View Full Version : Major & Minor Scale DEFINITIONS

Bongo Boy
08-10-2002, 06:08 PM
So, is the no-kidding definition of a major scale one that offers an M7 chord structure, NOT just those scales having t-t-s-t-t-t-s intervals?

Many theory materials on this topic start with an overview of intervals, then an intro to the C major scale.

Next, they highlight the intervals between the scale tones for C major (t-t-s-t-t-t-s), then get to the other major scales either directly by a cycle-of-keys approach, or by just selecting any old note and generating a t-t-s-t-t-t-s sequence.

But, when I first bumped into the modal system and the typical modes-on-C major were generated, my book simply stated that the Lydian was a major scale. No explanation, and clearly it didn't have the t-t-s-t-t-t-s pattern.

It wasn't until I read Guni's great stuff on Chord Scales, that he said that Ionian and Lydian were majors BECAUSE they each provide M7-type chords. Do I finally have the whole story, or should I expect to get bitten yet again? :D

08-10-2002, 06:22 PM
There is only 1 Arranegment of intervals called the MAJOR scale.
The Major Scale has the interval structure W,W,H,W,W,W,H.

The MODES of the Major scale have different interval patterns created by shifting this.
For instance Dorian has the interval pattern W,H,W,W,W,H,W. Modes are note considered THE or A Major Scale modes have the QUALITY of being Major Minor Diminished etc.
The Chords buit on major scale tones always occur in the following pattern.

I ii iii IV V vi viio

The corresponding MODE for each Chord has the QUALITY of that chord.

So Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian have MINOR QUALITY, because the root triad is MINOR. Likewise Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian have MAJOR QUALITY since their root triad are MAJOR.

08-10-2002, 08:43 PM
Yeah, it can be quite confusing. Maybe it's also a matter of terminology.

THE MAJOR SCALE in general refers to the I chord, ie IONIAN. So if you ask me to play the C major scale I play C Ionian

Anything else is called by it's mode name eg LYDIAN and belongs to the family of MAJOR SCALES as szulc explains above.

Minor is a bit different. If you ask me to play the A Minor scale then my next question would be 'which one? natural (aeolian), harmonic or melodic minor ......'

Major scales include root, major 3rd and major 7th. The 5th is not a necessity for a major sound (Ionian #5 as an example; bIII of HM).

Mixolydian includes a minor 7th and is refered to as a Dominant scale (it's unstable and looking to be resolved)...

You can for sure look at this in many ways.......


Bongo Boy
08-11-2002, 04:53 AM
Okay...this looks like another one of those areas where folks who are very comfortable with the technology can really mess up someone who isn't. I'll quote from my book:

"C Ionian Scale
This is commonly referred to as the major scale.

F Lydian Scale
This major scale has an augmented fourth...

G Mixolydian Scale
This major scale has has a minor seventh..."

In the entire description of "The Modal System", chords aren't even mentioned. So, I think you can see how the above comments threw me off. The author doesn't say anything about a "major quality" or "major characteristic", he just says they're major scales. In other words, he's saying all three modes above are equivalent in some way (i.e., major), but there isn't any hint as to HOW they are equivalent.

This is all approaching Zero in importance to me as the evening wears on--my point is, these little nuances make learning this stuff a bitch. I don't have a problem with someone saying, "Heh. We call this funk because it has a funky kind of feel to it." I really don't have to have anyone explain to me what a "funky feel" is.

When a beginner book calls a scale "a major scale" and it's NOT a t-t-s-t-t-t-s scale, I think they should be able to tell me what's just happened!! Life is too short for this crap!! :D

08-11-2002, 09:43 AM
Hey Bongo,

The thing about theory is that you can study books your entire life but it does not help you at all with playing. So, you gotta go out, test the practical side of things and make up your own concept. At least that's how I see it.

There are many scale books out there and each of them will (might) give you a different view of things.

All those books have one thing in common: They teach you how scales are constructed, right. This is iportant. But they don't teach you how scales sound and how they are used.

Example: You can think of a mixolydian scale as a major scale with a minor 7th. You could also think of it as Dorian with a major 3rd. Two views that help you with constructing the scale but they don't make you any wiser in terms of playing.

Now, the importance for us is to apply scales to chords trying to create a movement from stable to unstable and back. And this is the point where we devide scales into qualities and functionality.

What I am saying is that in order to 'feel' the different scales we need to apply them to 1) a 1 chord vamp 2) a chordprogression.

You could just start with a simple C major vamp:

Play C Ionian (the major scale) up and down the neck. Define the sound in words ..... stable, quite ok, ... boring ..???
Then try C Lydian.... how's this one?
C Mixolydian .... ??? (unstable, bluesy, ....)

Then move on to Cmaj7 and repeat the above (well maybe not mixo due to the b7 but give it a shot just to hear the 'clash')

then C7 (play Mixo)

etc etc....


08-11-2002, 12:02 PM
In this case the author of your book is just WRONG.

I ii iii IV V vi viio

C Ionian Scale
This is commonly referred to as the major scale.

This is true.
Built on I which is Major.

F Lydian Scale

Not a Major Scale.
This is the Fourth Mode of the C Major Scale, has Major Quality.
Built on IV which is Major.

G Mixolydian Scale

Not a Major Scale.
This is the Fifth Mode of the C Major Scale, has Major Quality.
Built on V which is Major.

D Dorian

Built on ii
Minor Quality.

E Phrygian

Built on iii
Minor Quality.

A Aeolian

Built on vi
Minor Quality.

B Locrian

Built on viio
Diminished Quality.

08-11-2002, 12:15 PM
Modes are meaningless until you use them to improvise.

The beginner looks at these and thinks "If they are alll C Major whay do I have to learn them?" The answer is which note you are pretending the root is, (the note or resolution).

Record a one chord vamp on each of the seven major scale derived chords, give your self plenty of time for each chord, maybe 8 measures or more.

Now quit thinking and play restricing your self to each corresponding mode, do this until you have your own personal 'peg' to hang the sound on.

I used to use the fact that Dorian reminded me of the DOORS because Kreiger used this mode often. This was one of my 'Pegs'.

Phrygian reminded me of spanish style guitar so that was another 'Peg'.

Aeolian reminded me of classical music, another 'Peg'.

The important thing is you make the connection to the sound, it is a form of ear training, just like in recognizing intervals you use 'Pegs'.

A 'Peg' is a mnemonic device that creates a connection between two related ( or unrelated ) ideas so you can use the peg as a key to look up the information.

Bongo Boy
08-11-2002, 04:21 PM
You each make this the greatest resource I have available--I can't thank you all enough! Thanks.