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Thread: Question about minor scales

  1. #1
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Question about minor scales

    I have been working on some scales and arpeggios over the years but typically only play minor scales here and there and almost exclusively in the context of a song I am working on (like Jerusalem Ridge). Mostly by ear, very little thought put into it, just following a melody. Part of this is a rationalization that the relative minor uses the same scale so really I know it already; but I am learning I don't.

    So I realized I have been neglecting my minor scales and want to do some ear training and expand my playing abilities.

    What minor scales do people actually practice and use? Natural? Harmonic? Melodic?

    Do you play them in a certain sequence? (e.g. Major, then major arpeggio, Natural minor, then natural minor arpeggio...)
    Or are these generally practiced as separate entities? I ask this because I have noticed that when I play a major scale then the same scale but minor - my ears have become a bit more sensitized to what is going on and how the scales relate to how they are used in melodies.

    Your feedback is appreciated. Unless there is a sound system in use
    Last edited by dang; May-01-2018 at 5:02am. Reason: Hey, my 800th post! Only about 24,000 behind Jim Garber LOL
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Well .... I practice my scales and arpeggios in the groups they appear in keys. C Am F G then occasionally throw in a II , D , chord major or minor. Then move on to another key. I work the sharp keys more than the flat keys because I use them more. R/
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Unlike the major scale (where there is only 1), there are LOTs of minor scales. This just lists probably the most common, but there are a lot more:

    Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
    Phrygian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Aeolian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Harmonic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
    Melodic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

    Which type of music you play kind of determines which you need to study. If you mostly play fiddle tunes, Bluegrass and generally folk music stuff, the first two will probably take care of most things you need. If you play Jazz, you need to know at least all these.

    Hope this helps.
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Which type of music you play kind of determines which you need to study..
    Eventually it benefits one to learn everything, but start out where it solves an immediate problem you are struggling with.
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Unlike the major scale (where there is only 1), there are LOTs of minor scales. This just lists probably the most common, but there are a lot more:

    Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
    Phrygian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Aeolian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Harmonic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
    Melodic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
    Well, if you're considering modes to be scales, then there are actually at least three common major scales too -- Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian.

    To the OP: the Mixolydian mode (a major scale with a b7) is quite useful over the dominant chord -- for example, a G7 in the key of C.

    I'd guess that natural and harmonic minor are the most frequently used in bluegrass. If you play fiddle tunes and bluegrass, drill those arpeggios! They'll get you out of a pickle if your mind goes blank.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    I think the descending melodic minor also has a b6 and b7 in it.......

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Unlike the major scale (where there is only 1), there are LOTs of minor scales.
    A few thoughts. As Drew says, if Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian are minor scales (that is scales with the minor third), then Lydian and Mixolydian, with the major third, are major scales. But for purposes of scale practice, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, and A aeolian are all the same scale-- C major. Every time you work on one of those, you're working on all of them.

    The "melodic minor" has different intervals (at least ascending), so it needs separate practice. And it's quite useful in jazz as a substitution to use in improvising over dominant chords. (For example, against an extended/altered G7 chord, both the D minor and the G# minor melodic scales have their attractions.

    Pianists seem to practise the "harmonic minor scale" on the same footing with the others. But it's just an abstraction of the harmony of the minor key: it consists of the notes of the Im, IVm, and V7 chords. Still, when played melodically it has a sort of exotic sound a player may want to have ready under the fingers.

    At a minimum, practise the major scales for the keys and modes you'll be using. I spent the seventies playing all majors and melodic minors in circle of fifths order in quarter notes, eighths, triplets, and sixteenths every day on guitar. The metronome wore down after about 2700 ticks, and I would wind it up again and continue, with dotted rhythms, broken thirds, etc. This is not for everyone, of course...
    Last edited by Bruce Clausen; May-01-2018 at 9:30pm.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Clausen View Post


    The "melodic minor" has different intervals (at least ascending), so it needs separate practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I think the descending melodic minor also has a b6 and b7 in it.......
    Yes, the melodic minor scale uses different intervals in the upper tetrachord ascending and descending.

