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What is your approach to using scales & arpeggios creatively in songs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Modern Growl, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. With all the scale patterns, arpeggios, etc... out there - What is your first approach to using them, and what is your go to patterns for an actual song?

    I'm striving to use more double octave patterns (more use of the neck, up and down)... feeling a bit restricted by the single position, single octave scale patterns....

    With so many finger / muscle memory patterns out there - how do you approach USING them in your music?

    Example: Song is 2 bars of C major, then 2 Bars of G major.

    What is your approach to making this interesting?
  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    There really is not enough information because what you play is based on the context i.e. style of music, instruments present, etc.
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Phil is right , my choices depend more on context than chords.
    I might play only roots, if it serves the song.
  4. Yeah, I guess I was a bit vauge... I playe all sorts of styles. Rock, Funk, Jazz, etc... Anything from tones of Radiohead to Jamaroqai...

    So when I'm practicing finger patterns, I'm getting a bit overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and want to nail down a few (for now) of the more appliciable ones.

    Also - how is it possible to learn each scale/mode for every single note on the fretboard and committe those patterns to memory... wow, just overwhelming.
  5. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    The backbone of any style is rhythm. Learn your scales and arpeggios in any way that is easy for you. Apply the basic rhythms of whatever style you are considering and use the notes of the scale or arpeggio. Keep the root of the chord on beat one, unless you have a good reason for not doing that.
  6. Thanks...
  7. What has helped me a lot in the last week or so, is that, I'll play some backing tracks and just start off playing the root of each chord, then every other beat, I'll play its fifth, and then swap that out and play its third, but the main thing here is that I call out the note names as I do this. I have found it's really giving me a better sense of what note I can play as well as learning different locations where that note is located on the board. So for example, I may play the D on the 12th fret of the D string, then I'll want to play an A after (a fifth). I can choose between both A's on the G string, both on the D, both on the A, or both on the E. Granted, I'm only really choosing between 3 different octaves of A's but at least I'm moving all over the board now. As I work on it, the notes all over the board are coming quicker to me, and if I keep up with it then I won't have to think about it. I just know.

    Also, I do find that I'm paying more attention to arpeggios then I am to scales, as I find chord tones to be more useful. Granted I know all of the modes and stuff. I still run through them once a week or so, just to keep them in my mind, and again when I do, I work on two octave scales, purposely going through different fingerings each time while calling out the note names.
  8. ^ nice approach.
  9. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    this is where stylistic knowledge can lead you out of the woods. There a choices that more strongly apply in one genre vs another. A good exercise might be to try C maj -Gmaj Blues, the Cmaj-Gmaj jazz, then Cmaj- G-maj funk etc...deliberately emulating a different style each time and noting what choices work in each case. (i am assuming you are talking about bass lines versus solos/melodies[/i]

    By separating learning underlying pattern/construction of the chord/scale/arpeggio
    from learning specific note names on the fretboard

    In other words , instead of learning
    • C major= CEG , how do I finger that?
    • G major= GBD , how do I finger that?
    • F major= FAC , how do I finger that?
    you learn the
    • the names of the note on the fingerboard
    • a major chord's intervals are 1 3 5,
    • What those interval shapes are on the neck
    • now I can apply this to C, or G, or F etc...

    When I play C major I am usually not thinking "I am playing C, E, G" but rather "I am playing 1,3,5 in C"
    It doesn't take that long to get the basic shapes of triads and 4 note chords under your fingers this way.
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    What if you said "With all the verbs, nouns, phrases etc. out there, what is your first approach in using them?" That doesn't really address the question you actually want answered, right? Which would be something like "How do I use language to say what I want?" And sure, there are certain "rules" about grammatical sentence construction and spelling, but those don't have anything to do with conveying meaning.

    In your example, the question you have to ask and answer for yourself is "What am I hearing?" when you hear or see (although when you see the chord change in front of you, you REALLY need to hear what that sounds like in your head) those 4 bars. What working on playing scales and arpeggios (in all inversions and in open and closed positions) does is cause you to address issues of fingering and position shifts, control of phrasing in the non fingerboard hand. But that goes hand in hand with ear training/sight singing to get those sounds in your ears, this starts coordinating what you hear with a geographic location on the fingerboard and what fingering in which position or positions is going to be the most elegant/efficient solution to play. And then understanding how these chords work together so you can start hearing lines that connect them, rather than treating them as separate entities that have nothing to do with each other.

    There's no one thing; physical approach, ear training and theory. You have to work on it all.
  11. ^ Understood...

    I guess in short, I'm looking for more pratical ways to practice patterns so I can commit them to memory easier, and draw on them in the future.

    I can go through scales ascending and decending like second nature - but I feel its worthless as I'm not "computing" it into my playing.

    I can play the root, 3rd & 5th all day long - but it feels like "busy work" that I'm not getting anything out of...
  12. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    Practicing scales and arpeggios ascending and decending isn't particularly useful IMO. Get some backing tracks or band in a box, and practice to that. Also practice arpeggios starting on notes other than the root.
  13. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    It's really a players experience of what they have learned, so they bring it to the table when they write there lines.

    For me it starts with song style, so if it's rhumba, swing, reggae, etc then the rhythm I'd the main component. Then it is chord structure and arrangement. Between those two I want to make a song flow, I want to bridge the gap between the drums rhythm and the vocals melody.
    Guitar keboards etc, yes we use the same chords, but I see it as I have a more liner use, so I can harmonise with them or push against them...as if I can play the notes the drums cannot play, so my drummer is a big part of what I do.

