new transposer      circle of 5ths    wap



Joined: 25 Jul 2007
United States
Lessons: 12
Licks: 42
Karma: 38
Moderator

Music Theory: Chord and Scale Application

by Guitarslinger124

3 Nov 2011
Views: 12333

Music Theory: Part V - Chord and Scale Application




An Overview



In this lesson, I will explain some general rules for figuring out which scales to use when constructing a solo over a chord progression and which chords to use under a set harmony. This lesson will build off all of the previous Music Theory lessons that I have posted, so it would be wise to read and understand them, prior to reading this lesson.

Getting started



First, let's get some names out of the way.



Your modes:

(The numbers are the degrees)

Nut 1st 3rd 5th 7th 9th 12th
Ionian/Major ||:(1)| |(2)| |(3)|(4)| |(5)| |(6)| |(7)|
Dorian ||:(2)| |(3)|(4)| |(5)| |(6)| |(7)|(1)| |
Phrygian ||:(3)|(4)| |(5)| |(6)| |(7)|(1)| |(2)| |
Lydian ||:(4)| |(5)| |(6)| |(7)|(1)| |(2)| |(3)|
Mixolydian ||:(5)| |(6)| |(7)|(1)| |(2)| |(3)|(4)| |
Aeolian/Natural Minor ||:(6)| |(7)|(1)| |(2)| |(3)|(4)| |(5)| |
Locrian ||:(7)|(1)| |(2)| |(3)|(4)| |(5)| |(6)| |





Some useful chords:

Nut 1st 3rd 5th 7th 9th 12th
Major Seven ||:(1)| | | |(3)| | |(5)| | | |(7)|
Dominant Seven (b7th) ||:(1)| | | |(3)| | |(5)| | |(7)| |
Minor Seven (b3rd and b7th) ||:(1)| | |(3)| | | |(5)| | |(7)| |
Minor Seven Flat Five (b3rd, b5th, b7th) ||:(1)| | |(3)| | |(5)| | | |(7)| |
Diminished Seven (b3rd, b5th, bb7th) ||:(1)| | |(3)| | |(5)| | |(7)| | |



Putting one and one together



Right, so there is a the old saying, "If it sounds good, it is good."

That is all good and dandy if you know what sounds good. If you don't, you are just as lost. That being said, there is always more than one option when deciding on what scale to use over a chord or progression. More to the point, I've come up with a simple excersise to help a player actually learn what sounds good and what doesn't.

Grab a pen and piece of paper. Pick a chord, any chord, but just one chord. Record yourself playing that one chord over and over. Or just once or twice and loop it. Next pick five modes and, don't solo per say because you want to really hear what you are doing, play them over your one chord. Play them one after the other. Or play all the modes in every key. But play them so you can clearly hear what they sound like. Now write down, and this is why I said pick five, what each one sounds like over that chord. I.e. "good", "bad", "cool sounding", "sad sounding", whatever. Now pick two chords and repeat the process. Except this time you can experiment a little. Play the chords however you'd like. As arppeggios or whatever you want. Play the same scales over just your two chords and write down what it sounds like. This time however, pay close attention to how two chords sounds different under the same scale as one chord does. Or how a particular mode is more suited for a particar note in one of the chords.

The goal of this is to hopefully help you understand exactly what effect particular chords and scales have on each when played in conjunction with one another. Now you will no longer have to waste time guessing and checking when all you really want to do is record. You will now know what a certain scale will sound like, when played over a certain chord or even more specific, what certain intervals will sound like when played together as a harmony or when played seperate as melodies.


THERE'S ANOTHER WAY

Here is a simple table to help you put scales and chords together. I'm not going to list anything super complex so don't worry if you are a beginner. This is basically just a quick reference guide. This is far from a list of finite values, just a starting place.




Mode Triad 7th

Ionian | Maj | Maj7 |
Dorian | min | min7 |
Phrygian | min | min7 |
Lydian | Maj | Maj7 |
Mixolydian | Maj | 7 |
Aeolian | min | min7 |
Locrian | dim | min7b5 |



Like I said above, there is never a finite solution to the eternal question of "What do I play with this?". And if you take a look at the chart, you can clearly see that if you were to play a Maj7 chord, you chould play either the Ionian, or Lyidian scales. Or if you were to play a minor chord, you would be free to use the Dorian, Phrygian or Aeolian scales.


