Good solo scale for A major 7th 12 bar blues

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by G-delay, Feb 3, 2008.

  1. G-delay

    G-delay Member

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    Hey guys, been blues jamming in earnest for about a year now and can't find a good solo scale for the A maj 7th (12 bar blues). My jam buddy seems to love this chord shape and I know it's popular but the A minor blues pentonic doesn't seem to sound right (is it just me?). I've been throwing the F# in the mix but the C# seems to throw everything off. Do I avoid the C? Toying with the A major pentonic but that sounds lame.

    Thanks

    I'm tired of making Muddy Waters roll over in his grave.
     
  2. JonR

    JonR Member

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    You mean Amaj7? A major chord with a major 7th? A-C#-E-G#
    (Just checking - some people think A7 is an A major 7th, because it's a major triad...;) )

    If so, A major pent should sound fine. (It won't sound "lame" if you play it right...) A minor pent will sound dead wrong anyway (IMO).
    If you want something jazzier - highlighting the maj7 - try E major pent (C# minor pent). Clue: top 3 notes of chord = C#m triad.;)
    Even B major pent (G# minor) might sound cool, giving the chord a lydian sound.
     
  3. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

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    You need to toy with it more.

    Try playing all of your F# Min pent bends and riffs over the A7

    Also, add the "blue" note in the maj pent

    In the key of "A" it would be the "C", but only use it as a passing tone, not one to "hang" on
     
  4. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    I'm going to guess he means A7 and not Amaj7. Here's an A7 chord:

    1)5
    2)5
    3)6
    4)5
    5)7
    6)5

    One thing that can help is to bend the b3rds of your blues scale or minor pentatonic up a 1/2 step to make them fit better:

    1)8?(9)
    2)
    3)5?(6)
    4)
    5)
    6)8?(9)

    When people talk about the "blue notes" sometimes they mean the b5. But originally the blue note was a note somewhere inbetween the b3rd and maj3rd. Just landing square on a major 3rd sounds a little too square or cheesey, so it can help to bend into it. Same if you're thinking maj pentatonic- you can bend up from the second (or 9th) into the 3rd.
     
  5. G-delay

    G-delay Member

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    Yes, I meant A7. What does the "b" mean? bend? I really appreciate the help but I'm new to a lot of the terminology.
     
  6. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Supporting Member

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    It is just you. Blues harmony is pretty much based on the dissonance of the flat third rubbing against the major third in the chord.The C in the pentatonic blues scale played against the C# in the A7 chord.If you don't like that sound try the mixolydian scale which will have the C# and the dominant 7 G note.
     
  7. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Supporting Member

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    To briefly summarize, chords in western music are built by stacking up the notes of a particular scale, starting with the root, third and fifth as you count up. You can do this with all 7 notes of common major or minor scales.You would build a A7 (dom7) chord with the A root, major third(C#) ,fifth note (E) and (flat)seventh (G) of an A major scale.However if you play a A pentatonic blues scale the notes are A,C,D,E,G with the added Eb for the flat 5 blue note. Its the dissonance of some of these notes versus the background chords that make blues "blues". The mixing of African and European musical forms and traditions, slave hollers and old English folk songs mashed up.
     
  8. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Sorry to beg to differ a little (respectfully) but I would like to point out a few things/elaborate on your last two posts:

    1) blues is not "western" music in the traditional sense. It is a hybrid of western (european) music and indigenous african musics all thrown together in the cauldron of America and spit out as something new. Because of this, the western 'rules' don't exactly always apply directly, at least not in an exclusive or 'neat' way. A lot of the unique sound of blues harmony and convention comes from the struggle of trying to adapt western instruments like guitar, piano, and various other string and wind instruments to the decidedly non-western tendencies of a system of harmony that places a higher priority on resonance-tuning and extends beyond reckonings of the fifth partial in the overtone series.

    2) I would disagree that blues harmony is "based on the dissonance of the flat third rubbing against the major third." I would beg to differ that it's 'based' on any dissonance at all.

    Maybe it's just semantics, but I see this myth perpetuated a lot, and I think a deeper understanding of what's really going on and making those blue notes sound appropriate is never a bad thing. From what I've observed, the sound of the blue note is based upon the extended consonance that comes from recognizing the seventh partial in the overtone series of a given tone as a valid interval. You may be aware that the first partial is the fundamental, the second is the octave, the third is the perfect fifth, and the fifth is the just-tuned major third. This is where western music tends to stop. Other systems, however, recognize the seventh partial as well. The seventh partial is a tone that is significantly lower in pitch (31 cents) than the lowered seventh degree in the equal-tempered system, but significantly higher than the natural sixth degree. In other words, it is "in the cracks."

