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Does Solo'ing Change Scales throughout song??:)
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  1. #1
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    Question Does Solo'ing Change Scales throughout song??:)

    Hi All

    Something i'm not yet up to is playing lead/solo'ing..but i have a question which has been on my mind for ages...if you would kindly help!

    Lead or solo'ing comes from scales right!!

    If a song is in...for example lets say the "key Of G"...so the scales that we can use throughout this song could be "G Major Scale" or The Relative Em Scale" (if the song was in a minor form)..also the "G Pentatonic" can be used

    Now to my question......As you go through the song..the chords change, the song will generally start on G...then it will go to something like "C" & then "D" etc etc......would i have to change the scale to the "C" & then the "D" or i just keep playing the same scale (G) all the way thru the song....but maybe choosing different places of the G scale along the neck to get high or lower sounds?

    Hope i've explained what is on my mind well enough!

    Kind Regards


  2. #2

    Jam Time

    im 95% sure about this... if a rythm guitarist starts out on a G chord then the lead guitarist play a G scale.. it doesnt matter which other chords he plays, it only matters about first chord that was played.... REMEBER IM ONLY 95% SURE... good luck with your guitar journey

  3. #3
    Moderator mkorsmo's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Minneapolis, MN


    You can use different scales and/or modes depending on chord changes and how you want the solo to sound.

    I would check out the lessons on the site and maybe even throw out a QA for a video response, but I'll try and give some examples (partially cause it will refresh my own understanding).

    There is more than one approach... but here is one... involving modes.

    An approach using Modes..
    A mode is a topic that Steve Vai explains in exhaustive detail in Guitar Player magazine that your brain freezes, your eyes glaze over and you go hunting for the tapping tabs for Eruption... just kidding...

    Really down and dirty... what is a mode? A scale is a series of notes arranged in order by pitch, a mode is simply a way of manipulating those exact same notes to create a wide variety of sounds/harmonic combination. Brad has quite a few lessons that cover the modes... but in a very small nutshell...

    The C major scale consists of the following notes with the interval between each note listed below:

    CWDWEHFWGWAWBH <- The interval between the notes (W = whole step & H = half step)

    It is important to pay attention to the intervals BETWEEN the notes and their order because THIS is what our ears and brains use to recognize a particular scale - it's what give the scale it's character.

    One more thing before moving on... the notes in a scale fall into numbered positions as do the chords in a scale. This is typically expressed in roman numerals - below is the POSITION. NOTE NAME (Chord Type) for a (C) Major scale:
    I. C (Major)XXII. D (Minor)XXIII. E (Minor)XXIV. F (Major)XX V. G (Major)XXVI. A (Minor)XXVII. B(Diminished)XX

    When you play a the series of intervals WHOLE WHOLE HALF WHOLE WHOLE WHOLE HALF starting at the note C, your brain recognizes the sound of this pattern as the C Major scale. This is where modes make things interesting. By starting at different scale positions (the II, III...) other than the root and playing the intervals in order, the resulting sequence produces a different quality of sound... it's still the same notes but the pattern of intervals between the notes has been changed. In reality, it's just shifted over, but your brain/ear recognize the pattern as something different... a mode.

    In any scale, you can make as many modes as there are notes in the scale. For the sake of simplicity, let's continue with the key of C and the C Major scale. Because it's made up of 7 notes (or positions), we can produce 7 different modes - each starting at a position on the C Major scale. Because this is fairly common thing to do with western 7 note scale, these modes have names. They are Nancy, Eric, Mike... ha! I kid. Actually, because all scholarship must carry with it a certain air of snootiness and as much Greek and Latin as possible, they are named as follows:

    I. Ionian mode starting at the I position (C) we get "C Major or C Ionian":
    C w D w E h F w G w A w B h C

    II. Dorian Mode starting at the II position (D) we get "D Dorian":
    D w E h F w G w A w B h C w D

    III. Phrygian Mode starting at the III position (E) we get "E Phrygian":
    E h F w G w A w B h C w D w E

    IV. Lydian Mode starting at the IV position (F) we get "F Lydian":
    F w G w A w B h C w D w E h F

    V. Mixolydian Mode starting at the V position (G) we get "G Mixolydian":
    G w A w B h C w D w E h F w G

    VI. Aolian Mode starting at the VI position (A) we get "A Aolian or A Minor*":
    A w B h C w D w E h F w G w A

    VII. Locrian Mode starting at the VII position (B) we get "B Locrian":
    B h C w D w E h F w G w A w B

    In short... if you take anything away from this rant... it's the INTERVALS between the notes that make the mode/scale... NOT the notes themselves... this approach is generally called the "derivative approach" in that they are derived from a parent scale (the I or Ionian).

    OK... really quick like, let apply this to another scale/key... then we will move on. Imagine if you will that your uber hip jazz trio is playing in the key of Bb...

    Bb major scale (or Ionian mode) consists of:

    Bb -w-> C -w-> D -h-> Eb -w-> F -w-> G -w-> A -h-> Bb

    ...when suddenly, for reasons that will become clear shortly... you decide you need to figure out how to build the mode for the second scale position (II or Dorian)... that would be the C dorian mode. All you have to do is apply the intervals of the dorian mode (w h w w w h w) starting at C, giving you:

    C -w-> D -h-> Eb -w-> F -w-> G -w-> A -h-> Bb -w-> C = C Dorian

    OK... so how do we put all this jibber jabber to use?

    Hello Rubber... meet road...

    There are a couple ways to apply modes to chord progression and soloing.

