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Scales rules for a desperate scale beginner

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24 May 2006 14:11 | Quote
Posts: 7
i've been playing for almost a year now, usually chords, or little simple riffs that i learn by heart.

i would really appreciate it if someone could help me understand how scales are built.
I mean, are there rules to understand how the scale is built. (patterns or theories to help me understand)

for example,
- why C Major scale is without any #'s
- why D Major scale has some #'s
- what is pentatonic ?
- what is harmonic & melodic ?
- what does this mean ? : Scale - Pentatonic Minor
- do i have to change scale every time the chord changes in a song ?

I would like so much to understand !!!
thank you

yoav (from france)

25 May 2006 07:19 | Quote
Posts: 9
It all starts with the superset of all scales - The chromatic scale

A chromatic scale has 12 notes.
For eg..C Chromatic scale has C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab A Bb B

D Chromatic scale has D Eb E F Gb G Ab A Bb B C Db

E Chromatic scale has.....there is a chromatic scale for every key.

Other scales (major or minor) are just formulas applied on the chromatic scale.
These scales are derived by hopping on the chromatic scale notes. Each hop is counted
as "half" and 2 hops is "whole"

We pick 7 notes using the formula : W W H W W W H - (the Greeks derieved it)
For e.g: The notes of C Major scale are (refer to the C Chromatic scale above)
C D E F G A B. You that's the C Major scale

The D Major Scale would be
D E Gb G A B Bb

As you saw the C Major scale had no sharps and no flats and D major scale had some sharps -

thank the greek musicians and mathematicians.

Now conecntrate on the Major scale only. Pentatonic is derieved from it.
Well pentatonic scales are scales with 5 notes. Its a derivative of the major scale
We pick 5 notes from the Major scale leaving the 4th and 7th note.
C D E G A . This is your C Major pentatonic

For the C pentatonic minor again apply the formula on the C Major scale

1 - root note C
b3 - flat of the 3rd note Eb
4 - 4th note F
5 - 5th note G
b7 - flat of the 7th note Bb

ie C Eb F G Bb

No, it is not necessary to change the scale with every chord change.
Scales and Chords overlap each other. Chords are a group of notes played simultaneously at one go and scales are group of notes

either played simultaneously or individually.
Related chords have some common notes and you ca use this to keep soloing in a single scale over many scale changes.
For Eg. C Major scale(C D E F G A B) can be played over a mx of C Am F G Dm.

But you notices that some notes sound live and some sound ok.That's where you use your music skills to birdge the gap. You will require a lot of practice and ear.

This site has a lot of good stuff. Check out the chord progressions.

Hope I gave an explanation. About Harmonic and melodic I will get back to you later. Gotta rush....
25 May 2006 08:42 | Quote
Posts: 7
Wow, thank you JJROCK, your precious answers have solved part of the mistery for me.

In your opinion, what is the best way to be able to improvise notes on a chords background.
I am aware that there is no "miracle solution" to learn instantly...but i am serious & ready to work on it.

As i said, i've been playing for almost a year, and i consider now that i play chords pretty much ok. Sometimes I get bored with simple chord playing, i would like to have access to a "level" above.

Thank you again for your answers and for your time.
25 May 2006 08:52 | Quote
Posts: 4
very good
26 May 2006 01:57 | Quote
Posts: 9
Hi again,

I can see you are really interested and excited about playing guitar. But all I can tell you is guitar is just an instrument(of course a glamorous one).

The important thing here is analysis. People like Satriani are great analysts first and then a guitarist.(He's also a good keyboard player). I like his music not because he can play
fast but because his compositions are unique. Im planning to analyze his songs. I will share my research once Im done.

So if you want to play solo/lead understand the chords. Train your ear to understand chord changes. This can be done with a simple exercise.
1. Play the CD/Mp3 of your favourite artist.
2. Pickup your guitar and try to find the chords that match.
3. Write them down.

Try this little solo training in C Major. Play the notes and then strum the chord at the end. Keep your ears alert and try to analyze the pattern.

C D E F G A B CMaj
D E F G A B C Dm
E F G A B C D Em
F G A B C D E FMaj
G A B C D E F GMaj
A B C D E F G Am
B C D E F G A Bdim

What did you hear ?

28 May 2006 08:48 | Quote
Posts: 7
Yes, even with a "non-professional-musical-ear" like mine, I can confirm that Satriani is admirable.

I've been doing the little training for a while now...
Am I supposed to recognize a song or a famous melody ?
Or is there something else that I am supposed to hear.

thank u
29 May 2006 00:32 | Quote
Posts: 9
Nope!!! we are not learning on any song. We are concentrating on th bigger picture.

Well you are playing some notes and a chord at the end.

It tells you what notes you are supposed to play when a particular chord is going on at the background.

