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daveinspain

Pentatonic vs Diatonic

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The key to being able to play fluidly and up and down the neck of your guitar is knowing the scales inside out. I know that. I learned the major and minor diatonic scales first and then the pentatonic much later, but for some reason I am most fluid in the pentatonic. Maybe it's the type of music you use it for, or most likely, it's that there are less notes in the pentatonic scales but I still struggle with the diatonic major and minor scales and find the pentatonic more user friendly. I just can't seem to get the flow in the major and minor scales while improvising. Is it just me?

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Hello Dave!

 

Interesting. I prefer the diatonic scales, because they provide more combinations for phrasing. When I play based on pentatonic scales, after a while I find myself repeating the same licks.

 

Best wishes... Bence

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I'm just a hack without nearly enough time to practice to better my craft...

 

I'm a Blues-Hound and in my youth it was the minor pentatonic scale that brought the whole thing together for me. I tried lots of different music and lessons and nothing really took...

 

I'm not even that good and forget box positions of the 1 scale I more or less know. I play licks I've learned by ear mostly. I can't read music at all (other than a rudimentary outline of how to figure out a note on the staff) nor tabs well enough to play what I'm reading and it takes me some serious time to figure out items in tab and my own music is in notations that even sometimes I can't figure out when I go back to something much later. Mostly I have all my original stuff memorized...

 

I have several technique modifications I do out of my own sense of need or likely just as much convenience. I get by and play well in bands and projects but rely on improv for 99% of what I do. I know I slide in and out of major and minor pentatonic scales and I wish I had the time required to invest to really hone my skills and nail down scalar proficiency... So far I just haven't been able to make the time necessary to get to the level I'd really like to with my playing...

 

I'm mostly a Blues fill/solo player and that's my strong suit; fill licks. I can play rhythm but rely mostly on barre chords to play in key when playing other's music or anything outside my comfort zone...

 

I know... I'm a hack...

 

But I love Blues guitar from the bottom of my soul and it comes out in my playing and according to all of my bandmates, past and present, it comes out pretty well for whatever reason...

 

The funny thing is my original songs are not really Blues so to speak unless I sit down and purposely write a 12-bar. Most of my original stuff comes out as pop, surf, or rock progressions that really don't fit in any particular genre perfectly...

 

My originals turn out to be just as big a hits for my band projects as covers or even standard Blues we play, so for whatever reason it works...

 

I do like the sound of the Symmetrical scales played by Dickey Betts alot, and I stay basically in my minor pentatonic box position and get stuck in my box 1 hell-hole quite often but I've learned to make use of that by learning from Albert King, and while I have studied his penchant for homing in on the box 2 position and I go there for my Albert King licks often, his strength was recycling licks by changing the same lick up to turn into an infinite number of different sounding licks played in the same position with many of the same notes in different cadence, timing, and emphasis...

 

I'm studying the BB box; box 3 position licks more now and have started incorporating them into my work more... Thru licks I've taught myself by ear I can find my way to and somewhat thru the box 4 & 5 positions and I mix in alot of major and passing notes that are not in the minor pentatonic scales I gravitate-to because they fit the music and I learned by ear replicating the licks of Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Eric Clapton, Albert King, Otis Rush, BB King, Billy Gibbons, Duane Allman, etc. etc. etc.

 

I know to truly get better I have to put in some serious effort on my scalar technique!

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Hello Jimi!

 

More or less, I am the same kind of player...Just a guy who loves the instrument. I do it for fun, nothing else. Not a good player, but - probably - not the worst either...

 

But I did learned the scales. I think it is a must, otherwise it will become boring, both for the player, and audience - if any.

 

Box patterns are great for memorizing scales. The way I did learn them is, first I learned the modes of the diatonic keys: ionian (major), dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian (minor), locrian.