    ascending

    C D Eb F G A B C

    descending

    C Bb Ab G F Eb D C

    The ascending part uses the 6th and 7th from the major scale, while the descending melodic minor uses the flat 6 and flat 7 of the natural minor scale.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Does one scale go with another? Itís very subjective. Personally I really like modal oldtime -though with that even the V7 to me feels a bit forceful.
    But then again I like ĎSweet dreams (are made of this)í by Eurythmics probably because itís an example of a song in C harmonic minor -if anyone wants to have a go at impro over it, Cm, Ab, G, also hereís a video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5MplXwcUJ-s
    that I did a while back on the harmonic minor and chords that go with it -apologies if Iíve made any errors there -music theory, with all itís differing perpectives and definitions can be a highly contentious subject. 🙂

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Does one scale go with another? Itís very subjective.
    It's more like which scale works with which chords - but it could also be which chords are derived from which scale.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Agreed...and if it's four Oldtime tunes in different keys which follow one after the other, it may be which scales fit with which scales, a progression of keys.
    Here's the rest of that C harmonic minor song, again, no guarantees:Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Sweet Dreams are made of this  MANDOTAB.pdf 
Views:	68 
Size:	507.7 KB 
ID:	167326

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Unlike the major scale (where there is only 1), there are LOTs of minor scales. This just lists probably the most common, but there are a lot more:

    Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
    Phrygian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Aeolian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
    Harmonic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
    Melodic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

    Which type of music you play kind of determines which you need to study. If you mostly play fiddle tunes, Bluegrass and generally folk music stuff, the first two will probably take care of most things you need. If you play Jazz, you need to know at least all these.

    Hope this helps.
    Doesn't the Phrygian have a b2? And the Aeolian does not have a b2.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevo75 View Post
    Doesn't the Phrygian have a b2? And the Aeolian does not have a b2.
    I'm with Steve unless there is a difference between a Phrygian and a minor Phrygian. If so I have a lot more work to do.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevo75 View Post
    Doesn't the Phrygian have a b2? And the Aeolian does not have a b2.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Visentin View Post
    I'm with Steve unless there is a difference between a Phrygian and a minor Phrygian. If so I have a lot more work to do.
    Phrygian mode is the white keys from E to E.

    transposed to C, that's C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C

    Yes it has a b2nd scale degree

    As for "minor Phrygian", all normal Phrygian mode is minor as it has a b3rd.

    The concept of a "major" Phrygian is a way of fitting a scale with a falt 2nd and a major 3rd - the "Hava Nagila" or Hejaz or Freygish mode - which is also the scale built from the 5th of Harmonic Minor.

    G Harmonic minor:

    G A Bb C D Eb F# G

    5th is D

    same pitch classes from D:

    D Eb F# G A Bb C D

    and this is what is often called a "major" Phrygian mode.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    I think your right Steve. Aeolian, or natural minor is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. Like A to A in the key of C, D to D in the key of F, etc..

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Based on this comment "the first two will probably take care of most things you need", I'm guessing he just mixed the names up, switch Phrygian and Aeolian and everything checks out.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    A few months ago, I asked myself “Just what is a minor scale and how is one used?” That was the beginning of a very interesting research project that culminated in a ten or fifteen page paper. At that point I abandoned the project when I realized it was way too superficial. For someone like me who is curious but with very little background in theory, the whole exercise could be a really fun project.

    In my paper I touched on all the above minor or “minor-ish” heptatonic scales, but I also included the minor pentatonic. Realizing that I had opened Pandora’s box of non-heptatonic scales, I quit.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    I think you can probably drive yourself insane with all the variants of minor scales and modes. My question to the OP and others is how do you practice your scales and arpeggios, etc? Do you just play 2 octave scales in first position or do you play 3 octave scales shifting positions.

    I started using a violin scale book. Ideally you may want to play in every key or you may not want to. I know that Hrimaly is a good one, but there are quite a few others. I also used Essential Elements for Strings (Violin). I don't think any of these books go through every modal scale but I don't think you really need to.
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think you can probably drive yourself insane with all the variants of minor scales and modes. My question to the OP and others is how do you practice your scales and arpeggios, etc? Do you just play 2 octave scales in first position or do you play 3 octave scales shifting positions.
    I've used violin books for study too.

    "how do you practice your scales and arpeggios, etc? Do you just play 2 octave scales in first position or do you play 3 octave scales shifting positions.

    I practice 2 string arpeggios in 3 octaves by using the same fingerings on each pair of strings; C on string 4, E and G on string 3 - repeat the pattern on strings 3 and 2, beginning at the C an octave above the 4th string C; same thing on string 2 and 1.

    Scales, well, I try to practice all sorts of variations because that's how they are used in music - but pretty much at least 2 octaves, usually trying for 3.