C D E F G A B CMaj
D E F G A B C Dm
E F G A B C D Em
F G A B C D E FMaj
G A B C D E F GMaj
A B C D E F G Am
B C D E F G A Bdim

If a CMaj chord is being played then the lead notes must be C D E F G A B
If a Dm chord is being played then the lead notes must be D E F G A B C
and so on...but mind you we are still in the key of C

Now you will complain that range of the notes are the same whether its C or Dm. Then how does it make sense ? Well since you are in the key of C the notes must C D E F G A B only.

But as you can see the root note(1st note) for each sequesnce differs. The root note is the one that gives the color to the entire sequence.

So if CMaj chord is going on play the relative notes but stress a lot on the C note and the lead sounds to be in the CMaj Chord scale. Suppose when Cmaj chord is being played and you are to play a 10 notes then of let the 1st and the 10th note be C and scatter C in between other notes. something like:


Now if Dm is being played you know what to do...start and end with D and scatter D in between. The root note here is Dm.

The bottomline here is to keep the root note ringing in the audience's ear.

Try writing your own piece with a few chords say C Am F G and put some lead into it.Get a friend of yours to play the chords and you can take the lead or try the Jam software on this site.

If you play the above stuff fast enough and listen carefully, then you will find a rise in the pitch and of course a change in the mood and flow of sound.

If you are feeling happy then play the CMajor chord and the related lead notes. Suddenly you want to express sadness then play the Dm and the related notes. This is the underlying concept of musical modes (in English - moods).

C D E F G A B CMaj - Ionian
D E F G A B C Dm - Dorian
E F G A B C D Em - Phrygian
F G A B C D E FMaj - Lydian
G A B C D E F GMaj - Mixolydian
A B C D E F G Am - Aeolian
B C D E F G A Bdim - Locrian

Now that was simple. Any confusion. Please let me know. That was a little dose of theory. Put some practise into it till you fingers run on the notes.

Look up the net for scale pattens and learn a couple sincerely.

For CMaj, I prefer to use the 8th fret. Make your pick scale.

That's for now will catch ya later.

29 May 2006 04:51 | Quote
Posts: 7
I fully understood your explanations, and I'm planning to seriously work on it.

I will soon send you a recording of the little exercice you gave me (C Am F G) - probably in a poor audio quality because recorded on a labtop microphone.

Just a little question (that maybe will sound silly to you) but when you say : "if a Dm chord is being played then the lead notes must be D E F G A B C
and so on...but mind you we are still IN THE KEY OF C"

By "key of C" do you mean "scale of C major" or is it someting else ? which brings me to my next question : what precisely is the meaning of the "key" in the beginning of a partition ?

Anyway this doesn't prevent me from starting the little exercice of writing my own piece. So I'll do it and get back to you with a mp3 for you to comment.

Thank u for your time and patience.

30 May 2006 07:36 | Quote
Posts: 9
Hey !! stop thanking me everytime. I learnt most of the stuff over the net. So Im doing my bit to pay back. Moreover my concepts get clearer as I go on explaining.

Okay Keys !!! Keys are the backbone, the point around which every thing moves in a given music piece.

If you play C F G Am - you are in the key of C. But if you suddenly play AMaj in between the character of your piece changes Why ?....
because you just changed to the key of D which includes the chord AMaj.

Please dont confuse keys with scales. Scales and chords lie within a key.

Suppose we decide to jam and you are supposed to play the rhythm and I told you that we will do it in the Key C. Immediately
the chords that fly in your mind would be....C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

Then in the middle of the gig I tell you to change the key to G. what do you do ? change the chord sequence to.....C G D Em

That was a key change. The characteristic of the chord progression changed. To conclude a key defines what is supposed to be played and omitted. It defines what are the "right" notes and what are the "wrong notes".

Since we have 12 different notes(remember the Chromatic scale) we have 12 different keys

A simple stuff here is Bryan Adams "Do I have to say the words". Notice how the chorus suddeny elevates to a different level. Thats a key change.

31 May 2006 08:49 | Quote
Posts: 1
Hi JJROCK, I think I am in the same situation as yoav, and your explanation has cleared out some stuff for me as well.
One question about the "key" thing, like in scales, are there special guidelines for what chords go with what chords? If so, how do you know them? What is the best way to know what goes with what?
31 May 2006 09:56 | Quote
Posts: 7
Hello Ynox,

Well, if I understood your question right,
you can find what you look for in the "chord progressions" section of the website.
31 May 2006 17:45 | Quote
Posts: 7
JJROCK, where can I send you a little mp3 I recorded ?
31 May 2006 22:56 | Quote
Posts: 17
1 Jun 2006 03:47 | Quote
Posts: 9
That's fine... will do.

