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Thread: Mixing Scales

  1. #1
    Registered User ZuruiChibi's Avatar
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    Question Mixing Scales

    Hi,
    I was just curious to know what everyones view of mixing scales is. Which kinds work better in sequence? What styles? I've always wondered what scales Michael Romeo uses. For instance, in the solo for Sea of Lies on his DVD, he goes from all different exotic sounds to a blues finish. I never hear anyone discuss this topic.

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    There's no general rules, outside of what the specific tune (and musical style) allows.

    When it sounds like jazz musicians are using a mixture of various different exotic scales, what they are usually doing is combining "inside" sounds with "outside" ones. "Inside" means any diatonic note (in the key), or any other note that fits the current chord (which might include notes outside the overall key). "Outside" means any other note: a chromatic note - outside the key - or any note that contradicts the chord function.

    In simple terms, at any one time you have - in theory - 7 inside notes and 5 outside ones. The 7 inside notes will most often be the scale of the key, but they might be a special scale that fits the specific chord.

    I'd have to analyse Sea of Lies to tell you what he's doing in that specific example. But I would bet there's either a very interesting chord sequence he's following closely - OR he's using chromaticism. The chords may or may not dictate that chromaticism. (If they don't, then the chromaticism will count as "outside".)

    The overall point is that "inside" always sounds right, it always fits. It;s the stuff you get taught when you study jazz improvisation.
    But if everything you play is inside, that gets safe and boring (unless the chord sequence is really interesting). Too much "outside", OTOH, just sounds like wrong notes, or is tiring or confusing to listen to. So the skill is to balance both; which comes from experience, experiment, sense of taste.

    (In blues, this is relatively easy, because there's one built-in outside note in the scale - the b5 - and others can be bent to provide occasional "outsideness", in an intuitive way understood by all blues players. I mean outside relative to the chords, btw, because it can be argued that all those bent notes, and the b5, are "inside" in terms of the true blues tonality. It's the chords that are outside!)

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    If you mean this version:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG2804ggsI0
    - you need to give precise timings for any bit you're interested in. This kind of music really doesn't interest me enough to spend any longer than I have to listening to it...
    (I'd guess there's some phrygian dominant in there, but I wouldn't swear to it...)

  4. #4
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    It really depends on how dense the music is too. When I do solo guitar stuff, I mix major and minor all the time, as long as the chord is deadened, the minor scale can provide a lot of interest. However if another guitarist is sustaining a major chord, the minor wouldn't sound so great at all.

    When you have a full band, you pretty much need to stick to the scale unless the music is atypical and calls for something different.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    If you mean this version:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG2804ggsI0
    - you need to give precise timings for any bit you're interested in. This kind of music really doesn't interest me enough to spend any longer than I have to listening to it...
    (I'd guess there's some phrygian dominant in there, but I wouldn't swear to it...)
    Michael Romeo is such a badass. Seen him in concert twice, the guy doesn't make mistakes

    Lots of key and time changes in Symphony X's music, to the OP - I'd post a tab of a specific section you want to learn more about the theory of. He is all over the place in his arpeggios, scales and chromaticism.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jessmanca
    Michael Romeo is such a badass. Seen him in concert twice, the guy doesn't make mistakes
    I admire you for being able to tell...
    Quote Originally Posted by jessmanca
    Lots of key and time changes in Symphony X's music, to the OP - I'd post a tab of a specific section you want to learn more about the theory of. He is all over the place in his arpeggios, scales and chromaticism.
    Yes, I'd like to see the OP post tab of the parts he's interested in. I'm happy to pass theoretical comment if someone else does the work, in this case...

    (Meanwhile, I'm going to have a little lie down...)

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    personally i find that style is kind of focussed on exactly that, arpeggios and scales, and going ultra fast, and so like i was saying in the fusion thread, i find lacks mood feel and groove.

    it's kind of cool, but not really my thing.

    as for mistakes thing, you never know. i'm sure this guy is pretty good at disguising mistakes he has made, but again, i think he mostly is sticking to patterns he mixes and matches together. that's my impression anyways. and if i'm right, after hearing alot of songs from him you'd get kind of bored of his style.

    probably when he plays the same song, it sounds alot like the same song.

    to me a great musician makes the same song sound different everytime. makes everytime you listen to it a fresh experience. or, actually, not great musician, let me rephrase that, great improvisationalist.

    great musician, can be many things from writer to singer or any other bunch of criteria one could choose to use.