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Do you just play 2 octave scales in first position or do you play 3 octave scales shifting positions.
    I like to play either 2 or 3 octaves on scales; I also usually play one octave scales on a single string, shifting for the second tetrachord, whenever I tune up the mandolin.

    I practice arpeggios using two patterns in all twelve keys around the circle of fifths, each within an octave, and also use the Tim O'Brien arpeggio workout from mandozine which covers at least two octaves on each arp. Haven't tried his slow arps exercise from the Mandolin Mondays episode yet, but it's on my to-do.
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by bradeasley View Post
    Based on this comment "the first two will probably take care of most things you need", I'm guessing he just mixed the names up, switch Phrygian and Aeolian and everything checks out.
    I should have said "Dorian and Aeolian will probably take care of most things you need". sorry
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    In classical theory, Melodic Minor is different ascending and descending. In Jazz theory, Melodic Minor is the same ascending and descending:

    1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

    Basically a major scale with a flat 3.
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    In classical theory, Melodic Minor is different ascending and descending. In Jazz theory, Melodic Minor is the same ascending and descending:

    1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

    Basically a major scale with a flat 3.
    As both a jazz player AND a classical musician, classical theory trumps jazz - and I got my training in both in New Orleans.

    Plus all my jazz teachers meant the classical version when they said melodic minor.

    Pete, where is this jazz theory written down as such? I'm not debating you, just curious if I'm out-of-date with the current academic world.

    BTW, my teachers said there really was no special jazz theory, as it had all been done before in "classical" music (that includes 20th century stuff - generic terms).

    http://www2.siba.fi/muste1/index.php?id=79&la=en

    " A jazz minor scale is a minor scale with a raised sixth and seventh degree (= a melodic minor when moving upwards)."

    Maybe you mean the "jazz minor"?

    http://www2.siba.fi/muste1/index.php?id=71&la=en

    "An ascending melodic minor or jazz minor scale"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_minor_scale

    "The jazz minor scale is a derivative of the melodic minor scale, except only the ascending form of the scale is used. As the name implies, it is primarily used in jazz. "

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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Pete, where is this jazz theory written down as such? I'm not debating you, just curious if I'm out-of-date with the current academic world.
    It depends on how steeped you are in Aebersold-style "chord scale" theory, which I think has been the prevailing academic way of teaching jazz since the '80s. They have a billion scales. I had all my theory training in a classical context, so it never quite sits right with me, but I can see how it would be a good way to methodically hear notes against chords when practicing.

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  40. #25
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    Default Re: Question about minor scales

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    It depends on how steeped you are in Aebersold-style "chord scale" theory, which I think has been the prevailing academic way of teaching jazz since the '80s. They have a billion scales. I had all my theory training in a classical context, so it never quite sits right with me, but I can see how it would be a good way to methodically hear notes against chords when practicing.
    Although I appreciate the effort, the Aebersold method also bothers me as it has become overly important while people have forgotten the correct way to play jazz - the chord arpeggio method the old jazz masters used.

    Here's the Aebersold scale syllabus:

    https://www.jazzbooks.com/mm5/downlo...e-syllabus.pdf

    "Melodic Minor (ascending) W H W W W W H C D Eb F G A B C"

    It seems that there is a difference is terminology.

    Aebersold does not list a "jazz minor" nor the descending melodic minor as he does include melodic minor as a separate scale.

    Just a footnote - although i know and use the chord-scale method, I was taught in the earlier method of chord arpeggios/chord tones.

    Chord/scale method is a great tool AFTER one knows the chord arpeggios. I disagree with using the Aebesold method as the ONLY way to play jazz.

    I guarantee Armstrong, Parker, Diz, etc. did not think in terms of chord/scales but played based off of the actual chords.

    Guys, I am not just being argumentative.

    I am a professional jazz musician, have a Master's in Music theory/comp, and have studied with many great jazz teachers including Les Wise and Ellis Marsalis. I try to make sure what I post about theory is accurate.

    People can claim "this is the way to play jazz" as has been done now in university settings, but not all jazz scholars agree.

    I love the Aebersold series for the play-alongs, but really wish it would have used the chord arpeggio method before showing the chord-scale tricks.

    Besides, if you know classical theory, you can derive all that chord-scale stuff on your own anyway. It's all there:

    https://noty.propovednik.com/Public/...n-Hindemit.pdf

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