Welcome!
Just a few a ground rules first...

Promotion, advertising and link building is not permitted.

If you are keen to learn, get to grips with something with the willing help of one of the net's original musician forums
or possess a genuine willingness to contribute knowledge - you've come to the right place!

Register >

- Close -
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 21

Thread: Constructing altered scales based on altered chords!

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    california
    Posts
    23

    Constructing altered scales based on altered chords!

    a friend in the real world asked me about this the other day... his real question was "where is something like a lydian dominant scale applicable?" because it's weird and cool but doesn't seem to fit into the music he's been making.

    i once devoted an entire blog to this very topic, because it's interesting.

    there are three rules to remember when building altered scales:

    1: b9 implies #9 and #9 implies b9.

    this means that if the chord you are soloing over has a b9 in it, you will be able to use both the b9 and the #9 in the solo if you want (but not just plain 9).

    2: any chord alteration implies #11

    we know that playing a plain old 11 above the root of any major or dominant chord is a bad idea. it will conflict with the third. if you see an altered chord, assume that the scale you will build has a #11.

    3: b13 implies the omission of 5

    if you see a b13 in the chord, assume you will not include the 5.

    so let's make a few examples...

    if you see an D 7 (b9) you know that your scale will include both a b9 and a #9. you also know that it will have a #11.

    the notes you will use are D, Eb, E#, F#, G#, A, B, C

    this is a diminished scale, and it starts a half step above the root of the chord. for the sake of simplicity let's say that if the only alteration present is a b9 (or #9), you should build a diminished scale starting one half step above the root.

    suppose you run into something like G 9 (#11)?

    we know that rules one and three do not apply here because 9 has not been altered and the chord doesn't even have a 13.

    G, A, B, C#, D, E, F

    that's where the lydian dominant scale is applicable. it's the same as the lydian mode, but with a lowered 7th.

    ONWARD!!!

    A 9 (b13)

    A, B, C#, D#, F, G

    so if the only chord alteration is a b13, we know we can play a whole tone scale and sound quite alright.

    and lastly we have what my teacher called the altered dominant scale...

    F 7 (#9, b13)

    F, Gb, G#, A, B, D, Eb

    hopefully this is helpful to someone. i know this might seem contradictory to information you might have gathered elsewhere... that's okay. this is all stuff i learned in college level jazz theory classes, so i'm sure it's at least 90% accurate (despite the fact that some people have other ideas about alterations, and other names for the scales, and sometimes other scales entirely).

  2. #2
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Bristol, UK
    Posts
    687
    Quote Originally Posted by donald432 View Post
    a friend in the real world asked me about this the other day... his real question was "where is something like a lydian dominant scale applicable?" because it's weird and cool but doesn't seem to fit into the music he's been making.

    i once devoted an entire blog to this very topic, because it's interesting.

    there are three rules to remember when building altered scales:

    1: b9 implies #9 and #9 implies b9.

    this means that if the chord you are soloing over has a b9 in it, you will be able to use both the b9 and the #9 in the solo if you want (but not just plain 9).

    2: any chord alteration implies #11

    we know that playing a plain old 11 above the root of any major or dominant chord is a bad idea. it will conflict with the third. if you see an altered chord, assume that the scale you will build has a #11.

    3: b13 implies the omission of 5

    if you see a b13 in the chord, assume you will not include the 5.

    so let's make a few examples...

    if you see an D 7 (b9) you know that your scale will include both a b9 and a #9. you also know that it will have a #11.

    the notes you will use are D, Eb, E#, F#, G#, A, B, C

    this is a diminished scale, and it starts a half step above the root of the chord. for the sake of simplicity let's say that if the only alteration present is a b9 (or #9), you should build a diminished scale starting one half step above the root.

    suppose you run into something like G 9 (#11)?

    we know that rules one and three do not apply here because 9 has not been altered and the chord doesn't even have a 13.

    G, A, B, C#, D, E, F

    that's where the lydian dominant scale is applicable. it's the same as the lydian mode, but with a lowered 7th.

    ONWARD!!!

    A 9 (b13)

    A, B, C#, D#, F, G

    so if the only chord alteration is a b13, we know we can play a whole tone scale and sound quite alright.

    and lastly we have what my teacher called the altered dominant scale...

    F 7 (#9, b13)

    F, Gb, G#, A, B, D, Eb

    hopefully this is helpful to someone. i know this might seem contradictory to information you might have gathered elsewhere... that's okay. this is all stuff i learned in college level jazz theory classes, so i'm sure it's at least 90% accurate (despite the fact that some people have other ideas about alterations, and other names for the scales, and sometimes other scales entirely).
    Very interesting!