    I wouldn't mind learning some of this stuff too though actually. i know that might sound hypocritical, but i'm always down with learning from any style and taking whatever i can learn from that and like from it and try to fit into my own style.

    that's why that song learning section I was talking about would be cool.

  8. #8
    Registered User TheAristocrat's Avatar
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    I find this topic very interesting, and have been thinking about this for a while. Although, I must admit that I do have an aversion to the scale madness that a lot of guitarists have. I've never bought into learning "licks", unless I'm having a hard time getting into a specific style or struggling to get to grips with an odd scale.

    I read somewhere that classical composers never even viewed harmonic minor or melodic minor as separate scales, but as alterations. I cant vouch for the legitimacy of this, I just found it interesting, and cant even remember the source unfortunately. What I have been working on is my phrasing, working on when and when not to go outside. My inspiration for this is Michiru Yamane, who composes for the Castlevania series. I'm not sure what she is doing in terms of scales, but what I find is that you can go a very long way with a plain major scale and a few chromatic notes. Of course I'm not expert on this Zurui.

  9. #9
    Registered User TheAristocrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    personally i find that style is kind of focussed on exactly that, arpeggios and scales, and going ultra fast, and so like i was saying in the fusion thread, i find lacks mood feel and groove.

    it's kind of cool, but not really my thing.

    as for mistakes thing, you never know. i'm sure this guy is pretty good at disguising mistakes he has made, but again, i think he mostly is sticking to patterns he mixes and matches together. that's my impression anyways. and if i'm right, after hearing alot of songs from him you'd get kind of bored of his style.

    probably when he plays the same song, it sounds alot like the same song.

    to me a great musician makes the same song sound different everytime. makes everytime you listen to it a fresh experience. or, actually, not great musician, let me rephrase that, great improvisationalist.

    great musician, can be many things from writer to singer or any other bunch of criteria one could choose to use.

    I wouldn't mind learning some of this stuff too though actually. i know that might sound hypocritical, but i'm always down with learning from any style and taking whatever i can learn from that and like from it and try to fit into my own style.

    that's why that song learning section I was talking about would be cool.
    Agreed, I find that with all shredders, most guitarists in fact. But mainly shredders. Michael Romeo is a tasteful player though. He throws in some interesting ideas in solos and what not. But ultimately it gets repetitive. But that's not to say there is nothing to learn from them. I'm not into jazz at all, but what I found with jazz saxophone players is that they are very good at phrasing. Like, the way they time their pauses for breath etc. I learnt alot from that, as silly as it may sound.

    Just out of interest, check these two out.

    1.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzhLHd9jOtI
    2.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7dfFnVLIQE

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat
    I find this topic very interesting, and have been thinking about this for a while. Although, I must admit that I do have an aversion to the scale madness that a lot of guitarists have. I've never bought into learning "licks", unless I'm having a hard time getting into a specific style or struggling to get to grips with an odd scale.

    I read somewhere that classical composers never even viewed harmonic minor or melodic minor as separate scales, but as alterations. I cant vouch for the legitimacy of this, I just found it interesting, and cant even remember the source unfortunately.
    That's true. Don't worry about a source - it's basic classical convention, also recognised in pop/jazz theory.

    Harmonic minor (raising the 7th of natural minor) was designed to improve the V-I cadence in aeolian mode, by providing the same half-step leading tone-tonic move you find in the major key.
    (Its also the source of the V and vii chords in a typical minor key. Hence "harmonic" minor.)
    "Melodic" minor was then a further adjustment to improve the sound of melodies resolving up to the root, by getting rid of the awkward augmented 2nd between b6 and 7 in harmonic minor. ("Awkward" if you don't actually like the "arab/gypsy" sound it produces, of course...)
    But both alterations were only ever used at necessary moments within minor key tunes (at cadence points). (Melodic minor, classically, was only used ascending anyway; coming down, it was back to b7 and b6.)

    You won't find tunes written entirely in either harmonic or melodic minor. Some rare tunes might feature quite a heavy use of one or the other (eg "gypsy"-flavour tunes using harmonic minor), but I doubt you'll see them as exclusive scales. I don't know of any such tunes anyway, although if anyone else does I'd love to hear of them!

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