    The easiest is to match the chord's number to the mode that matches its position in the scale. As an example, we will take a fairly typical C Major II - V - I progression. We will want to grab the 2nd Mode (II. D Dorian), the 5th Mode (V. G Mixolydian) and the Root Scale/Mode (I. C Ionian aka C Major) scale to use when soloing over the II, V and I chords. Then. we simply choose notes that are contained within the mode that corresponds to the chord you are playing over... in this case, you would play the D Dorian mode over the II chord (Dm7), the G Mixolydian over the V chord (G7) and the C Ionian (C Major Scale) over the I chord (CMajor7). I'm using 7ths because the II - V- I is typically a jazz progression... see Matt Brown's lessons for way more detail and a proper explanation.

    I threw together some tabs/GP5 files that will hopefully demonstrate this idea. The first one is the C Major Scale, the D Dorian (which is the II mode for C Major) and G Mixolydian modes (which is the V mode for C Major) PDF | GP5 (SOLO the different tracks to hear each alone). And here they are in context of a chord progression PDF | GP5. Check out the lessons on the site, Brad covers each of the modes... hopefully this will give you a bit of context as to how they are used. Note: The scales/modes presented in the documents represent one position each of the modes/scales. You can play those in multiple places on the neck, but for the sake of simplicity, I stuck to 1 position each. Again, check out Brad's lessons.

    The whole goal here is NOT to turn creating music into some great big color by numbers book, but rather, to give the musician the tools to get what they hear in their head out into the world for other people to hear. Being able to intelligently communicate about music in a common language also helps musicians share ideas easily and quickly. There are countless other methods of constructing solos... these are but 2 common ones.

    I wish I had all those old 80s guitar magazines now and I wish I had paid more attention to Steve back then. My loss...

    Anyhow... if you know better, feel free to correct me... but I think this will give you a basic understanding of one way that scales/modes begin to fit in soloing...

    * Also the RELATIVE minor of the key as it shares all the same notes... in this case C.
    Last edited by mkorsmo; 12-06-2008 at 07:41 PM.
    "I can't think of a reason why not..."

  4. #4
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    Finally a good way to ask this question (nice work, mikelly, you're way better than I at asking questions correctly), and finally a good way to explain it, thank you mkorsmo!!

  5. #5
    Moderator mkorsmo's Avatar
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    Minneapolis, MN


    Again... with the modes.

    OK... everything above is technically correct... but... we have a problem. Not a huge one... but still... something to address.

    If you play though the modes of the C scale using the derivative method explained above... it can be difficult to hear the character/flavor/vibe of each mode... instead, you hear the C Major scale played starting at different notes. Well, the BEST way to get a sense of the different flavors of the modes is to hear them all played from the same root. So... now we need to know how to build the modes from the same root note...

    *GULP* *DEEP BREATH*. Not a big deal really. Basically, if you want C Dorian just look at the C Major (or minor) scale and make a few tweaks... simple. Piece of cake.

    Let's start with Dorian...


    OK... Fans of Carlos Santana... pay attention... A good example of the Dorian mode is the outro solo in "Evil Ways" by Santana. (Hello YouTubes! the solo starts around 3:04 or so...) The man is the epitome of cool.

    To create this snappy little number... we must "flat" the notes in the III and VII scale positions of the main scale we are working with - to "flat" a note, we move it's value down a half step.

    Put numerically, for Dorian, the interval structure relative to the parent scale is:

    1 - 2 - (flat)3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - (flat)7 - 8

    Clear as mud right?... example time...

    So let's look at C:

    As we already know, C Major is:

    C D E F G A B C

    So let's make the C Dorian mode...

    Ok... looking at the C Major scale... we can see that the note in the 3rd position is E and the note in the 7th position is B.


    So, to make a C Dorian, all we need to do is flat the E making it Eb and flat the B making it Bb. The resulting scale C Dorian is therefore:

    1#2#3 #4#5#6#7 #

    Not too tough, eh? Oh... but wait... there's more!!

    * or whatever type of key/scale you are working with... for simplicity sake... I'm using Major scales.
    Last edited by mkorsmo; 12-23-2008 at 02:27 AM.
    "I can't think of a reason why not..."

  6. #6
    Moderator jbooth's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Fort Collins, CO


    Powertab is also a pretty good free program, though I don't know if it's still updated.

  7. #7
    Free Member (Wimp!) itsmekeuh's Avatar
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    Jan 2008


    Nice explanation Mkorsmo ! this should be made sticky :-)
    and JP should hire Mkorsmo :-D

  8. #8
    Basic Member tomorrow's Avatar
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    Oct 2008


    Hi thanks for he TUX link

  9. #9
    Premium Member
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    Nov 2008

    Smile Does Solo'ing Change Scales throughout song??:)

    Hi All ...mkorsmo & sunwentai

    Firstly, my apologies for the late response back to you

    Sunwentai..thanx very much for the comment below, i thought i explain things too much..hehehe

    ...wow.Finally a good way to ask this question (nice work, mikelly, you're way better than I at asking questions correctly)

    Wow!....you should be paid for explanations like that....Man i wish i could digest it all now & have the understanding like you do..i know this will come in use for time to come as well...many thanx to you...really appreciated!


  10. #10
    Moderator mkorsmo's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Minneapolis, MN


    Hey Sunwentai, Itsme and Mike,

    Thanks for the kind words. This has turned into a good way for me to try and cement the bits of scale theory I have had floating around in my brain for a while now... hopefully my explaination is clear enough for someone else to get some use out of it. I plan to continue to add too and revise it...


    Powertab is a great program for sure... it's no longer being developed of supported, but there is so much Power Tab floating around on the Web, it's still a great tab reader.
    "I can't think of a reason why not..."




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