    It holds water from a theory point of view so no reason it shouldn't work. Hopefully it will make it easier to memorise and recall these chord scale associations on the fly!

    Thank you very much.
    "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar"

    Hidden Content

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    That's all pretty much correct (but see comments below), and here's another point I've personally found usefulL: the "equal and opposite" relationship between the altered scale and lydian dominant.

    Take an "E7alt" chord, which is shorthand for any of the possible combinations of b9, #9, b5 and #5. (No #11 because that's enharmonic with the b5 - although "#11b13" would refer to the same chord).

    The usual function of this chord is as a dominant (V) in the key of A minor, or sometimes in A major. (It can also be secondary dominant to an Am chord in any key.)

    The scale is the altered dominant ("altered" for short, aka superlocrian or diminished wholetone) which is basically the essential chord tones (1-3-7) plus both altered 5ths and both altered 9ths. E F G G# A#/Bb C D. Enharmonic (same pitches different names) with the 7th mode of F melodic minor (F G Ab Bb C D E).

    A common substitute for any V7 chord in jazz is the tritone sub, which gives you a bII chord.
    So instead of an E7, you will often find a Bb7 chord resolving to Am (or to A).

    bII7 chords are always lydian dominant. So you can expect to see that Bb7 as Bb7#11, Bb9#11 or Bb13#11.
    (Remember "7#11" does NOT mean HW dim, even tho that would fit. It's always an indication of lydian dominant. "7b9" is the usual hint for HW dim.)

    The scale for that is Bb lydian dominant: Bb C D E F G Ab. Spot the similarity with the E altered scale? Right, it's the same scale.

    E altered and Bb lydian dominant are both modes of F melodic minor, and both resolve (normally) to A minor.


    The other important thing about using the altered scale (easier to see with a bII lydian dominant) is that it gives you around 5 possible half-step moves to chord tones on the next chord. Some are down, some up, some can be either. Their target notes are any of 6 of the 7 notes of the tonic scale. In a major key, that's 1-2-3-5-6-7 (any extension on a maj13 chord); in a minor key it's 1-2-b3-5-6-7 (any extension on a melodic minor tonic).

    You won't get the altered scale to really sit comfortably in an improvisation until you can exploit any of those half-step resolutions. It's really the whole point of the altered scale.

    Here's how it works from either E7alt or Bb13#11, resolving to Am:

    F > E or F# (5 or 6)
    G > F# or G# (6 or maj7)
    G#/Ab > A (or to G if it's an Am7 chord)
    Bb > A or B (root or 9)
    C > B (9)
    (The 6th option is just to hold the E across both chords)

    resolving to A major, you get an additional one:

    D > C# (3)


    Just some extra comments on those other altered dom7 scales:

    As mentioned above, 7b9 is the standard indication of HW dim (even tho the altered will also fit).
    "13b9" is a clearer sign for HW dim (no other scale fits that).

    Signs for wholetone are usually 7#5 (7+), 7b5, 9#5 (9+) or 9b5. The last two are stronger indications. Wholetone chords are 6-way interchangeable, because there are only two wholetone scales, and they are totally symmetrical.
    A9#5 = B9#5 = C#9#5 = Eb9#5 = F9#5 = G9#5;
    Bb9#5 = C9#5 = D9#5 = E9#5 = F#9#5 = Ab9#5.
    Check it out (and try adding a #11 to each chord if you don't believe me )

    One other rare possibility is mixolydian b6, 5th mode melodic minor. It has a couple of "avoid notes", which is why it's not common. But if you see "9b13" (which I doubt you will...) that's a pretty good indication.
    You could argue, as donald says, that wholetone will fit that, but if a chord chart writer wants wholetone he should write 9#5. "9b13" does allow the inclusion of a P5. If in doubt - as with all the above! - check the melody for other hints.

    An even rarer (but pretty cool) scale is the 3rd mode of harmonic major .
    On an E7 chord, this means C harmonic major, giving us E F G Ab (G#) B C D. So we get both altered 9ths, a perfect 5th and a b13. It's basically the altered scale, but with P5 instead of b5.
    Name that scale? Er... "E phrygian b4"??