THERE IS YET ANOTHER WAY!

Now you should be asking, "OK, you told us about individual chords, but what about already formed prgressions?"



I know that JazzMaverick covered this topic in her lesson, Keys, Scales and Their Note Values, so I would also recommend checking that out.

Also note that at this point you should make sure you understand my lesson, Music Theory - Turning Your Scales into Chords.




There is a untold rule of thumb, that the resolving chord in a progression will determine the tonality.

If you can wrap your head around that, then wrap it around this: match the resolving chord. Don't worry about the rest of the progression, unless you are dealing with some wierd stuff. Focus on the resolution. So, match the resolving chord to the corrosponding scale.

Here is two quick reference tables:





I | | ii | | iii | | IV | | V | | vi | | vii | | VIII
| W | | W | | H | | W | | W | | W | | H |
maj | | min | | min | | maj | | maj | | min | | dim | | maj





Scale Chord
Ionian - I
Dorian - ii
Phrygian - iii
Lydian - IV
Mixolydian - V
Aeolian - vi
Locrian - vii




Let's build a simple progression using only major chords in the key of C.




I - IV - V - I
Cmaj Fmaj Gmaj Cmaj



So your resolving chord is Cmaj. More importantly, your resolving chord is the I chord. Looking at the reference chart, the I chord matches with the Ionian scale. Therefore, the C Ionian scale would be the "best" scale to use. And I use the word "best" loosely. There obviously is no best scale.

Now lets make a progression, again in the key of C, using minor chords.




ii - iii - vi - ii
Dmin Emin Amin Dmin



Again, looking at the resolving chord. It is Dmin, which is the ii chord. You see that the ii chord matches with the Dorian scale. So the D Dorian scale would be a safe bet. Ofcourse, if you scroll back up the page and look at the Mode-Triad-7th chart, you would notice that you could also play E Phrygian or A Aeolian scales here.

Wrapping up

This whole lesson has involved fairly simply ideas compounded on top of each other. What happens when it gets more complex? Just remember that almost everything in music can be broken down and examined at the micro level. Don't get intimidated by not knowing or not understanding something. Just break things you are having trouble with into smaller, easier to deal with sections.

I hope this lesson helped answer alot of questions about application and "the right chord/scale" to play and so on.

Rock on!



Comments:

01
11.05.2011
  V3N0M3333

perfect lesson for me right now...thanks a lot

02
11.07.2011
  Guitarslinger124

Glad it helped!

03
11.07.2011
  btimm

This is a great lesson. Looks like it answered the exact question I had on the forums. lol

Time for a stupid question though. Or, if you are like my math professor in college, not a stupid question, but rather a stupid person asking a question. ;o)

Is the scale mode used really defined by the phrasing of the line? What I mean is, if you have a progression of ii-iii-vi-ii, it resolves the minor chord, the ii. So the "best" scale to use over this progression would be C Dorian if it is in the key of Bb (I hate repeating the same chords in examples, I try to use different to learn the points, bare (sp?) with me).

C Dorian would be: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C, or W-H-W-W-W-H-W.
Other than the starting note, this isn't different than the Bb major scale. So that leads to my question basically which I already stated above. When using a certain scale over a progression, is the scale really determined by how you form your melody? Do you generally to resolve your line with a C if using C Dorian? Or do you resolve to the next chord in the progression? Would you use C Dorian over the entirety of the progression or would you change from C Dorian to D Phrygian to A Aeolian? If you make these changes in the modes, is this done in practice simply by resolving your melody to a given note, ie first the C, then the D, then the A? Am I just waaaay off base? Are the Red Wings going to get out of this current funk of truly awful hockey? Do you hate Sidney Crosby as much as I do? Is this too many questions?

Thanks!!

04
11.08.2011
  Guitarslinger124

"C Dorian would be: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C, or W-H-W-W-W-H-W.
Other than the starting note, this isn't different than the Bb major scale."

C Dorian is in the key of Bb Major. So that would explain the similarities. Check out my "Music Theory" lesson on scales for a more in depth explanation about why C Dorian is different than say Bb Ionian. It's more about the intervals than the notes.

"When using a certain scale over a progression, is the scale really determined by how you form your melody?"

