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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Kipp Harrington, May 23, 2019.

  1. Hey guys/gals. I was going to start learning the major and minor scales.

    Ok, so if I learn all 12 scales for both major and minor (24 total, of course), I really don't understand how they will apply to songs I will/am playing.

    In other words, I can't see a song where all you do is run the scale over and over again throughout the entire song. I'm assuming that variations of the scale will be used during different parts of a song. This stuff is confusing!

    Do you (yourself) strategically (and consciously) apply major and/or minor scales when playing songs or do you just memorize the notes to the songs? That is all I have done (so far) when learning songs... just memorizing the notes and then executing.

    I feel like an idiot about this whole thing... like I am missing the point, entirely. Sorry if this is a terrible question. Thanks in advance for any insight.
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    The point of learning the scale isn't to run it up and down during the song - it's a "road map" of the notes that are "fair game" to play, you don't need to play them all in sequence. Like learning the "ABC song" vs. actually spelling words and building sentences...

    ...they're mostly useful when improvising or coming up with your own parts - though understanding what key a song is in and therefore what scale applies is also very helpful when trying to learn parts note for note. So if you're only at the point of "memorizing notes and executing", scales won't be so useful - they're for when you want to go further...
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hi Kipp, it's a great question. :)

    If you know all the major and minor scales (and their key signatures) then you can read 99% of the sheet music ever written. The key signature tells you which notes are "inside" the key. To play notes "outside" the key signature, "accidental" symbols are used (sharps, flats, and naturals).

    So if you know all your major and minor scales, then you can quickly scan the sheet music and look for accidentals. This will show you at a glance which notes are "inside" and which notes are "outside" the key.

    If you don't know your scales, then it is hard to read music, because when you see an accidental symbol, you won't know "sharp compared to what?" or "flat compared to what?"

    In other words, you can't play "outside" the key until you learn what "inside" the key sounds like. :)

    I recommend 1 month of scale study for all students. That is plenty of time to learn all 24 scales (or 30 including the "enharmonic" keys like F#/Gb) if you learn just 1 per day. Then after 30 days you will have the tool kit to learn most songs ever written, and you'll never need to practice boring scales ever again! ;)
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Much better answer! :thumbsup:
    AstralBirth likes this.
  5. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Scales are for musical knowledge and bluntly, to de-mystify music. When you get into more challenging repetoire, you will find it easier when learning. "Oh that lick I thought was impossible? The dude is just playing a d minor scale starting on e and then then going chromatic at the end...easy peasy."
    Huw Phillips and GlennRH like this.
  6. Fred Pucci

    Fred Pucci

    May 2, 2019
    It’s a common Q that most people starting out ask- especially because a lot of music books start off teaching. But it’s like taking a single piece of a puzzle and expecting someone to get the entire picture from it.
    Do yourself a favor and invest in a good book (or lessons if you can) that teaches music theory so you get all the pieces of the puzzle and more importantly, know how to use this knowledge to actually PLAY! I can recommend something if you interested- reply or DM me and I’d be happy to do so.
  7. Songs are written in a key, normally the key the vocalist likes to sing in. I like to sing in the key of D, or G. Women like G or A normally. So if I was going to sing this song I'd ask that this song be played in the key of D and everyone then would use the notes in the D major scale.

    A song has melody, harmony and rhythm. The melody is made from the notes of the scale. We pick notes of the scale that sound good together, i.e. we do not use all of them in a row. So, let's keep this dirt simple for now, our melody will come from scale notes. Using only one string on your bass pick out Happy Birthday. See how you used some of the notes and skipped over others. A melody will use the notes of the scale that are needed.

    Then the harmony comes from the chord's notes. Whoa! What do chords do? Chords harmonize the melody. They do this by sharing some of the melody's notes, i.e. as the melody moves along in the song the songwriter places a chord below the melody that has some of the melody's notes in it. It's not rocket science you can look at the sheet music, identify the chord being used and pound it's root or name note and get asked back. R on the first beat and the 5th on the 3rd beat will serve you well.

    I play from sheet music 90% of the time. As I play bass, which is an accompaniment instrument I play notes of the harmonizing chord. I seldom get off into melody. Why? The solo instruments do a much better job of solo breaks than our bass can. Old story - people go for drinks when the bass starts a solo.

    I call up some fake chord sheet music on a song I like and follow the chords while singing the song under my breath. Singing the lyrics lets me keep up with where the rest of the guys are in the song, i.e. follow the chords and let the lyrics tell you when to change chords. Little on the beat. If you follow the lyrics normally a beat will be with each lyric syllable. Hap-py and Birth-day both would get two beats then the words, to you would only get one beat each as they are single syllable words.

