Here are two versions of a fun exercise I just saw on the Bass Guitar Scales FB group. They have us ascend the major scale in 3rds using two of the more common major scale patterns. I just tried it out using the minor scale, and like it a lot. There’s a nice, consonant sound to the exercise.
If you’re new to scales, what they have us do is play a note in the scale and then play a note a third higher, so, play scale degree 1 and then scale degree 3. Then play scale degree 2 followed by 4, then 3 followed by 5, 4 followed by 6, etc. We can do the same thing going down as well.
Here are both versions. If you’re on FB, go like their page!
I checked out Talkbass today – its been a while since I’ve been there. A new member named Magnvm asked a question about where to start when learning bass. He provided a chart for guitars that he’s seen as a talking point. A lot of advice was given, but the first response, by MalcolmAmos, really struck a chord with me. He spoke about theory and what a bassist might need to know based on the type of music they’re playing. Then, he got into the Circle of 5ths (or 4ths, if you look at it backwards).
I was going through ex. 42 (D-Lite) in the HLBM yesterday and got curious. I wanted to know what key it was in, and if there was an easier way to play it, although I’m still making myself do it from 1st or 2nd position, which is what we’re currently using in the book. I was fairly certain that its in D-major because the exercises in this lesson focus on the D-string. But, I wanted to know where the notes fall in the D-major scale.
So, I ended up counting the notes to get a tally of how often each appeared in the exercise, in case that became important. After analysis, I don’t think the frequency is what’s important. I think that each note’s position, and thus, role, in the song or exercise is.
There are only 5 notes in the exercise. This revelation should make it easier for me to play, conceptually, because it narrows down the number of notes I have to remember. I didn’t think about taking note of the actual number of different notes in a given exercise before. The notes are A, B, C#, D and E.
1. D major
I ended up writing out the D-major scale and highlighting the notes. They’re all in the actual scale – no chromatic notes. I believe that this means they’re diatonic. Here they are:
So, we can see that by scale degrees, we’re only using the 1, 2, 5, 6 & 7. Three of those are chord tones – the 1 (D), 5 (A) and 7 (C#). Two of them are passing tones 2 (E) and 6 (B). This was interesting to me because it let me look at something else – where were we using chord tones and when weren’t we? How did we transition from one chord tone to the next? This let me begin to understand their functions.
Also, with this exercise, I noticed that there are a lot of “waves” where what we play climbs up and then back down, with regard to notes/tones.
Here’s the exercise with the scale degrees painted on. This is in D-major:
So, this 2nd video for Week 2 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is called Sharps & Flats. It finds Zack and Nikki seated behind a piano. Zack begins the lesson by recapping that last week we discussed the concepts of tones and semi-tones. We picked the note “C” and applied the pattern “tone – tone – semi-tone – tone – tone – tone – semi-tone” and called the result the major scale. He explains that we can pick any other note, apply the same pattern, and the result is still the major scale. So, we’re going to refer to that sequence of tones and semi-tones as the major scale pattern.
He picks a note on the piano – G – and applies the major scale pattern starting on it. He says to notice that when we played the major scale pattern starting on C last week, we played only the white notes. We didn’t play any of the black ones. When we started on G and played the pattern, we needed to play one of the black ones. This note is called F#.
Nikki takes over from here and explains that the note is called F# (F-sharp) because it is one semi-tone sharper or higher than F. However, she continues, by the same rationale, we can also say that its one semi-tone lower than G. We could then call it Gb (G-flat) – which means one semi-tone lower or flatter than G.
So, its been like 2 1/2 weeks since I last posted about the Fundamentals of Music Theory class – and I think I only shared one post outside of that as well. Luckily, the baby’s grandparents (a.k.a. my folks) are back from the west coast and I should be able to sneak in some time to write again. Without further ado…
The 4th video for Coursera’s FoTM Week 1 class is called “More on scales“. Its a 6-minute lesson that delves into scales beyond C major. Somehow, I’ll find a way to turn it into a 3-hour tour by typing about it though. It begins by introducing a scale with the tonic (root note) of A. This scale uses all of the notes found in the C major scale, but begins them on A instead of C. So, instead of C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C we have A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.
By starting on A, Moir explains that we still use the same notes as C major but now have a different pattern of tones and semi-tones. If you think about this using the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 as C major, we now have 6-7-1-2-3-4-5-6 if we begin on A. He lets us know that this is called the Natural Minor Scale or Aeolian Mode, and that we’ll talk about it more in Week 2’s lesson.
The 3rd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is about octaves. Dr. Worth begins it by announcing, “In this section, we’re going to look more at the vertical distances between notes.” He references the graph from the last video and reminds us that the line that goes up and down represented high and low pitches. “We’re now going to start quantifying those,” he promises.
He reminds us that octaves are composed of eight notes (7 notes in a scale + a repeat of the first note, or octave – see how that word gets throw around to mean different things?). He then points to Dr. Moir’s guitar and to the observation that there aren’t 7 notes on it. There are, in fact, many more.
Dr. Moir shows us that if we play an open A on the A-string, and then play an A on the 12th fret of the same string, we’ve played an octave. However, if we count the individual frets/pitches in between the open A and the 12th fret, we find that there are… 12 frets! Its only when we get to the 12th that notes begin repeating. So, physically, an octave isn’t divided into 8 notes, as per the name, but actually contains 12 distinct pitches.
They then show us this same idea on the piano, counting both black and white keys when moving from A to a higher A.
After this, Worth takes to the piano and shows us the difference in distance between a semitone and a tone. A semitone is one key away from another on the piano, or one fret on the bass. A tone is two keys away on piano, or two frets away on bass. Semi means 1/2, so its 1/2 a tone.
So, two weeks ago, Colorado Music Academy published a blog entry about the Modes of the Major Scale. In the post, they discussed what I think are relative modes of the major scale. There’s another kind though, which is what I tend to practice, because it remains in the same key and illustrates the sonic differences of the modes more clearly to me. These are called parallel modes.
At the end of their Modes post, CMA asked for requests for other entries. I suggested an explanation of parallel vs. relative modes, and they were kind enough to deliver, so Thanks, CMA! I found the explanation both illuminating and heavy on theory for beginners. I’ve come to realize that I’m not a complete beginner anymore, so the explanation made sense to me, and I know repeated readings will add to this, but I also know that other beginners will be confused by it, so I wanted to share some more basic information about these two types of modes.
First, here are CMA’s posts:
- Colorado Music Academy: Modes of the Major Scale
- Colorado Music Academy: The Difference Between Parallel and Relative Modes
Now, here is my understanding of the two types of modes, starting with the major scale:
I. The Major Scale
I’ve blogged about the major scale in the past. Here are some of those entries if you’re new to the concept:
- Scale Patterns – The Major Scale 1
- The Major Scale and Chords
- Two-Octave Major Scale Pattern
- Two-Octave Major Scale Pattern 2
- Two-Octave Major Scale Pattern 3
So, if we take the C major scale as our basis for discussion, we can look at its notes like this: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C