How Music Works
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Playing with Scales

Playing with Scales

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(8.3)  Relations and Improvisation

The key to successful improvisation lies in choosing an appropriate scale to work with, and playing only the notes of that scale.

Sometimes you may be able to get by with a single scale for a whole song, but as we saw in the previous topic, it is often the case that you will need to change scales during the music.

For the best results, and almost always in jazz, you will need to change the scale you are using with each chord or key centre change.

So how do you choose a scale for improvising over a particular chord?

When we explored earlier the concept of relating chords and scales, we started with a scale and then found the family of chords built from the notes of that scale.

In fact, these relationships apply in the other direction as well.  Any scale which contains all the notes of a chord is related to it, and is therefore a reasonable choice to use for improvising over it.

By using the chord family tables developed earlier (in reverse), together with some transposing, we can eventually work out that the following scales are related to the Cmaj chord.

So far so good, but this process is quite labour intensive, and we have still only found suitable scales for a single chord.  What about maj chords based on other root notes?  What about other chord types?

In most ChordWizard products, the Relations View or the popup Relations tool offer a quick and easy way to find scales which are related to a chord.

You simply select the chord you are interested in, and all of the related scales are instantly highlighted.

There are far too many mental gymnastics required with this approach.  By the time we have selected a scale for the first chord change, the song will have finished!

Wouldn't it be nice if we could simply look at a chord type and instantly know which scale types are related to it, regardless of what root note it is based on?

It turns out that we can do exactly that, by introducing the concept of the modes of a scale.

 

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