Moving From The Familiar to The Unfamiliar - Alternate View
(13 May 03)
Recently I had the epiphany that I had been limiting my playing and improvising by the means I used to quickly learn guitar scales. Because of the ease of transposition, most guitarists use a system of patterns to learn scales.
This usually consists of patterns where most are referred to by the note the index finger is playing on the low E string. Guitarists usually use these patterns to learn the modes and believe that there is something sacred about using a particular pattern for a particular mode.
Usually this means the root of the mode is, once again, where there index finger is on the low E string. The fact that transposition is easy is a double edged sword. Because it is easy to move patterns around on the guitar, most players become lazy and don't learn the scale degree for each note of each pattern. They just use the fact that the root is where the first finger hits the low E string and start moving the patterns around when they need to change key.
I began playing keyboards again and was wanting to practice scales, so I used the Cycle4/Cycle5 rules to alter the notes of C major to become all of the other keys.
Cycle 4 Rule: Lower the seventh degree 1/2 step and start on the 4th.
Cycle 5 Rule: Raise the fourth degree 1/2 step and start on the 5th.
As I was doing this I realized that on the keyboard it was easy to know the scale degrees, and I was not tied up thinking about patterns.
It was only a few minutes and I was completing the cycles.
Then I realized that I needed to learn the scale degree for the patterns I was using on guitar in order to use the same methods to modify C major to become all of the other keys (which includes all of the other modes of C).
So the first thing I believe should be done is to learn the scale degrees from a root on the low E string using whatever scale pattern you like.
Once this has been accomplished. The Cycle 4 and Cycle 5 rules should be applied to this pattern in position to create the scale starting on the 4th and the scale starting on the 5th. For each of these re-number the scale degrees accordingly, then re-apply the Cycle (4 or 5) rule and repeat the process.
Eventually (after the other 11 scales) you will have returned to the original pattern. You now can use this as part of your scale practice to become more familiar with root movement in 4ths or 5ths.
You will now be breaking the patterns of everything being referenced by the root on the low E string.
The second thing is to apply the concepts of Cycle 4 or Cycle 5 to be able to change to any other key. (Remember the Speaking in Tongues post?) Speaking in Tongues
The idea here is because the Cycle 4 or 5 is a complete Cycle (one that encompasses all 12 keys). You can skip a fourth or fifth to move down or up a Major Second, or skip 2 fourths or fifths to move up Minor 3rd or down a Major third. You can use this process to get to any other Key and consequently any other mode of the root key as well. The trick here is to learn which scale degrees to alter to get to the other keys.
In this case you are skipping any intermediate key to get to your destination key so you only need to know the scale degrees of the source key (and destination key if you want to be able to continue this process).