    Without getting too pedantic or esoteric, this overtone and its reckoning above the tonic, fourth, and fifth degrees of a blues 'key' are the 'tunable' blue notes. They are not necessarily dissonances in the strictest sense, because they are representative of tunable low-prime ratios in the overtone series.

    This is why the "I" "IV" and "V" chords in blues are often generically played as dominant sevenths. Really they are 'standing for' seventh-partial 'overtone chords,' the logical overtone extension of the triad, but the seventh degree is 31 cents too sharp in equal temperament. Note that the seventh partial of the IV chord will be a slightly blue minor third.

    So we bend notes and do all sorts of sliding around. A lot of blues inflection has to do with influence derived from the just-tuned vocal groups in west Africa however many centuries ago, and trying to 'cheat' the tempered instruments to get that sound. Consider that when you hit that 'blue' minor third you can tune it one of two ways: you can tune it down to be the seventh partial of the subdominant, and many horn players can do this. You can also bend it up slightly to tune it as the just-tuned minor third (as opposed to the equal tempered one, which is flatter) and many guitar players will opt for this as it is much more intuitive to raise rather than lower pitch on guitar. You will often hear people bend the ninth up to the true 'blue' minor third though.

    You can actually hear this in the playing of the great blues players. Those bent notes are way in tune most of the time, relative to the tone of which they are the seventh partial. That's part of the reason why you can spot an inexperienced blues player easily. The bent 'blue' notes won't be in tune. We all know how silly it is when a high school trumpet player learns the "blues" scale and plays those equal-tempered minor thirds over the tonic chord.

    Despite the fact that I've gone way overboard explaining why, the tuning of the blue note is and has always been in that tradition a very intuitive, "feel-based" thing. It can be because you can really feel when it is in tune just as sure as you can feel when a perfect fifth is in tune. You just sense when it sounds 'right.' You bend it until it gets there, and then you stop.

    :RoCkIn
     
  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    "b" means flat - a half-step below the usual note.
    In this context, it's used to mean "minor", in comparison with "major".
    This shorthand jargon can get confusing though...

    Eg. if we are in the key of C major (C D E F G A B C), then the "b3" note will be Eb ("E flat"). Straightforward enough.
    But in the key of A major (A B C# D E F# G# A), the "b3" note is C - not "Cb". It's only "flat" in comparison with C#.
    The correct terminology is that it's a "minor 3rd" in both cases.
    Likewise, if we lower the 7th by a half-step, that's a "minor 7th". Bb is the minor 7th in key of C. G is the minor 7th in key of A. In the shorthand, both would be called "b7" (flat 7th).

    (Hope I'm not losing you here. There's a whole lot more background to the jargon which might help, but I wont bore you with now...;) )

    Blues - as suggested above - is a strange music when viewed in the light of conventional music theory.
    It's normally in a major key (such as A major), but we tend to use a minor scale to improvise on it, specifically a minor pentatonic. So in A major we would use A C D E G.
    Clearly the C and G notes are "wrong". But - in combination with the C# and G# - they reflect the strangeness of the blues sound.
    Normally, in fact, we bend the C up a little - not necessarily all the way to C#. (Try this: bend the C around a quarter-step, somewhere between C and C# - you should hear that distrinctive "blues 3rd".)


    The theory of the 7th partial (mentioned by brad347) is interesting but controversial (IMO).
    Even if correct, naturally you don't need to know or absorb any of that. None of the great blues players knew about it (except possibly intuitively) - just as very few rock musicians know any conventional theory.
    You just need to listen to blues (carefully, over and over) and copy what they do. Think of it as a struggle between the major key and the minor scale - push the notes one way or another until they sound right to you.
    (You already have a good idea of what sounds wrong. Don't reject a scale because you haven't made it work yet. Often, a little bending of one or two notes will make it come alive.)
    The "right" notes are somewhere in the gaps, as brad says. Exactly where is less important (IMO) than that theory suggests. Just explore those gaps between the half-steps.
     