    But in general there are many things I personally dig out from all my music experience, but the main one is to make it flow.

    For example here's a song most can relate to, I did a version of " I wanna be like you" the King Louie song from the Jungle Book. Now I love Louis Prima, who King Louie's character is based on, so I dug in to my 40s/50s vibe of looking at the line to flow.
    So I suggested a toms rhythm from the kit, and I play against it and the main feel of the song.
    So the verse is Am to E7 with a G7 bridge before the chorus goes in to C-A7-D7-G7-C- A7-Dm7-G7-
    So I played the Am as a traid inversion E-A-C, rather than A-C-E, against the beat.
    Then for the E7 I played E-G# -B, the low open E was the tie to make it all flow.
    So rather than playing A-C-E then E-G#-B I decided the line could function off the low open E if I play off beat to the rhythm by playing ahead of the beat.
    So my line was ( chords in brackets)
    E-A-C-E-A-C-E-A-C-E-A-C x 2

    E-G#-B-E-G#-B-E-G#-B-E -

    E-G#-B-E-G#-B-E-G#-B-E -


    So in effect by playing ahead of the beat my Am traid second note is now an A, so it is now in key with the verse vocal in Am, so it's in effect a 2nd inversion traid.

    So when the change to the E7 comes rather than finishing the Am on the E ( the triads 3rd ) and then playing E again to start the E7, the one E note functions both chords and makes the change flow......so if you look at the two triads there is room for them to function together as one. In the change because one of the E notes used is not needed the E7 part the rhythm changes to being on beat rather than in between the beat, before going back to the Am and being In between the beat when the vocal comes in...that was the trick to have the vocals come in against the bass.....a few take needed to get that right LOL.

    So simple ideas like this are drawn apon to set a bass line in motion and give a 'happy' feeling song a touch of 'darkness' about it..even menace if you will.

    You can use passing notes of E and G off the Am section as they belong to a CMajor triad, and as Am is the relative minor of CMajor then it's triad can work in there as well if need be...etc etc. So relative major and minor Arps can function as an alternative to using an arpeggio and give you an extra note, in this case a G....and where does the bridge go to?

    I mean, all this from two simple chords is theory in action, but it takes imagination and experience to draw on to have the idea in the first place.
  14. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Can you quickly find all the notes of a given chord all over the neck, starting on the lowest available chord tone ( whether that's the root or not)?

    It's not about fingerings patterns at all, but about your fingers going where the SOUND is. If you're not able to "hear" the next note of the chord or scale BEFORE you play it, you're going to be stuck with only playing shapes, not music.

    I suggest flowing way down and sing what you practice. Get the sound of each note in your head and sing it before you play it. So the same with basslines you learn.

    Also do dome analysis of lines you learn. Look St the chords they support and see how they relate. See how 'My Girl" is the 5 and 1 of the F chord; dig how the opening riff to "Badge" outlines the Amin chord; discover how Jamerson plays mostly arpeggios on "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", etc.

  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I was just about to add this.

    Learn bass lines that work, then learn why they work. If you look carefully, you will find the patterns you are so bored of within the bass lines you really dig -plus the extra sauce that makes that particular bass line so appealing. Having identified how that line outliens a particular chord progression, you can then apply the same approach to different but functionally similar chords.

    That's how you move from 'boring' arpeggio patterns to grooving bass lines.
  16. Thanks guys - great input!
  17. Already In Use

    Already In Use

    Jan 3, 2010
    Find where all the roots, 3rds and fifths are on your fret board for any chord you want to play. You can find them above and below the root to add flavor in addition to playing the same rhythm an octave above or below...or add 3rds and fifths an octave above or below..just noodle around and it will come to you...use approach notes to walk to each change...adding more flavor. Dont forget the 4 and 8!
  18. GeoffT


    Aug 1, 2011
    Lose the whole idea of patterns. Bass lines, melodies, chords, and scales are made up of notes not patterns. Take Mambo's advice of learning the notes on your bass, all of them. It is the first thing you learn on any instrument other than bass or guitar, it is very difficult to learn anything on those instruments if you don't know where the notes are. Bass is laid out and tuned in a way that allows you to transpose easily or learn a scale/chord by a pattern but you need to learn the notes. It will make a lot of things easier, like being able to play notes below the root, making position shifts to extend the range of notes available, knowing where all the possible chord tones are, not being forced to change position for every chord change, etc. When you know where the notes are, a C chord becomes the notes C-E-G instead of a pattern, you will be able to play those notes when any finger is on the root (or any other chord tone).
  19. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Yes, learn the notes.

    But there's 2 kinds of patterns operating here:
    1.) fingering patterns (bass specific)
    2.) the 'deeper' musical patterns of related intervals/chords/scales (not bass specific)

    type 1 patterns are a result of type 2 patterns and can help you discover them, so I think they are worth learning.

    But yes, know the notes, both on the neck and of the chords.
  20. GeoffT


    Aug 1, 2011
    Yes but we use specific names for the musical patterns - intervals, chords, and scales. The way the OP used the term patterns in the first post and then in response to Ed's great post gave me the impression that he was talking about fingering patterns being the same thing as intervals, chords, and scales which they are not. From my experence, when you think of scales, chords, and intervals as "patterns" to apply, you are constantly chasing the lowest root and often starting everything from there. When you know all the notes and see things in terms of the musical ideas, the bass specific ways to apply them become very clear, in many different fingering patterns and the options grow tremendously.

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