Ofcourse it is not a 100% science. Everything boils down to the preference of the player. Like I said, this is a starting point. The examples assume that the player already knows what key they are in. Once you know the key, in a basic sense, you've just narrowed your choices down to just seven; your seven modes for any major that you should already know. Essentially, the point of this lesson, was to help you quickly figure out which scale or chord to apply to a progression or melody. Once you get the hang of it, then really, you will just look at this as a place you once were and no longer need to be. Call it a confidence booster if you'd like.

"Do you generally to resolve your line with a C if using C Dorian?"

My music teacher way back in my senior year of high school, told the class to compose something based around G major. I forget, of course, what my exact composition was, but, remember getting just a C because I didn't resolve my very metal sounding composition into a G major sound, considering that was the starting point.

My point being, generally speaking, in a strict theory sense, you should almost always resolve into your home chord or note. If you are playing in G major, resolve to G major. . . Blah, blah, blah. The thought is, that like I mentioned in the lesson, your resolving chord or note determines the tonality of a progression, so therefore, you must quantify your composition's key with your resolving chord.

That is a great place to start and a great way to help ones-self to better understand these concepts, however, most of us are rebels and do as we please, with or without a "correct" resolving chord.

"Or do you resolve to the next chord in the progression?"

That depends on whether your next chord completes the progression or is the beginning of a larger progression to hold the tonality of all of the chords.

"Would you use C Dorian over the entirety of the progression or would you change from C Dorian to D Phrygian to A Aeolian?"

I would recommend the latter. Playing the same mode over and entire progression, offers not a whole lot in the way of ear catching harmonic intervals. Of course, you are bound to accidentally play one or more modes whilst sticking to just C Dorian, so you might as well go balls to the wall. But again, it really comes down to the sounds that the player is aiming for.

"If you make these changes in the modes, is this done in practice simply by resolving your melody to a given note, ie first the C, then the D, then the A?"

Like I mentioned above, you will more than likely "change" modes without even noticing. Do yourself a favor, loop yourself playing a certain progression. Then solo over it using only one mode. But when you are soloing, take a video of yourself. Your best bet is to play slowly. Write down each note you play in order. Next, build modes in whatever key you are playing in, off the notes you actually played. You will find, that more than likely, you've played close to all seven modes. Unless you can tell me that you started every phrase with the same note; in which case, bravo.

"Am I just waaaay off base?"

These are good questions. "You always miss 100% of the shots you don't take".


"Are the Red Wings going to get out of this current funk of truly awful hockey? Do you hate Sidney Crosby as much as I do? Is this too many questions? "

The Red Wings need some younger talent. The old guys are getting old and the young guys aren't getting better. :) Good for me! The Flyers are doing pretty good. A little inconsistent, but not bad. I don't hate Crosby, because every other team is better off without him playing. But I think he is a wuss. Think about Lindros and then tell me Crosby is great? Hehe.

Hope that helped!

Rock on!

05
11.08.2011
  Guitarslinger124

By the way, @Btimm, the lesson was based off your request in the forum hehe. I got inspired and rewrote what I had written before but accidentally deleted.

06
11.08.2011
  btimm

Thanks for the lesson and thanks for answering my questions, I am going to go ahead and try to solo over a progression and see what I can learn!

07
11.09.2011
  Guitarslinger124

Welcome! Rock on!

08
03.13.2012
  guitargrump1953

I hope you still read comments to this, although I know I'm six months late...

I'm still confused as to what the difference is between, say, playing the notes of D Dorian (over e.g. a C major chord), and playing the notes of the C major Scale (Ionian).
If you just play the notes of the C maj scale, but end on D, that will sound discordant.

I know the notes of the D Dorian - D E F G A B C but using them to sound "Dorian" or "Modal" escapes me.

Playing D minor scale would introduce the Bb (vi) which would be the Dominant vii of C which would sound more "bluesy"...

Can you help?

09
03.28.2012
  Guitarslinger124

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you....

It's all in the intervals man. Your overall tonality is more determined by, obviously your note choices, but indirectly by your interval choices. Check out this "modes" less I made a while ago. Should help you out a bit:

http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/lesson.php?id=213

Rock on!

Guest access is read-only. To write comment, please login!



Copyright © 2004-2009 All-Guitar-Chords.com. All rights reserved.