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Correct scale for chord embellishments

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Matteo11, May 17, 2011.

  1. Matteo11

    Matteo11 Supporting Member

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    Hi,

    I hope someone out there can help clear some theory up for me. I have learned and memorized the CAGED system. I have memorized major/minor pentatonic scales all patterns and keys and memorized the major scale patterns in all keys. This is where my confusion sets in....

    I want to know when playing chords in say the key of E Major and you want to add embellishments (style if Jimi Hendrix, SRV etc) do you play the Emajor scale that "overlaps" that particular chord in the scale?? Say You are playing an A Major chord in the progression/ key of E Major would you play the Emajor scale notes that surround that A Major chord? Or would you play the A Major scale notes around that A Major chord?

    I would think the latter would mean you are constantly changing keys each time you change chords. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Any help would be much appreciated!
     
  2. chronowarp

    chronowarp Member

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    Yes, probably.

    Depends on where the chord is going...if it's diatonic, and another myriad of things.

    But if it's just the IV in E, ya, embellishing it with stuff in the E major scale is the easiest and probably best sounding solution.

    A & E aren't that different, but playing A major around the A chord will give you a D natural, which may or not be what you want in the song, it may give it a "bluesy" type of vibe, sinceits the b7 of E.

    Think about the chord function and how it would stack up in the key all the way up to a 13th, that will give you a chord scale - and I guarantee you in the case of most stuff it's just going to be the same as the scale of the key you're in, unless it's a chromatic harmony or a sub.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2011
  3. marcher5877

    marcher5877 Member

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    When you playing a song in E maj, play E major scales.

    Thats the basic answer.

    Heres a bit advanced answer:

    When you are playing an A major chord in a song that is in E major, play the E major scale with emphasis on the "A" note. Thats basically modal theory, in this case, you would be playing an A mixolyidan scale.

    Heres the advanced advanced answer:

    It doesnt matter, playing anything as long as it is saying what you want it to say.
     
  4. Matteo11

    Matteo11 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for both those answers guys
     
  5. JSeth

    JSeth Member

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    I like this - except playing an E major scale over an A maj chord gives you a lydian sound, rather than a mixolydian... gives you the #4 (#11) of an A, a D# note...

    Pretty much, it's whatever sounds the way you want it to sound... but you won't go very far wrong by playing the E major scale (in the Op's example) over whatever chord that's diatonic to the key of E, using the root of the chord as "homebase"...

    Now, say you were playing "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad", a la the 'Dead, in E... basically, it's I-IV-VI min-V... BUT... a lydian sound on the A chord doesn't quite feel right. This tune is an adaptation of an old folk song, and advanced harmony just won't fit all of it. I play A pent, E pent, A mixolydian (with a G note) - over that passage...

    So, it's whatever fits your ear, when it all comes down to it!

    play on...........>
     
  6. rajsmooth

    rajsmooth Member

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    in the song gravity by JM which i think is a good example of this style, he uses fills based around the chord grips that he uses. but i think all the players you mentioned probably did a mixture of both things
     
  7. chronowarp

    chronowarp Member

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    I don't think he's going to have to worry about getting a lydian sound over a IV chord in a major key, since if it's a functional chord sequence it's really going to coem across that way.
     
  8. JonR

    JonR Member

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    The simplest embellishment - that will give you a typical Hendrix effect - is the major pentatonic of the chord.
    Not the full major scale: only the major scale of the tonic chord will work, so you need to know which chord in a sequence is the tonic - and anyway, major scales don't often sound very "rock'n'roll". ;)

    (IOW, you're right to say that in the key of E major you would play the E major scale on any chord in the key - which could include A, B7, C#m, F#m or G#m. But then you may find that it's not really a "rock" sound. It's "correct" according to conventional theory; but rock tends to follow different theories...)

    But the major pent will work on any major chord. This means adding the 2nd and 6th to the chord tones you already have.
    If you're not sure where those notes are, the 2nd is 2 frets above the root (or 2 frets below the 3rd) and the 6th is 2 frets above the 5th. (You DO need to know which notes in the chord are root, 3rd and 5th ;) - and remember most chords have more than one of each.)
    In most major chord shapes, these are very easy notes to add, often lying beneath the fingers.
    Hendrix used a lot of major pent fills in his more ballad-style tunes, such as Wind Cries Mary, which is full of major pent licks.

    The simple rule is: major pent on major chords, minor pent on minor chords. (Just to confirm: E major pent on an E chord, A major pent on an A chord, Bm pent on a Bm chord, etc...regardless of key.)
    If you follow this rule, everything you play will be in key, and will sound OK.
    It's not always the BEST strategy to follow, of course! (It may sound too "safe" sometimes, and is not very bluesy or jazzy.)

    If the pent rule doesn't hit the spot, and you wanrt something bluesier/funkier, try preceding chord tones with notes a half-step below.
    A combination of pent-of-the-chord, and these chromatic approaches, may give you all you need; it's certainly a lot to play with.
     
  9. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    What you are talking about/learning are the modes of the major scale. An Amaj chord in the key of E yields an A lydian scale, which is the same notes as an Emaj scale just starting on A.

    I agree with JonR that an easy way to negotiate these things is with pentatonics- they pretty much always work. I think you should play around with those notes and use your ears for the rest, sometimes it will lead you to a note that's not in the key. For example in Little Wing Jimi plays a natural 9th over the Bbmin chord (the note C), a choice which he may not have gotten to if he was thinking key/scale.
     
  10. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Nice example.
    (In fact if we treat the key as G major/E minor - which most people do, as he tuned down a half-step - it's a C# note on a Bmin chord.)
    He put that in there doubtless because he just liked 9ths. He was always adding 9ths to major chords (the sus2 played as two stacked 5ths is a signature Jimi sound), and he just decided to put one on a minor chord at that point.
    Of course there's also an F chord in the sequence, but that's a more common rock chromaticism.;)
    While the 9th on the minor chord is outside the key (and outside the minor pent), it is of a piece with his general approach. On Little Wing, he added sus4s too, here and there. (This would also be something many rock players would do on major chords, regardless of whether they were in key or not.)
     
  11. Matteo11

    Matteo11 Supporting Member

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    I believe i just figured all this out....JONR's answer really got me thinking. Appreciate all the input though from everyone great answers and discussion.

    In the Key of E Major the notes are E,F#,G#,A,B,C# and D#. I looked at all the notes for every given chord & major or minor pentatonic scale within the key of E Major and every chord & specific pentatonic scale in regards to that chord ALL contain common/same notes as the Emajor scale.

    Whereas for example you would not use the A major scale as embellishemnets on an Amaj chord in an E MAJOR Progression/Key because that scale ( A Major) has a different note (A#) than the Emajor scale (A) and would sound out of key. If you use the pentatonic major or minor scale for each chord in the Emajor progression ALL the notes from those penatatonic scales are common to the key of Emajor.

    So If you had a simple progression of Emaj / Bmaj / F#min / Amaj in the key of Emajor you could technically use any notes from the above Emajor scale for hammer on's, slides etc around any of the given chords for Emajor but what Jon R is saying and I hope I understand ...If you use the major pent or minor pent scale for the given chord you are embellishing off of it will sound much better because those notes are more centered around that chord.

    Still the same notes, still in the Key of Emaj just the tonal center of each individual chord is being embellished and tends to work better.

    I hope this is correct because i feel like I just made a breakthrough with the help from you guys! Thanks.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2011
  12. AQ808

    AQ808 Member

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    Spot on, and that's why many of us are big on the concept of chord tones.

    The point is this, playing every note of a scale with reckless abandon throughout a piece strips away much of the distinctions that the simple chords, usually triads, make on their own.

    There is so much that you can do with the simple triad of each chord, but most won't know it because they think more notes are better/smarter/deeper.
     
  13. Matteo11

    Matteo11 Supporting Member

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    Awesome! I can't wait to apply this newfound knowledge to my playing. This definitely helps take a lot of guesswork out of improvising off the chord in a progression. Now begins the many years of mastering this technique!
     
  14. marcher5877

    marcher5877 Member

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    You got it. Those 8 notes (in an E major scale when playing in E majo) are the correct notes to play in a solo!

    But there are 4 other notes that are 'wrong' notes that can also be used.

    Sometimes being 'wrong' sounds better than being correct!
     

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