  10. Dickie Fredericks

    Dickie Fredericks Member

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    In a I-IV-V blues thing or country thing for that matter I usually approach all the chords as dominant and usually use the corresponding major scale for each one along with the blues scale and sprinkled with some arpeggios.

    so in the I-IV-V with A7 as the I Id be thinking:
    D Major, G Major, A Major

    As I said you'd throw some vlues scales and arpeggios and even some chromatic stuff and you're good to go.

    I could be totally wrong and often am... Maybe I shouldnt be dispensing any technical wisdom (if you can even call it that) LOL

    BTW Brad is really good...
     
  11. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

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    OH , another thing:

    Use the mAj pent only for the I

    Use the min pent for the IV
     
  12. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    That's interesting that it's thought to be a controversial theory. That's news to me and I wonder why?

    It's just a set of observations that can be measured sure as a perfect fifth can be measured against a drone.

    In any case, you're certainly right about one thing, which is that it's not necessary to do anything but listen to the music and learn to intuit the tuning of the blue notes. I certainly wouldn't suggest that anyone needs to study exactly why the blues works. But then again I wouldn't suggest that anybody needs anything.

    If you are interested in the topic though, there is a wealth of knowledge and fascination there, and curiosity-driven learning about music certainly never hurt anybody.

    Enjoy playing.
     
  13. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    I dig the way Brad writes. It always seems to make great sence.

    Brad, Is the book still in the works? would it cover this/these topic/s?
    When is it going to be available. Screw Mel Bay, I'd be happy with college ruled paper.

    Seriously, the world needs a book that talks the truth about blues based music.

    You have a talent for writing, fer sure.
     
  14. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I meant to come back on your previous post in more detail. The only place I've seen this concept of the 7th partial is in posts on this board (and occasionally in ibreathemusic and jsguitar), most of them stemming from Steve Kimock. I understand they are not his ideas, of course, but come from elsewhere.
    I would like more evidence of its acceptance in mainstream theory - but, more importanlty, evidence of its practical role from analysis of actual music.

    I accept the role of the 7th partial in relation to the minor 7th interval (bearing in mind its 31 cent difference). What I find harder to accept is - in blues at any rate - the extrapolation from this to 7th partials of the other chords, and moreover to 7th partials of other notes, or even partials of partials (if I've understood the other stuff right...;)).

    Blues makes perfect sense to me as a modal music based on an unharmonised pentatonic scale, close to - but significantly different from - our tempered minor pentatonic.
    The most significant difference is the 3rd, which seems to gravitate to a note just sharp of the minor 3rd. I say "seems", because there's no clear evidence (AFAIK) of a preferred fixed pitch blues singers or players consistently aim for. It makes more sense to say the 3rd is variable - performers move it around according to the expression they want: flatter (down to somewhere below the tuned m3) is darker; sharper (up to but not beyond the M3) is brighter.
    I see no reason to search for some ideal central pitch.

    As for the 7th, I can see the argument for the gravitation towards a pure minor 7th (7:4 ratio with root). In theory, this is almost as "natural" a target as the 3:2 5th and the 5:4 major 3rd.
    Except of course, blues singers tend not to go for the 5:4 major 3rd... They go (if anything) for a note with no such simple relationship with the root.
    So if they are not drawn to a pure major 3rd, why would they be drawn to a pure minor 7th? (a more distant overtone)
    More importantly, as I said, I need to see the evidence in the actual music. I'm happy to be convinced by evidence!

    I've listened to (and played) blues for ever 40 years. I've heard b7s and I've heard major 6ths. I'm sure I've heard notes bent between the two. But I don't believe it's as significant as what happens to the 3rd, and what happens between the 4th and 5th. (I mean, a b7 is definite: exactly how flat it is seems less important.)
    Between the 4th and 5th is another variable area of pitch, used to decorate either the 4th or the 5th. The 4th can bent up, the 5th down. Or the 4th can be approached from a b5, or the 5th from a #4. But the #4/b5 is not an exact pitch, any more than the "blue 3rd" is. It's movable - and its movability is the whole point.
    If blues were played using only ideal fixed pitches (related to the 7th partial for the sake of argument) it would not sound like blues. It might sound cool, and pleasantly exotic. But not like blues.