    Not a terrible question, sometime it helps to see the big picture so then we can work on the small stuff. Use the follow search words to pull up some fake chord sheet music on a song you would like to play. Chords, name of the song. See the chord's name, find it on your fretboard and pound out that note to the beat of the song. When the sheet music has a different chord active, then change to that chord's root note.

    Is there more? A lot more, but, get comfortable with this and then come back with specific questions.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    Border, JoshS, DeltaTango and 2 others like this.
  8. Thanks bholder. I understand what you're saying. So, I guess when I am playing a certain song, let's say "Sunspot Baby", I would incorporate the E major scale since the song is in the key of E? Or is it in the key of E? That's another mystery to me. I researched this and again, totally confused on how to determine what key a song is in. I guess I would need more background in theory before I could quickly and easily determine this... ugh!
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    "Sunspot Baby" is in the key of E Major and is written with a key signature of 4 sharps. The main progression uses the chords E, A, and B. These are called the I-IV-V ("one, four, five") chords because they are based on the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the E Major scale. Can you think of any other songs that use I-IV-V chord progressions?

    If you are in a situation where your band wants to "jam" and you need to improvise your own bass line to "Sunspot Baby," here is my advice: the "safe and obvious" note choices are to play the chord tones (root, 3rd, and 5th) of each chord in the chord progression. So you can play E, G#, B for the E chord; A, C#, E for the A chord, and B, D#, F# for the B chord. You will notice that all of these notes fit the key signature of 4 sharps (no accidental symbols are needed) so this type of I-IV-V chord progression could be described as "diatonic" or "inside" the key of E Major.

    On the few occasions when "Sunspot Baby" uses notes outside the key signature, accidental symbols are used, for example the E7 chord in the intro requires D natural accidental, which temporarily "cancels" the D sharp in the key signature, until the next bar line.
  10. Thanks for all the time and effort you put in to trying to help me with this. It just seems too overwhelming. I’m anything but lazy when it comes to music, but I never see myself learning this. Too confusing. Thanks again though.
  11. Thanks man. I don’t think I’m up to understanding all of this. But I appreciate your input.
  12. Thirty minutes with a buddy that plays guitar or bass, and some fake chord sheet music, and you two can be a musician.

    If you play from sheet music all you need to know is what the sheet music is telling you and where that note is on your fretboard. If you find your notes in first position, first 5 frets of the neck, it's a piece of cake.

    You can leave all that theory and just play songs. You will play better songs if you know the theory, but, getting started playing song from sheet music theory is just gravy.

    Do a google on some fake chord sheet music and see what you can do.

    See the chord, find that note and pound out the beat.
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  13. Lol. This is like trying to understand Chinese! Everyone has been so nice and generous offering their time and direction. You guys are really cool people. I’m pretty much a blockhead when it comes to this stuff. Guess I’ll just stick to memorizing songs and (probably) improvising in an incorrect manner. Oh well. It is what it is. Thanks again.
    Mushroo likes this.
  14. I hate trying to read/understand music theory. Guess I will just play through my ignorance. Thanks for your advice, though.
    MVE likes this.
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Scales are groups of 7 out of 12 notes that are musically related.

    You don't practice scales to play them in a song
    - but as you learn songs you end up using related notes.
    It is useful to understand the relationships.

    you practice each scale to:
    • teach your brain the names of the notes
    • teach your brain the names of the intervals (how far each note is from the tonic)
    • teach your fingers the locations of the notes
    • teach your fingers the shapes of the intervals
    • teach your ear the sound of each note as it relates the other 7 (the most important thing)
    This post is a great example of how you really "use" scales
    DavC, Nashrakh, lizardking837 and 3 others like this.
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    "now you have been made aware of all the things you don't know, and that is not a blissful state"

  17. skycruiser


    Jan 15, 2019
    I have a book "Bass Guitar Scale Manual" that goes through a variety of scales in each key. It also provides short examples of the use of most of them in a familiar song or exercise. All in tab and bass clef. I recommend it for getting familiar with all the scales.
  18. Very cool video. I like the way this guy explains the "levels"... and he's absolutely right! Thanks for sharing.
    Yonni likes this.
  19. Thanks. Amazon?
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You're welcome!

    I recommend breaking down the information into smaller "chunks" so it is not so overwhelming. Each major scale or minor scale is only 7 notes. I think learning 7 notes in a 30 minute practice session is a realistic goal. For example the C major scale is CDEFGABC. Just spend 1 day learning those notes, and don't worry at all about the other scales. Tomorrow learn the next scale, and so forth, and by this time next month, you'll know them all. :)
    JRA and bholder like this.

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