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!
Anthony Wellington just blew my mind. Again. Garret Graves, on Talkbass, posted a link to a Fodera clinic he did just a few months ago. Its called “Modes for 4, 5, 6, and 7 String Bass“. The video is an hour long, but what he shared can be condensed into about 15. The rest are jokes, repetition and making sure the crowd is following what he says. In a nutshell – he shows 3 finger patterns that are used for all of the modes of the major scale and how to remember and play them all from one position on a 7-string bass. This is easily reduced for 4, 5 and 6 string bass – and then he has an audience member who has never touched a bass with more than 4 strings come up and actually do it on a 7-string.
I can’t believe what I just watched. I tested it out on the C major scale and A minor scale, because I know those patterns and know that those particular scales have no sharps or flats. They worked. I double-checked by confirming all of the notes on a diagram of a 6-string bass neck. It checked out. Anthony is right. Music is math. When we press frets on the neckboard, we’re plotting points on a graph.
He made a few really interesting points in his clinic about the modes – one of them being that there aren’t 7 modes. There’s really just one big mode. Seeing it plotted out on a 7-string bass really drove that home. Seeing how, with a 4, 5 or 6 string bass, we’re looking at a smaller section of that mode also makes sense. Knowing that from his one pattern, we can play any mode is just plain jaw-dropping. I can see how practicing it will eventually let us use the patterns to play starting on any degree of a given scale as well.
So, after re-watching George Urbaszek’s video about the modes of the minor pentatonic scale, I worked out the finger patterns and scale degrees (using the names as they’d appear in the major scale) for all of the modes in C (C minor pentatonic). They’re below.
- The first chart shows the finger patterns using 1-2-3-4 as index-middle-ring-pinkie. These are closed, moveable patterns.
- The second shows the patterns as scale degrees, and then the “formula” for each pattern using scale degrees.
- Finally, the last shows the actual notes for all of the modes of C.
- I’ve included the notes for D as well, because I worked it out to confirm that the patterns worked in other keys – and it did!
Mode 1 is the regular minor pentatonic. Mode 2 is playing from the 2nd note to the 2nd note an octave higher. Mode 3 starts on the 3rd note and ends on the 3rd note an octave higher, and so on for Mode 4 and Mode 5. As an aside, Mode 2, when played in A, gives us “My Girl,” but I think its the guitar part.
Here’s the 3rd of the minor pentatonic scale vids that I watched about a month ago. This one comes from George Urbaszek, who runs the website creativebasslessons.com. I learned that scales each have their own modes some time ago, either from Talkbass or from a book, but this is the first that I’ve seen the ones for the minor pentatonic scale in play.
George explains that in this session, he’ll show us the modes of the minor pentatonic scale and how to use them. He lets us know that a mode is simply playing a scale from a particular scale degree and finishing on that same degree, an octave higher. So, instead of starting on the 1 and ending on the 1 an octave higher, we could start on the 2 and end on its octave, etc. Being that the minor pentatonic has 5 notes, it then has 5 modes.
I’m recovering from a cold that I caught earlier in the week, after getting back from Ohio. While I was downstairs, waiting for the laundry to finish washing so I can put it in the dryer, I got to thinking about the 2nd pattern for the major scale. I like it for two reasons: (1) its easy to visualize it and “see” the difference between the major and minor scales using this particular pattern, and (2) I like the sound – having 3 notes on a string has this more “open” sound and feel to me, I’m actually really curious about this 4-note-per-string scale exercise that I’ve heard about now.
Anyway, here’s a sheet I just drafted that shows the 2nd pattern for the major scale and then all of the other modes, using it as a foundation. I color-coded notes a little. Red ones are flatted and the sole blue one is sharped. I’m going to look at it more in the AM and see if it helps me when visualizing scales.
- (PDF) scales-from-pattern-2
So, last night, after watching that video from samuraiguitarist about efficient practice, YouTube suggested another video from a Danish guitarist named Claus Levin. It was about learning scales faster. I watched it, and a second video from the same author showed up in the related videos, also about learning. I found it fascinating. It proposed a different learning/practice method from what I’ve seen before – basically asking us to practice in short bursts and then try to forget what we’ve practiced.
The idea is that when we practice, we’re taking information into short-term memory. By forgetting it and relearning it, we’re telling our brains that this is information that we have to relearn repeatedly. In order to better support having this now frequently-accessed information at hand, the brain then moves it from short-term to long-term memory, where we have it forever. Claus goes into more detail, starting with a human brain/computer cpu & memory analogy that makes much more sense a few mins in.
The other video is about practicing scales by taking the notes and learning them in a random order or pattern, instead of the usual method of running up and down scales from lowest note to highest, or vice versa. In a way, its similar to improvisation. Its goal is to leave us with usable knowledge of the notes and their locations and functions – essentially enabling fretboard freedom. Claus labels the standard method as learning sequential information. What he suggests, instead, is more akin to learning a scale pattern and then using it to create licks (or for us, basslines). Its more functional and musical.
The 7th and last video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is an extra called “Modes deconstruction“. It runs almost 7 mins long. When the file is opened, the title screen calls it something a little different – “Thinking about the modes and hearing their different ‘sounds’ (a rough illustration…)”.
This one’s a bit different from the others. Moir and Worth are present, seated at a piano in more casual wear, and Moir explains that they’ve been looking through the online forums (something that sets this apart from the Developing Your Musicianship class right off the bat, and in a good way) and found that some people understand the concept of modes, but don’t quite know what they’re supposed to sound like.
He continues by walking us through the notes of C-Ionian and D-Dorian. C-Ionian is the major scale, starting on C. D-Dorian uses the same notes but starts on D. They look like this (the numbers show their scale degrees):
So, its the same notes, but we’re starting from a different place. Some people are confused about why this should sound any different, since its the same set of notes. Moir explains that although the notes are the same, their relationship with each other changes. What he means by this is that their function in the scale is different.