    Altered, wholetone, mixolydian b6 and E phrygian b4 (hehe) are all V7 scales, not bII7 scales. Altered can sometimes be used on bIIs, but it's not usually ideal.
    HW dim can be used on a bII sub, if it also fits the V7 it's replacing.
    Last edited by JonR; 05-06-2010 at 07:32 PM.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    california
    Posts
    23
    i have one thing to point out: most of the time, when you see an extension (or any number for that matter) you assume that all of the numbers below it are implied (i.e. Emaj 9 implies root, 3, 5, 7, and 9). it should be said if you've got a chord with a major triad like C 13, the 11 is not implied in the chord (and is generally a bad note to play, despite the fact that it may be a part of the scale). so when i say that any alteration implies a #11, i am talking about the scale to be built/played, and not the chord itself.

    i've got a question now... actually, i may be making faulty connections in my head, but: is the bII chord kindof like the neopolitan chord in classical music? you said it has a dominant function, so that would make the usage different. just curious.

    music is so cool.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Quote Originally Posted by donald432 View Post
    i've got a question now... actually, i may be making faulty connections in my head, but: is the bII chord kindof like the neopolitan chord in classical music? you said it has a dominant function, so that would make the usage different. just curious.
    As you say, it's similar in some ways, but essentially different because of its function.
    With its b7 extension, it's comparable to augmented 6th chords, but still those - like neapolitan chords - resolve to the dominant, not the tonic.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_sixth_chord
    In the augmented 6th, the interval in question (eg Ab-F# in key of C) resolves outwards to the octave G-G. This would always be in key of C (or C minor), IOW, the chord is more like a bVI7 - although technically it's an altered II or IV chord (pre-dominant).

  6. #6
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    602
    Just to sort of simplify things, lydian domiant and altered are really the same things. As an example, you have a Dmin7-G7(alt)-Cmaj7 progression. Over the G7(alt) chord, you would want to play a G altered scale. G altered is the same as an Ab melodic minor scale.

    A common sub for a G7 chord in the same progression is what we call a b5 sub. The b5 sub is a dominant chord played a b5 from the G7 chord, in this case a Db7 chord. So your new progression is: Dmin7-Db7-Cmaj7. This is the bII7 chord JonR is talking about. In this case, you will want to play a Db lydian dominant scale right? Db lydian dominant is also an Ab melodic minor scale.

    AND a Db7/G (Db7 chord played over a G bass note) looks like a G7b5,b9 chord, a typical altered chord. Basically the b5 sub is a melodic minor magic trick.

    Here is a detailed lesson here if you are interested: link>>>

    -CJ

  7. #7
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    602
    Also, not that anything you said is wrong donald432, it is for the most part correct but you might find it easier to think in chord/scale relationships. This is really what JonR was implying. Chords are generally built from scales, so categorizing them by the parent scale really helps to clearly see what you are dealing with. Without getting into tons and tons of information (and I'm also being redundant to some extent because JonR talked about this):

    The altered chord comes from the altered scale, and that scale looks like this:1-b9-#9-3-b5-#5-b7

    If you remember it, the chords become obvious:

    Altered family chords: 7(and any combination of b9,#9,b5,#5). This is why the symbol b13 is confusing. For an altered chord, it sort of suggests that there could possibly be some sort of natural 5th, which as you know would be wrong.

    But, there is also a half/whole diminished scale: 1-b9-#9-3-#11-5-13-b7

    Now there are a half/whole diminished family chords:

    13b9, 13#9, etc.. Of course you don't really have to have a 13 in the chord, but we generally think of the h/w dim family chord as a dominant 13 chord with a raised or lowered 9th.

    Lydian dominant: 1-9-3-#11-5-6-b7

    Chords: 7#11, 13#11 etc.. (no sus)

    Mixolydian: 1-9-3-4-5-6-b7

    Chords: typically 7sus4 or 9sus4 or 13sus4

    Strange but true: whole tone: 1-9-3-b5-#5-b7

    chords: 7b5, 7#5 BUT if you really want to get into weirdness, 9b5 or 9#5

    JonR: do you know any songs that actually have a one of these strange chords? I can't think of any but I remember coming across one on a gospel gig of all things. There was some kind of trick going on with the melody that made it work, but I can't remember now.

    -CJ

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    california
    Posts
    23
    it took me a while to look through all of the awesome information you guys have to offer on this subject. the beauty of music is that there are so many different schools of thought. having read through the responses posted here i can already see how people have been trained differently from me, and it's actually really interesting.

    i've heard of H/W diminished, but have always been taught that diminished scales are to start on a whole step. the idea of starting a H/W diminished scale from the root of the chord does simplify things.

    the other one that caught me off guard a little bit was all the discussion about altering 5 instead of 13 and 11. are there instances where you would choose a b13 over a #5 (maybe to resolve to SOL instead of LA?) or vice versa?

    thanks for all the input!
    Last edited by donald432; 05-08-2010 at 06:39 AM. Reason: mixed up my solfegio.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Quote Originally Posted by donald432 View Post
    i've heard of H/W diminished, but have always been taught that diminished scales are to start on a whole step. the idea of starting a H/W diminished scale from the root of the chord does simplify things.
    It's the same thing, really. The "diminished scale" does start on a whole step, and is the one associated with dim7 chords.
    It only becomes "HW dim" when we're talking about a dom7 chord (7b9).