    What blues sounds like is a western fixed "canvas" or "cage" of tempered diatonic harmony (I-IV-V major chords), against which the vocalists and soloists force their melodic phrasing, with various notes swooping in and out of "tune" (in the western sense). The struggle between the two, as the scale approaches and veers way from the harmonic background, is what makes blues what it is. (IMO of course ;) )

    The chords do attempt to make some allowance for the scale:
    The tonic chord can have a lowered 7th to reflect (as near as possible) the blue 7th;
    The IV can have a lowered 7th to reflect (as near as possible) the blue 3rd - this is critical. The Eb on an F7 chord in a C blues acts as the b3 of the key, more than as the 7th of the chord. This is how the chord is treated and used, in the vast majority of blues melodies and riffs - as a kind of minor version of the tonic. It's very rare that a blues tune will move up a 4th when the IV chord arrives. It stays in the same place, and just (maybe) lowers its 3rd (more than it does on the tonic). The 7th might also come down to the 6th, but this is less common - although it does support the idea of the 7th partial being an average, and the tuned 6 and b7 move around either side of it.
    I'm with you there. I think what bothers me is over-theorising music. Math and physics (and patterns) have a seductive appeal to anyone wanting to understand and explain stuff. But music - in my experience - tends to evade that sort of explanation.
    There is certainly physics underlying it - the harmonic series, at least. But this doesn't align as neatly with music in practice as it might appear.
    At least, we have a threshold of tolerance either side of pure intervals (or equal temperament would never have been acceptable).
    And there is research to show that pure intervals are not - in any case - preferred over slightly impure ones. Most people seem to like stuff that is slightly out of tune. (I was surprised to read somewhere - wish I could remember where - that most people will identify an octave that's sharp as being correctly in tune.)
    There's so much weight of personal psychology and cultural expectation (mass psychology) bearing down on music, governing what is subjectively "right" or "wrong", that pure mathematical formulae don't get much of a look-in.

    "Listen and copy" is the only sure way to get to the truth. Everything else (theoretical/scientific investigation) is fiddling around the edges. Fascinating in its own right, for sure - but always incomplete and often misleading.

    OK, rant over... :rolleyes:
     
  15. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    I think it's just levels of accuracy. I have always used my ears and I move
    and bend notes to my whim in blues.

    But to understand what is really going on, I don't see the harm in that.

    Wes relied on wonderful ears. But his ears were almost too good.
    Because he knew little theory of what he was doing. And it bothered
    him greatly. He was excluded from certain thinktanks or should I say
    he avoided them.
    It really was a sore spot.

    So all those unique blues notes, the non fretted notes,
    The only book I've found on it is "Harmonic Experience".
    I'm sure there's much more but I don't know where it is.

    Sorry, yes I do. Steve Kimock. And it all started with me digging
    his sound. When he said "here's how I might think" I listened.
    I'm glad he brought light to these notes that get get
    swept under the carpet. Why? Because they don't sit
    with the modern Do Re Mi scheme of things??
    Kudos to Steve.

    It certainly is difficult, but oh well, it's still fun
    That is, because I enjoy learning.

    But I'm with you, just wiggle your fingers, your ear will
    take care of the rest. That will do, and that's what should be
    happening in a performance.




    :)
     
  16. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Hey Guitartone,

    Jon is suggesting Amaj7 would sound bad with the A minor pent.

    And is he so ever right. :)

    Were you thinking A7 or Am7??





    .
     
  17. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    all a question of application.

    Anything can sound 'good' with anything else.

    Conceive of the Am pentatonic as relating to Dm. Superimpose it briefly to imply a I-iv-I cadence pver the I chord. Gorgeous.

    Another good argument for theory being "observations" rather than "rules," and for "descriptive" use of musical terminology and theory rather than "prescriptive" use.
     
  18. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Agreed, but I was refering to Guitartone, I think he mis-understood Jon.
    And Jon wasn't talking "all tones are available all the time".

    But, yes I'm totally into everything..:):)
    please, bring it on.


    .
     
  19. kimock

    kimock Member

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    One thing at a time.
    Re: 7th partial, it's easier to find physical evidence of it's exclusion from mainstream theory. You could start with where the hammer strikes the string on a piano.

    Re: More importantly, how about some evidence of a practical role for the analysis of blues music from the perspective of conventional theory?

    Even at the "do you use your pinky" level of the beginning guitarist learning blues music, it's painfully obvious that the 5-limit conventional theory is pretty much useless.
    You can't explain or predict even the most basic tendencies of actual blues music employing the chord/scale relationship bag of tricks, and if the theory can't predict anything, what is it a theory of exactly?

    ?
     
  20. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    :roll
     

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