 

Then learned all the seven box patterns. When I knew all of them, I memorized how they are related to each other: "if I start a minor on fifth fret of the low E-string, then the major will start at the eight fret, the phrygian at 12th", and so on. After some practicing, it becames so natural to find the modes in whichever key You play. It's a dumb simple method, but works.

 

The best things come, when You know all the box-patterns, and the relation of them to each other, then You start to connect the scales horizontally. That opens up a whole new universe and boosts Your improvisational skills.

 

Hope it helps.

 

Cheers... Bence

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... I have no idea what you're talking about [confused]

I've been playing for 40+years, and I don't understand any of this- [scared]

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... I have no idea what you're talking about [confused]

I've been playing for 40+years, and I don't understand any of this- [scared]

 

 

Hehe. You must be a jazz player... [biggrin]

 

Cheers... Bence

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I'm almost never "in the box" unless for what ever reason, it "sounds" like that's what is right

 

I'm sort of modal player, so I'm usually feeling my way (thinking isn't the right word, cuz I try to "NOT Think") thru relative keys to where the key center of the song might be. (an easy example,, if your in A major, then work in B minor scare [Dorian] or C# minor scale [Phrygian])

 

of course, you will find some bum notes if you just play those scales as is, so you do have sort of be aware of the formulas. it's a bit of trial and error at first, but if you can get your head around this stuff, you will never NOT know what to play in almost any situation, and you'll find that you're able to move about the neck, and find the "landing zones" relatively easily.

 

You will NEVER perfect this (Well I know I wont)... you might!! but each mode will open up some new doors sonically for improvisation.

 

(Backing tracks are GREAT practice vehicles for this)

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The key to being able to play fluidly and up and down the neck of your guitar is knowing the scales inside out. I know that. I learned the major and minor scales first and the pentatonic much later but for some reason I am most fluid in the pentatonic. Maybe it's the type of music you use it for, or most likely, it's that there are less notes in the pentatonic scales but I still struggle with the major and minor scales and find the pentatonic more user friendly. I just can't seem to get the flow in the major and minor scales while improvising. Is it just me?

 

IMO, of the scales you mention, the minor scale is the hardest to improv with. I have to try and think in longer phrases and make sure I land on the right note at the right time, and that takes a little more pre-planning for me. I try to channel Randy Rhoads or something. Obviously not an easy thing to do. :rolleyes:

 

When playing a song in major key and using the major scale I many times just try to mimic the vocal melody and then improv from there. Many times the "extra" notes in the major scale, as compared to the pentatonic, are more "passing notes". You still end up landing on most of the same notes as when playing pentatonic.

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I'm a visual learner so when I first started out, I built a slide rule with the 24 fret major scale pattern highlighted on it. The pattern slides up or down in a gridded 12 fret, 6 string, plastic window with the notes written on it. I wrote the key on the side of the slide so it's viewable when the scale is in the window. I used that to learn every note position in any key and see them as a pattern.

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There are basically three ways to approach an improvisation. The first is to play notes in a scale from the root of the tonic key throughout the chord progression. Variations within a minor pentatonic scale often work well for lots of rock and blues tunes. The second is to play arpeggios (or notes from scales) from each chord in the progression, while that chord is being played. The key notes in arpeggios are the 1, 3 (major or minor), and the 7 (flat or natural), and whatever extensions or alterations are found in the chord being played in the progression. This arpeggio will often reflect a mode and that mode is often reflected by the notes in the melody, or a mode can be chosen to reflect/give a certain tonality or mood. Any mode can be used as long as there is no conflict with the notes in the melody or the chords in the progression. The third approach is to find the notes in the melody and arrange their order in a fresh new way while still maintaining the integrity of the melody. In all three of these methods, you could be playing from any type of scale/mode, depending on what the song and the players will suggest, and where they take you or you take them.

 

In an improvisation, the rhythm is just as critical as the actual notes being played and really determines how "in the pocket" the sound is. Then, of course, there are dynamics- hammer ons, pull offs, slides, trills, change in volume, swells, bends, vibrato, passing notes, etc.