    G7b9 and G#dim7 take the same scale. Doesn't matter if you call it G# WH dim or G HW dim. (Or indeed any of the other 6 possible names of that scale...)
    In fact, it's a little more useful to call G#dim7 "Bdim7" in that case. Bdim7 is a rootless G7b9, and both chords have the same function (resolving to Cm, probably, or maybe C).
    So it's slightly more correct to speak, scalewise of B WH dim and G HW dim being the same scale - even tho it makes no difference in practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by donald432 View Post
    the other one that caught me off guard a little bit was all the discussion about altering 5 instead of 13 and 11. are there instances where you would choose a b13 over a #5 (maybe to resolve to SOL instead of LA?) or vice versa?
    Good point. But resolution direction isn't really an issue in jazz. It's only in classical (AFAIK) where resolving down a half-step to (say) the 5th means you need to start from a b6/b13 rather than a #5.
    This because in jazz intervals often have double identities, and we often like to exploit the ambiguity for surprise.

    The issue of chord naming is more about what scale (and maybe function) the symbol implies.
    Eg, using "maj7b5" is an incorrect chord symbol because it implies a scale with both those intervals - and there is no such scale (not in common use anyway). It should be "maj7#11" or "maj7#4", which indicates lydian mode, which does feature those intervals (and is the only common scale that does). This is despite the fact that a lydian chord voicing may omit the P5, leaving the #4 looking (and sounding) very much like a b5.

    In the case of altered dominants, it's a little more flexible (tho only a little). So "7b13" might be used in an situation where the altered scale is expected. The altered scale is a little unusual because although the lead instruments will tend to use b5 and #5, the bass may well use a P5 (along with the root). You could argue that using "7b13" or "7#11b13" allows for the inclusion of a P5 (probably in the bass), whereas "7#5" or "7b5" (or any of the "7alt" permutations) doesn't.

  10. #10
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    602
    That is true, sometimes the bass player is not thinking altered and just plays a unaltered 7th chord (natural 5ths included) and we as improvisers will play altered.

    Regardless, there are plenty of chord symbol notation problems and the b13 is one of them. There are other ones (and we fight about them all the time), like: 11 (for dominant chords), and like JonR said, maj7b5. Or sus4 for 7sus4. There is no law governing these things...

    -CJ

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    That is true, sometimes the bass player is not thinking altered and just plays a unaltered 7th chord (natural 5ths included) and we as improvisers will play altered.

    Regardless, there are plenty of chord symbol notation problems and the b13 is one of them. There are other ones (and we fight about them all the time), like: 11 (for dominant chords), and like JonR said, maj7b5. Or sus4 for 7sus4. There is no law governing these things...

    -CJ
    No laws - but conventions, which kind of get tweaked all the time, or are slighty different in different genres.
    Eg, "sus" is used in jazz to mean "7sus4" - because they use 7ths on just about every chord, and don't recognise sus2s, so "sus" is always "sus4". It's a shorthand convention, IOW - which is what all chord symbol terminology is.

    There are occasionally 2 ways of saying the same thing - different systems of abbreviation - which can lead to confusion, even tho they make sense when you understand them.
    Eg "C7+" means "C7#5" ("+" is shorthand for "augmented triad", meaning an augmented 5th);
    But "C7+9" means C7#9, not C7#5 with a 9th added. (In that case "+" just means "#" - although you could argue it still means augmented, because a #9 is an augmented interval. But still, it refers to the 9th and not the 5th.)
    C7#5 with a 9th added would be C9+, or C9#5.

    To tie this to the thread, C7#9 = altered scale, while C9+ = wholetone.

  12. #12
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    602
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Eg, "sus" is used in jazz to mean "7sus4" - because they use 7ths on just about every chord, and don't recognise sus2s, so "sus" is always "sus4". It's a shorthand convention, IOW - which is what all chord symbol terminology is.
    I personally don't subscribe to the sus symbol substituting for the 7sus or 7sus4 symbol and don't teach it as such because when you do recording work, there is really no telling what genre you will have to do and in rock or pop, the I chord is often played as a sus4 (triad with a suspended 4th). And obviously playing a dominant chord would be wrong in this situation. A good example would be Jeff Beck's "Cause We've Ended as Lovers."

