazz that there are no wrong notes - only wrong resolutions. And I think this last part is crucial - anyone listening will want to hear where the tune is going - that the line makes sense and "resolves" somewhere or they are going to (unconsciously) feel the tension that you are creating.

    Now you might want to make people feel tense and uncomfortable - but I think you need to be aware of this and what you are doing by your choice of notes and not just take random notes from a scale - this might work for a sax solo (although I wouldn't recommend it!) - but is certainly not a good way to construct basslines that will sound good to anyone and will get you hired again.;)
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    On a related issue, you need to take account of the fact that for every chord there will be choices of scale. If you take your minor chord as an example - there are several types of minor scale or you could play a Dorian scale - which is a major scale starting on the 2nd note of the scale, amongst others.

    Also - a lot of chords in songs are not just straight minor or major and so a G7, which is very commonly-used, will have a flattened 7th so you can't play a straight major scale over it.
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I'll throw one more consideration into the discussion here. We aren't talking about solos, but about a regular bassline in a the body of a song.

    Let's say, there is one chord per measure...not to even mention two or more chords per measure. If you are playing an entire scale per chord, you are treading on the treacherous path of creating too busy a bassline, aren't you?

    Playing eight notes per chord in a blues tune or many piop or rock tunes would be literally fighting with your lead guitarist and keyboardest for attention. Not only that, it could have a negative impact on the groove. Too, it leaves little room for dynamics. Now maybe for a fill, but even then...I can just see you bandmates now giving you a dirty look.

    If you MUST play an entire scale, though, why not go for a simple major or minor pentatonic scale depending on the chord? That would reduce your note choices to five and simplify your bass lines somewhat...still maybe not enough to satisfy your bandmates.

    JWC, weren't you the one who requested advice on country music basslines? Country basslines tend to be less busy. Be careful about all those scale notes in country.

    But playing an entire scale for each chord is an excellent exercise for home practice. Take a chord and play it in every key with it's related scale. Terrific exercise.

  10. Playing a whole major or minor scale will create a lot of busy-ness, but not necessarily music. This from a novice bass guy, but many years on guitar. Pentatonic scales work better for blues, jazz & classic rock. I don't know about country. Bruce, didn't Dizzy say that if you play a wrong note once the audience will think you made a mistake, twice and they will think it is part of the song, but three times and they will think you are playing jazz?
  11. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Thanks, but not what I am asking. The reason I ask can you play the whole scale over chords is to see whether or not I can choose any of those notes I want for a bassline, not play the whole scale. Like if the song plays a C maj. then I wanna know can I use any notes in the C maj. scale over that chord (not playing the whole scale). Then if the song goes to A min. I want to know if its ok to choose any nots from the A min. scale to play. See :)
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I misunderstood. I thought when you said, "Play an entire scale over the corresponding chord," you meant play all the notes of the scale over the chord. I didn't think it meant just choose some of the notes from the complete scale.

    Since selecting only certain notes from the scale is what you meant, refer back to Bruce Lindfield's excellent answer.

  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I'm going to say 'yes'. BUT the correct scale is going to be the issue. For example, with a maj7 chord, the scale is not major, it's lydian. Try it for yourself, you'll see that the 4th in major will clash with the 3rd of the chord (it's only a half step away), but the raised 4th of the lydian will be very pleasing.

    For further example the minor you mentioned, while it might be natural minor, a more likely candidate would be dorian.

    You're on the right track, just dig a little further. Good luck! :)
  14. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I always thought the opposite of consonance was dissonance, not "out."

  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This is what I was saying, in a more general way - the 4th is usually called an "avoid note" in Jazz because it sounds "out". You may call this dissonance, but in Jazz, that's OK - it's just "out there", man! A lot of Sax players will play parts of their solo "out" - just completely out of the key, to create tension - which is OK as long as you know how to resolve this tension and come back to a satisfying conclusion.

    If you want it to sound like free Jazz, then fine - if you want it to sound like rock, pop, country etc - then the answer has to be no! As Pacman says you really have to dig further and know what you're doing and why will often help. ;)
  16. I don't qiute understand this whole scale over chords thing. From what I've read, for each chord you can have a choice of different scales from which that chord is derived eg Cmaj scale over Cmaj chord. So if there are many chords in the song, do you pick an appropriate scale to play over each chord? What notes do you play from the chosen scale? And if there are different scales then how do you tell what key the song is in?
  17. NeoTrotskyist


    Apr 2, 2001
    Not necessarily. if their is a Cmaj7 chord in the key of C major, i would use a C major scale. I would use the lydian for a Fmaj7. And also, i do use 4th's over major chords. though, predominately as passing tones.
  18. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The important issue is not the key of a song, it's the function of the chord. It's not so easy as to say IV chords use lydian, VI chords use aolean, etc. You can use any notes over any chord if you know how to resolve it, such as a perfect 4th (which clashes horrendously with the maj 3rd) over a maj 7 chord, but I believe the original poster was looking for more "inside" sounds, and the lydian mode would be a more fitting choice.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with this - that's why I highlighted the what and why in my last post - there's no substitute for knowing why you played that note!

    If not, as a bassist you are probably best sticking to chord tones and the odd passsing notes.