 

The great players play intuitively giving very little thought to which technique they will employ. For people like me, it takes practicing a song, often dozens of times, to figure out where I'm going and what my options are. Understanding modes and how to use them really opened up my playing. But, I think the most interesting players are the ones who can toy with a melody and turn it into something new in an improvisation.

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I probably play more pentatonic in rock/country/blues than any other scale - perhaps 75% or so..

 

If I started playing bop scales in "Smoke On The Water", "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere", or "Stormy Monday Blues" it just wouldn't fit the genre.

 

Jazz gets a greater variety from me, but we don't play much jazz - it's not a good way to get booked around here.

 

But then if you analyze Charlie Parker solos, the majority of what he plays is the blues.

 

I've heard a lot of jazz saxophonists try to play the blues using various jazz scales and modes, and that's not a criticism, but it is no longer blues. If the rest of the band is playing the blues and the singer is playing the blues, if the sax player comes out with 'Trane licks, to me it just doesn't fit.

 

Pentatonics seem easy, and they can be, so many players just noodle around on them. But like an artist with a limited palette, it takes some skill and creativity to make varied, non repetitious art or music within the limits.

 

The object is not to play scales, but to use your knowledge and muscle memory of the scales to make melodies. That's why you hear some players playing scales, and others playing melodies. I don't want to hear scales, I want to hear interesting melodies.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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Guest Farnsbarns

I'm not sure the basis for this conversation actually makes sense.

 

Pentatonic isn't really a mode. Pentatonic scales can be major or minor and in any mode. They simply have the 2nd and 6th notes removed.

 

I teach pentatonic first, then add the 2nd and 6ths, then tech the modal approach to scales. Then there are the genre where none of it holds true. I always say the blues lives somewhere between major and minor scales, regularly mixing major and minor 3rds and 6ths within the same melody, the same phrase even.

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I'm not sure the basis for this conversation actually makes sense.

 

Pentatonic isn't really a mode. Pentatonic scales can be major or minor and in any mode. They simply have the 2nd and 6th notes removed.

 

I teach pentatonic first, then add the 2nd and 6ths, then tech the modal approach to scales. Then there are the genre where none of it holds true. I always say the blues lives somewhere between major and minor scales, regularly mixing major and minor 3rds and 6ths within the same melody, the same phrase even.

 

I never said the pentatonic was a mode... I was only asking why the pentatonic scale seems easier to get around and improvise on... Anyway makes for some good conversation and different views of the same thing and lots of food for though...

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I never said the pentatonic was a mode... I was only asking why the pentatonic scale seems easier to get around and improvise on... Anyway makes for some good conversation and different views of the same thing and lots of food for though...

 

Prolly cause it is the first one you learned, it only contains five notes, and it is versatile.

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Prolly cause it is the first one you learned, it only contains five notes, and it is versatile.

 

 

That's me for sure.

 

Minor pent is the first scale I learned up and down the neck,, many years ago.

 

The major just never stuck for me either. And it was just to happy sounding for the stuff I was playing.

 

It was until recently after some lessons that I learned I was actually playing the minor pent.

(I always just thought it was the blues scale.)

And also how it fit inside the major,, less the 2 & 6 as Farns mentioned.

 

I am working on the modes and have used some of the backing tracks folks here have posted for practice.

Lots of fun actually.

 

The minor pentatonic is, and always will be most comfortable for me.

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what's wrong with sounding happy now and then Quappy??

 

:)

 

 

Lol... Nothing at all :)

 

At the time though I preferred the minor sound. Even though I didn't know what a minor was..lol.

 

Actually the first pattern I ever learned was the Ionian. And a couple of modes.

But then when I learned the pentatonic it just fit better with what I was listening to and trying to learn.

 

I neglected the major for so long that I am now trying to get it back. I actually quite enjoy

trying to improv with it over backing tracks. It's a whole new sound/feel my ears recognize but my fingers don't.. lol.

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