Now, I’m not saying you should rip-off other’s music in this way, only that you could. I’m just going to assume you need this video because you innocently and accidentally copied someone else’s work – this is the internet, no judgements here.
At any time, in any key, you can actually play any note. This can be a little confusing at first, but ultimately is an easy way to add character to your improvisations, and create much more interesting melodies.
Below is what you might call a scale diagram – if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re only 2 notes away from playing all the notes…
You can see the minor scale outlined with the red dots, (each conveniently labelled with it’s interval), and the new outside notes are coloured individually.
The Blue Note – b5
This interval sounds awful out of context, but it does have 2 uses. Firstly, you can make something sound tense by changing between a perfect and a diminished 5th – especially in rhythm playing, which has a cool kinda Led Zeppelin feel to it.
Secondly, and the focus of today’s attention, is using it as a bridge between the perfect 4th and 5th, which is what a lot of blues-based riffs and solos rely upon.
If you’ve played a major scale, you should already be comfortable with the idea of a major 3rd, and hopefully comfortable that you, technically speaking, shouldn’t play this note when in a minor scale.
To heck with your rules. If you know where your minor 3rd is, this note is the fret above that. I came across this by watching a blues guitarist friend of mine, and noticed he was throwing this note in directly after the minor 3, (the same way you might throw in the blue note). The Minor 3 – Major 3 – Root lick has lived in my phrase book ever since.
The Phrygian Note – b2
I call it that, because it’s what gives the Phrygian mode it’s very particular flavour. The note is the fret above the root, and you can get away with it in a blues or rock setting, because these styles often avoid playing the 2 chord, (which would be Diminished in the minor scale). This ambiguity about what the 2nd degree of the scale is means you can make it whatever you darn well please.
Often I’ll use this in conjunction with the major 3rd to give a flavour of the Middle East in what I’m playing, (in my mind I refer to this as “the cool part of the Phrygian Dominant mode”)
How to “Sell It”
I get it, these notes sound weird so how can you really “sell” them to a listener.
- Confidence. An audience will know you screwed up either from your face and body language, or because you stop playing for a moment to berate yourself. The best way around this is to intentionally play notes you know won’t work and get comfortable with them. Play a backing track, and try to hold a diminished 5th or flat 2 through the entire thing. Your brain and muscle memory will want to correct you – don’t let them. Pretty soon you’ll be fine with throwing outside notes into your everyday playing.
- Short Note Duration. You can get used to these notes by keeping the notes really short, and gradually build-up your confidence in the sound of these notes.
In this video is all the basic theory you’ll need to understand why chords work and sound as they do. I’m focusing on guitar, but the theory remains the same for all instruments. Learn and enjoy.
Given the definition above, we would be safe to make the assumption that a Pentatonic Scale is one comprising of five notes. We would also be correct.
Scales are fundamental to music, both in composition and improvisation. Chords within a song are usually made up of notes taken from the scale, and solos or melodies use those same notes.
The pentatonic scales are simplified versions of the full 7-note Major and Minor scales predominantly used within western music. They perform a greater role than just being an easier version of the full scales though, as the notes in the pentatonic scales are arguably much more integral to the scale’s sound.
Once you’ve memorized these scales, try soloing in them – find a backing track in C Major or Minor and just play along.
Then, when you’re happy with what you’ve achieved, think about learning the full Natural Major & Minor Scales.
Before getting into modes it is advised that you have a strong knowledge of music theory in regards to the following topics:
- Full, 7-note, Major and Natural Minor Scales.
- Relative Major and Minor Scales – can you work out the relative Major scale of any given Minor?
- Scale Construction – do you know what kind of 6 is in a Minor scale? Do you know what a perfect interval is?
If you’re comfortable discussing those topics please do carry on. If not you’ll be much better off learning about them before you work on The Modes.
Similar to a scale, a mode is a collection of notes from which chords and melodies can be derived. You probably recognize by now that a Major scale sounds generally up-beat and happy, while a Minor scale will be more solemn and moody. Each mode has it’s own distinct feel and it’s pretty important that you decide for yourself what those particular feelings are. For now, get used to playing these shapes as separate and self-contained exercises.
The difference between a mode and a scale is that you probably won’t be writing songs in a mode. It’s more likely that phrases of a mode will be thrown into a Major or Minor song just to add something a bit different.
As mentioned in the video, you should already know the Aeolian and Ionian scales because, to reiterate:
Ionian = Major
Aeolian = Minor
So! You only have 5 new shapes to learn. Below are links to the focus lessons all of which include the tab for that mode, it’s formula, examples of songs and an etude:
Dorian Focus Lesson & Etude
Phrygian Focus Lesson & Etude
Lydian Focus Lesson & Etude
Mixolydian Focus Lesson & Etude
Locrian Focus Lesson & Etude
2nd video about the Circle Of Fifths, this time focusing on it’s uses within songwriting. For reference, I’ve included the diagram below again.
In this lesson I examine how the Circle Of Fifths is created, and offer some ways to commit it to memory.
Below is a printable image of the Co5s, I strongly encourage you to print it out and put it somewhere you spend ages looking – above your bed, next to a bathroom mirror, etc.
In the next lesson, I’ll be examining some cool song-writing tips using the Co5s. You can find that lesson here.