There's a really cool site that provides some jam tracks - background music. You can play the lead with them. They are here:

18 Jul 2006 15:46 | Quote
Posts: 1

i stumbled onto this site looking for something else..

im a bassist,(and violist) but scales are scales.. the thing i found out about scales is that they are shapes. if youre playing a major scale, the same pattern or shape can root it self anywhere.. example.. c major scale is the same fingering as d. (in the basic form).

all you do is start on the note that you want to play the scale of, and use the same pattern for all.

of course you can have the same note all over the neck. like the dude said before, its all about the half and whole steps.
5 Sep 2006 08:22 | Quote
Posts: 9
bingo !!!
11 Sep 2006 20:09 | Quote
Posts: 1
so then you would just memorize what chords go in what keys?
12 Sep 2006 05:06 | Quote
Joined: way back
Karma: 2
you should only memorize the sequence like I major , ii minor ,iii minor etc so then you automatically know them off 12 keys
13 Sep 2006 01:54 | Quote
United States
Posts: 37
Yeah, i'm also curious as to how you know what chords go to what keys? I would be so thankful if you could clear it up. Thanks alot. JJROCK is a smart fellow.
15 Nov 2006 07:37 | Quote
Posts: 9

Lets do an interactive session which will make thing clear.
Just answer my questions and I will lead you to the solution.

Q1. What is a key ?
Q2. What is a chord ?

Find out over the net if required.
15 Nov 2006 09:37 | Quote
Joined: way back
Lessons: 1
Q1. Something to open the door with,
Q2. Something you put around your neck, when you're really frustrated practicing the guitar, when there's no progress whatsoever,

Sorry JJ ;) I hope somebody else can come up with a more serious answer,
16 Nov 2006 02:41 | Quote
United States
Posts: 85
You can superimpose triads off each scale degree, by stacking two generic thirds on top of each degree. (This is easy to see with standard notation.) Anyways, you can follow a formula to remember what type of triad is built off each degree of any Major Scale:

M,m,m,M,M,m,d(That's M for major, m for minor, and d for diminished)

We take the C Major Scale:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7 (degrees of the scale respectively)

Using the formula above, we get the triads:

This formula works for any major scale.

For a handy Major/Relative Minor Scale chart, go here, and print out figure 5:
16 Nov 2006 02:47 | Quote
United States
Posts: 85
It should be added that, in time, you will memorize all Major Scales and their modes, and probably a couple other scales and their modes too. This takes a while, and that chart will suffice until then.
16 Nov 2006 10:39 | Quote
Joined: way back
Lessons: 1
Here´s an excerpt of a nice description Chrismear gave of the concept "key" in music. For the whole article go to:


"..Let's say I'm writing a really simple blues song. If you know your twelve-bar blues, you'll know it goes something like


(where each letter corresponds to a measure of music, and 'C' means 'C major chord', etc.). Now, I can take that exact piece of music, and 'transpose' it into a different key, say, A:

A A A A D D A A E D A A.

What makes the first piece of music 'in the key of C major', and the second piece of music 'in the key of A major'? How would you tell the difference between them if you were listening to them?

Well, the first thing to notice is that in both pieces, there is one chord that I spend most of my time on. In the first piece, it's C-major, and in the second piece it's A-major. In a very real sense, this is the 'main' chord of the piece. Sometimes this alone can be a good indicator to what key a piece is in -- particularly for forms such as blues, country, and pop.

Another, more subtle thing to notice, is that there is a very specific arrangement of chords sitting around the home chord. In the first case, we start on C, and we go up to F, and up to G. If we call C number 'one', and count up the keyboard, you can see that we use chords 'one', 'four', and 'five'.

Now do the same with the second piece. We start on A, and go up to D, and up to E. If we now call A number 'one', then D turns out to be number 'four', and E is number 'five'. It's the exact same relationship.

In fact, in the vast majority of Western music, these chords, I, IV and V are the most common chords used, simply because they are the ones that sound good when they're played one after another. When your brain hears that relationship of chords, even if you don't consciously realise it, it will be able to pick out which chord is number I, the 'home' key.

It's like if I drew an arrow on a piece of paper, and asked you to identify the point of the arrowhead. No matter which way round I turn the piece of paper, you'll be able to find the point, because your brain understands the relationship between the lines on the paper, even if I turn it upside down, stick it on the ceiling, or whatever. It's just like that with harmony and different keys.


Perhaps you think you can't do this. Well, put on a piece of simple music, pause it halfway through, and just tell yourself to "hum the main note". You may be surprised at how easily your brain picks out a note to hum. At the very least, you can usually tell whether the piece sounds 'complete' and it could stop there (even if it carries on in real life), or if it sounds 'interrupted' and needs to carry on to go somewhere else..."

Thanx to Chris!!!!

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