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What scale do I use for these 3 chords?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BagsBass, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. BagsBass


    Mar 7, 2009
    I am playing in a new band and they like to write songs that go E-C-D....or sometimes D-Bb-C, etc. 3 chords, all a whole step apart, but starting with that first chord. I tried playing E and D scales respectively (both major, minor and minor pentatonic), figuring that was the key it was in, but don't see that 2nd chord anywhere in the scale. What scale would work for this progression?? :crying: There is a change in the chorus, but basically the same chords, just a different progression.
  2. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    If all 3 chords are major, then they don't actually belong to one specific key. If the E is minor, then it's the key of G.

    This is where modes come in handy. The E would use the Phrygian mode, the C uses the Lydian, and the D uses the Mixolydian.

    There are plenty of resources online about modes you might check out.

    Best of luck to you, sir.

  3. BagsBass


    Mar 7, 2009
    so then just because the first chord of the song is an E or Em, doesn't necessarily mean that's the key it's in? I think that 2nd progression is actually Dm-Bb-C....the first one would be an Em-C-D.
  4. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    This is EASY - use E over the E chord, C over the C chord and D over the D chord.
  5. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    I don't understand where you're getting this from.
  6. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    If you only want to play 3 notes.
  7. BagsBass


    Mar 7, 2009
    yeah, i want to know what key and what scale to use - i was under the impression that the scale you are using for a particular song isn't going to change, unless the key changes. is this not accurate?
  8. thombo

    thombo Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2006
    Denver, CO
    what are the chord qualities (maj, min, dim, etc)? that is essential for using scales for them.

    not an answer for your question, just a suggestion... start simple and build up from there- root, root-8ve, root-5th, root-5th-8ve, etc. from there, go to arpeggios. i like this approach b/c if the chords line up in a more exotic scale, or don't line up with more than one scale, you won't get hung up. as i see it, you can always go back and geek out over scale options after the fact, but you still played a functional line when it counted.

    another thought... the best way for you to get the chords of a scale down is to go through and figure it out.
    C Major- Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, Gdom, Amin7, Bmin7b5

    hear is a link to geek out on
  9. jmac


    May 23, 2007
    Horsham, Pa
    I don't understand either.

    thombo is correct. E is a note, not a chord. You must know the chord names; which will help you figure out the key. Knowing the key will help you write your bass line.
  10. chroma601


    Feb 16, 2007
    Sylva, NC
    It never hurts to ask the composer. I would expect the E to be minor key and the C to be major, but the D could be either depending on the song structure. The best bet is to experiment, and listen as you play to see how your choices compliment the overall sound.
  11. fender_funk_man


    Feb 19, 2009
    Chords!!!! key word, all chords have the same basic structure. Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th. There are ways to expand on it a little but for most stuff this is what almost all bass lines are made out of. The scale is only a means of reference to figure out the above chord tones. For example In the key of C: C is the root, E is the 3rd, G is the 5th and B for the 7th.

    To many players spend way to much time on scales and not enough on chord theory.
  12. milothefultz


    Nov 29, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Normally the progression Em-C-D (vi-IV-V) is all in the same relative major key of G Major (I), so yes, you CAN use the same scale for all of that, though you should pay attention to the root notes.
    However, if you are using the progression E-C-D (VI-IV-V), I can see his/her logic in stating that it would work best with the E Phrygian on the E(Major) chord, Lydian on the C(major) chord, and Mixolydian on the D(Major) chord; however I do not believe that would work correctly. The only problem with that is that the Phrygian mode is missing the major 3rd, which is an important scale degree in this situation. Anyway, the Phrygian mode belongs to the key of C Major, and the other two modes are belonging to the key of G Major in this instance.
    This kind of stuff definitely requires some sit-down and geek-out time on the internet, but when you do it becomes addicting fun.
    So it really is dependent on that first chord being Major or Minor that can make you have to change scales between chords. If it's a minor, stay in E minor or G major scales, pay attention to the roots, and move your solos around those with scale tones and chord tones alike, dependent on the chord. If you have a major chord, you need to play in E major for the first chord, then G major for the next two chords.
    Scales and chords ain't easy unless you're in pop music, I'm afraid, so there isn't one simple solution to this. Definitely go do some research. Soon you will realize the power of Bach.
  13. milothefultz


    Nov 29, 2008
    Portland, OR
  14. Natrix


    Mar 21, 2009
    Sydney Australia
    I think he means E Aeolian , not Phrygian (I'm assuming he's thinking key of Gmajor )
  15. milothefultz


    Nov 29, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Yes! Aeolian would make a LOT more sense.
  16. Natrix


    Mar 21, 2009
    Sydney Australia
    I know .
  17. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    To add to this, when it goes to D-Bb-C, I'd say you've moved (modulated) to a new key, depending on how long it lasts (as opposed to just a borrowed chord). Here, stick with D minor/F major scales.
  18. GianGian


    May 16, 2008
    If this is the case, use the Dm scale for the second one and the Em scale for the first one. Very simple.
  19. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    A. Ask yourself "what are the chord tones" If the chords are E C D, then the tones are E G# B, C E G, and D F# A. No basic scale has all those notes, so it's not in one scale for the whole progresson. Now if it's Em C D, they could all be in the key of G (E G B, C E G, and D F# A), so using the G major scale and outlining the root and fifth of each chord will work fine.

    But given the original chords as listed, we assume that all three are major. That means you still need to focus on the chord tones, but the "other notes" available will change. That E chord could be from either the key of E, A, or B. The C chord is from either the key of C, F, or G. The D chord is from either D, G, or A.

    What's common here? The C chord and the E chord don't share much common ground due to the 3rd of the E (G#) doesn't work with the 5th of the C (G natural). So here's where finding one scale to use for the whole progression just ain't gonna work very well.

    Focus on the chord tones and the movement from chord to chord. Eschew scales and modes until you understand chord tones.

  20. BagsBass


    Mar 7, 2009
    you know, the problem here was that i didn't know how to make a minor scale correctly. now that i look at it again, i see i have only been flatting the 3rd and the 7th of the major scale to make a minor, so the Bb (and the C) weren't coming up....how could i have been getting away with this for all these years??? i will just use those minor scales from now on. thank you.

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