    I also don't like M for major and m for minor. Same with Ma and ma because when you are reading charts in the dark and with bad vision like I have been getting since I hit 40, it gets confusing.

    I sort of like, or at least have become used to the Real Book which uses symbols that are sort of contradictory: maj7 and -7. But for my own books, I tend to notate: maj7 and min7.


    -CJ

  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    I personally don't subscribe to the sus symbol substituting for the 7sus or 7sus4 symbol and don't teach it as such because when you do recording work, there is really no telling what genre you will have to do and in rock or pop
    Wel, yes. I was only talking about jazz convention, because that was the topic. (Altered scales and chords don't play a significant role in rock or pop!)
    For rock/pop, I would always spell out 7sus4 - or any other jazz abbreviation - to be as clear as possible.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    I also don't like M for major and m for minor
    I agree about M, but m is fine with me. As long as "M" is avoided - and it is in almost all the material I see and use, I only ever see it on the internet - then "m" is clear enough for minor.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    I sort of like, or at least have become used to the Real Book which uses symbols that are sort of contradictory: maj7 and -7.
    IMO, there is no mistaking "maj7", although I don't personally like "-" for minor (or for "b"), as it seems like an abbreviation too far. (How much more time does it really take to write "m" or "b" instead of "-"? or for that matter "+" instead of "#"?? ) But it's pretty standard in the Real Books, as you say (at least the old illegal ones).
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    But for my own books, I tend to notate: maj7 and min7.
    maj7 and m7 for me.
    If writing jazz charts, I sometimes use the triangle for maj7, and other jazz abbreviations such as for m7b5. (My notation software offers these options too, and they're sometimes useful for saving space, tho they don't save much time.)
    This is all simply because I find it common currency in the books I use, and haven't ever been confused by any of it (not once I learned the jazz shorthand symbols).

    I have, however, occasionally been confused by "M7" for maj7 - it would be crazy to try using that when handwriting! I also don't like the habit (which I think comes from classical convention) of using lower case for minor chords, such as "g" for Gm (or Gmin if you prefer) - for the same reason. Even when seen in print, it takes some getting used to.

    Still, with all these systems, as long as one is consistent within any one of them, and doesn't mix symbols from other conventions, all is fine. (Or should be...)

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    california
    Posts
    23

    another question?

    here is a chord:
    A#
    G
    E
    C

    it functions as a dominant that wants to go to B -- a German Augmented 6 chord. What's the Jazz name for that? I don't think you could rightfully call it a C7... but I'm not sure?

  15. #15
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    602
    Quote Originally Posted by donald432 View Post
    here is a chord:
    A#
    G
    E
    C

    it functions as a dominant that wants to go to B -- a German Augmented 6 chord. What's the Jazz name for that? I don't think you could rightfully call it a C7... but I'm not sure?
    Yes, the top and bottom resolve outwards to the roots of a B chord. I believe it moves to the V chord in classical music. It has been 20 + years since I actually thought about it, or any of Beethoven or Mozart's music. In this case, we would have to assume that it is the key of E or E minor (more common in minor I believe).

    Strangely enough it is common quite common in popular music as well but we don't call it a German 6 chord, we just call it a VI7 (in minor) and a bVI7 (in major) and just consider it a C7 chord. You get it all the time in a minor blues right (in your key):

    |Emin7 | -/- | -/- | -/- |
    |Amin7 | -/- | Emin7 | -/- |
    | C7 | B7 | Emin7 | B7 |

    In all reality, the augmented 6 chords, sort of, kind of, function like b5 subs for jazz. Right? the C7 chord going to a B7 chord in the key of E major is a b5sub for a F#7 chord (the V chord for the V chord). A F#7 would be the V/V and the German 6 would be the b5 sub for it.

Similar Threads

  1. Does anyone know how to convert guitar chords to...
    By dwest2419 in forum Getting Started
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 08-02-2011, 09:48 AM
  2. Improvising without the knowledge of scales chords etc?
    By UserName in forum Improvisation
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 03-05-2004, 06:31 PM
  3. any metal scales and chords?
    By Serg in forum Guitar Technique
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 02-21-2004, 12:05 AM
  4. improvising with altered chords
    By schofie1 in forum Guitar Technique
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 01-09-2003, 02:03 PM
  5. Combining Chords and Scales
    By Blitz in forum Music Theory
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 08-16-2002, 12:26 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •