Examples of scales in songs

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rob2001, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I've learned by ear since I was young. Recently I started scale study and realize that I'm already doing a lot of things, or bits of particular scales. Still, I prefer to learn by ear in the context of a song so I get the emotional connection.

    So I'm hoping to get some examples of scale usage in songs. I don't think solo's stay in one specific scale, but i'm sure there are examples where those who know can say "the riff in XXX tune is largely XXX scale"?
     
  2. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    BTW....I know the pentatonic when I hear it! I'm thinking more of Lydian, Dorian, Mixo etc....
     
  3. Snap

    Snap Member

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    The Hotel California solo is one of my favorite examples of modal soloing.

    Bm - F# - A - E - G - D - Em - F#

    Starts in B Aeolian (natural B minor), then goes to B Harmonic Minor for the F# major chord (major 5 chord in Bm, or Major 3 chord in D).
    Back to a Bm scale over the A chord (or A Mixolydian if you want follow each chord) and then switch to B Dorian for the E major chord (major 4 chord in Bm, or Major 2 chord in D).

    G - D - Em all stay in the Bm scale and then back to Harmonic Minor on the F# at the end of the progression.
     
  4. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Excellent! Thats a lot for me to chew on right there!
     
  5. AndyNOLA

    AndyNOLA Member

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    Its not that complicated just think of it as one basic scale minor, with just a few extra notes added or subtracted here and there to go with the chord changes. All those words make it seem more than it is....
     
  6. guitarz1972

    guitarz1972 Member

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    Stairway to Heaven solo is A Aeolian.
     
  7. Guitarded25

    Guitarded25 Supporting Member

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    There's a song called "Reaching For You" by a praise and worship guy names Lincoln Brewster that has a really cool solo in A. Here's a link to a video with him teaching the solo. Fast forward to 4:10 to hear the solo in it's entirety. I know Praise and Worship stuff is a sensitive subject around here but his solo rocks no matter what genre you play. So just for solo sake...check it out...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkgiEtzGb40&feature=youtube_gdata_player
     
  8. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I wouldn't call that "modal soloing", although I agree with your scale choices.

    The whole thing is "in the key of B minor" (it's a conventional key-based progression, not a modal sequence), and the B natural minor scale is altered only as much as necessary to fit the chords.
    Hence B harmonic minor on the F#, because the chord has an A# (raised 7th in B minor);
    And dorian on the E, because the chord has a G# (raised 6th in B minor). (B melodic minor could fit, but there is no A# here, so no need to raise the 7th.)
    B natural minor fits all the other chords (Bm, A, D, G, Em).

    This is a pretty good strategy for ANY chord progression: "identify the scale that most of the chords share, then make any necessary alterations for any other chords that occur."
    An close alternative to that - which generally ends up at the same place is "use the notes in each chord, with notes from neighbouring chords as passing notes".

    The other way of seeing Hotel California is as a sequence of pairs of chords, in different keys:

    Bm-F# = i-V in B minor (see above)
    A-E = I-V in A major = A major scale (same as B dorian ;))
    G-D = I-V in G major = G major scale. OR, IV-I in D major = same as B minor ;)
    Em-F# = iv-V in B minor (see above again)

    So you end up at more or less the same choices, but you have more of a sense of the structure of the piece. (Bm-A-G-F# is the famous "Andalusian cadence" of flamenco, and the song can be seen as a development from that.)

    The G major scale on G-D would be more "outside" relative to the B minor key centre, but might make an interesting deviation. ("B phrygian" in relation to B, but it won't sound like that on G-D chords.)

    In addition, the two options on the A chord of either B natural minor (with a G note) or B dorian (with a G#) are worth comparing. Personally I like B dorian, as that carries over to the E; but mainly I think of those two chords as I-V in A major.

    In the original solo, he avoids the issue of those differentiating notes - IOW, he avoids playing modally,and in fact sticks to B minor pent beyond the call of duty, one might say :).

    Here's a break down of what he's actually doing bar by bar:
    Bm - B minor pent
    F# - B harmonic minor (implied - in fact only the notes A# and B)
    A - B minor pent
    E - B minor pent, resolving to a G# on beat 3
    G - G major pent
    D - D major pent, with one passing C#
    Em - D major/B minor scale
    F# - D major/B minor scale (no harmonic minor this time)

    Bm, F# - B minor pent
    A, E - B minor pent again - just with the odd bend, and again ending on a G# on beat 3 of the E
    G - B minor pent (with a fair amount of bending)
    D - a distinctive chromatic run (F#-G-G#-A) but otherwise B minor/D major pent
    Em, F# - B minor pent again...

    Technically the minor pent doesn't fit some of these chords (including "avoid notes" occasionally), but the strength of the phrases makes it OK. (That's one of the reasons minor pent is such a popular scale - you can often over-ride the implications of a chord sequence. Of course in lesser hands that leads to dull cliches...)

    On the next chorus, the harmonies start. B minor pent on Bm gives way to a long held A# (in octaves) on the F#.
    B minor pent continues on the A and E chords again.
    On the G and D, they play in 3rds and 4ths from the B minor/D major scale, but the C# note is avoided (IOW it's like B minor pent with G added).
    Em - B minor scale (in 3rds between Em chord tones)
    F# - B harmonic minor (in 3rds between F# chord tones)

    Then you get the harmonized arpeggios. These are wholly chord tones, not scales at all, but the second chord in each pair does have a b7 added.
    IOW, the chords become Bm-F#7-A-E7-G-D7-Em-F#7.
    Ie, they finally do imply that G and D are I and V in G major, not IV-I in D (or bVI-III in B minor).


    So, arguably, whle this is undoubtedly one of the all-time great rock solos, it doesn't have much to teach us about the mood of various scales. You get hints of harmonic minor, but little more than that. Put simply, it's B minor pent riffing, paying some glancing attention to chord tones here and there (the A# and G# in particular) to keep it pinned to the chords to some extent.

    And of course it's those arpeggios at the end that really stick in the ear - and highlight that in fact it's the chord progression that makes this song great, not the guitar playing. (Of course it's great guitar playing, brilliantly controlled and executed, but is not really distinctive or original in any way. IE, an example of classic rock lead guitar. Not of anything modal or unusual, mood-wise. Any mood element is created by the chord progression (its strong Spanish flavour), which the lead guitar only follows - and not too faithfully at that.)
     
  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Words often do. See my post above :rolleyes:.
    But then when we want to explain stuff, what else do we have? ;)
     
  10. JonR

    JonR Member

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    For Lydian, this is the classic exercise:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SINl5JY7LhI
    There's an opening vamp in C lydian.
    Then when the tune starts, it's a 24-bar sequence:
    8 bars C lydian
    4 bars Ab lydian
    4 bars C lydian
    2 bars G lydian
    2 bars F lydian
    4 bars C lydian

    For Dorian, the classic example is this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NsJ84YV1oA
    It's in A dorian throughout, with the exception of the odd chromatic passing note (the riff at 1:36, and at 1:53), and some bluesy bending of course.

    You also get dorian solos on these two:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iSXrZYhJt4 - solo from 1:09, in Ab dorian (slightly sharp of concert).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKbPUzhWeeI - keyboard solo from 2:36, in F dorian. (The earlier guitar solo is over the chord sequence, which is a mix of aeolian and dorian.)

    For Phrygian, try these
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWlSw5Kb0dg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RbXIMZmVv8
    - both in E phrygian. (The Floyd goes to A phrygian momentarily and back.)

    Mixolydian is an extremely common sound in rock - but it's often just a flattening of the 7th of the major scale, and often combined with other bluesy alterations. Lots of classic 60s pop/rock riffs are mixolydian, such as:
    Oh Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)
    I Feel Fine (Beatles)
    Day Tripper (Beatles)
    Satisfaction (Stones)
    The Last Time (Stones)

    John Lennon and George Harrison were both big fans of mixolydian, more as an overall Indian-style sound for a chord sequence than for soloing with. Here's some of their mixolydian tunes:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHaM0K_d5_Y - C mixolydian throughout
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljnv3KGtcyI - C# mixolydian almost entirely (with a b3 creeping in in the bridge). (C# is the basic key of the sitar.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOxlWSZzcVA - E mixolydian, up to "I asked her to stay" - when it moves to dorian.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMZF1A1WnBQ - mostly D mixolydian (in drop D tuning), but there is a Bb included in the descending bass, and some other chords later.

    Here's a classic "rock mixolydian" song - A mixolydian all the way:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR2V60yLIaw
    This one is another classic rock mixolydian, but (as is common) uses a major V chord in the chorus, and other non-mixo chords elsewhere. But the verse is standard mixolydian (in Db, D a half-step down):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RbXIMZmVv8
    The first couple of guitar breaks are mixolydian. The later solo (3:36) is not mixolydian, it's in Eb minor, and has some good examples of harmonic minor at the beginning (on the Bb7 chord) - mostly just minor pent later.
    And here's mixolydian in synth/pop (D mixolydian):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3SjCzA71eM

    If you think these don't have much in common, mood-wise - that's kind of the point! The choice of mode is only one element in the mood of a piece of music, and often a pretty insignificant one.


    The main point to remember is that modes (if relevant at all) are written into the music, the result of the chord progression. They are not something a soloist applies after the event. Soloists just follow what the chords are telling them. (The chords usually spell out the scale(s); and if they don't, riffs or melodies will.) You can't change the mood of a song by applying a different mode - all you will get are wrong notes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
  11. Red_Label

    Red_Label Supporting Member

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    When I'm in the mood to rip-up some mixolydian scales, I put on any number of Vai or Satch tunes. You'll also find plenty of lydian in there as well. Great examples of this include "Time Machine" and "Flying In a Blue Dream" from Satch and "Still My Beating Heart" and "In My Dreams With You" from Vai.

    When I'm in the mood for harmonic minor or phrygian #3 scales... I jam along with pretty much any Yngwie... or lately it's been new flamenco music.
     
  12. Gigbag

    Gigbag Member

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    Jon:

    You seriously need to start contributing to this forum if you want to get along here.

    :sarcasm
     
  13. CowTipton

    CowTipton Silver Supporting Member

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    One little trick I've adopted is to pick out the signature sounds of certain scales or modes and memorize 'em so I can usually instantly recognize them in songs or know if I can use 'em while playing.

    The "waited so long, waited so long" part of Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" is the signature Mixolydian sound to me. 4-M3-R-b7 "You Can Still Rock in America" also works for Mixolydian. That 4-M3-2-b7-root-6-b7-5 lick.

    I hear those melodies in my head (I'm not crazy!) and if they sound like they fit over whatever song is playing, it signals to me that Mixolydian will sound good and that the song is probably in a V chord.
     
  14. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Keep in mind that the pentatonics are just abbreviations of the above scales.
     
  15. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Thanks guys, I'll check this stuff out tomorrow....got a dinner date with wifey tonight.
     
  16. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Thank you Jon. Tremendous, as usual. :aok
     
  17. RLD

    RLD Member

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  18. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Isn't it?
     
  19. CowTipton

    CowTipton Silver Supporting Member

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    It definitely is but I think Kossoff throws a little dorian into the lead as well if people wanna nitpick.
     
  20. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Fair enough. I was thinking of the chord sequence rather than the soloing, but of course the soloing (which I haven't analysed) would be blues-influenced, and - seeing as Free doubtless knew nothing and cared less about modes :rolleyes: - a b3 is going to muscle its way in :).
     

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