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Thread: Am I taking it to simple...? Thoughts on patterns, scales and modes.

  1. #1
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    Am I taking it to simple...? Thoughts on patterns, scales and modes.

    Although this topic contains a lot of theory, I thought it belongs in this forum because it's all about practicing patterns. So moderators: feel free to move it to another forum if you thinks it's necessary!

    I've been reading various articles on this site about patterns and scales and modes. Pentatonic, major, minor, etc. Some articles go pretty deep to get things done. Like the 'Moving from familiar to the unfamiliar', where you you get an explanation how to 'make' all modes. All kinds of notenames and positions pass and it looks pretty complicated. If you ask me... I also very often read about people actually learning scales at certain position: 'I did the A scale at position 5 end the B at position 2' (or whatever). It all seems quit complicated and it seems you have to learn a LOT of scales and patterns to get things done.

    Now I am just starting to learn my fretboard better (high time after playing 25 years without really knowing what I did: usually from musicnotation, or by ear, in which case I really had to practice every note I wanted to play...) and I take an approach which is pretty simple. But after reading all that complicated stuff, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm missing something...

    I'm learning myself two things:

    1. I divided the fretboard in (as far as I know well-known) 5 patterns: the major scale patterns, keeping a good eye on where the (major) rootnote is.

    2. I also learn myself where each and every note is on the fretboard. So if someone says 'Show me an A!' I can point them instantly all over the fretboard. Not just the E-string.

    That's it. With this pretty SIMPLE information I can play all major, minor, pentatonic scales. And in every mode. And in every position. No need to shift to another position in order to play another scale. (I never knew people did that!) Pretty simple.

    I only have to look at the rootnote in order to know which pattern to play.

    Example: I'm playing in C, pattern 1 (in my case), rootnote at fret 8 on hte E-string. Someone says 'Let's go on in scale F' (for whatever reason...). Well, the F is right there below the C, fret 8, at the A-string. And that's the place where the rootnote in (my) pattern 4 is, so I just switch to that pattern. Simple.

    And when someone starts to jam in a minor key, I just have to lower the rootnote 2 notes or 'pattern-dots' (or 3 half notes or 3 frets: just call it what you like) in my mind to play the right scale, because the patterns are exactly the same as the major: only the place of the rootnote changes. I only have to put my focus and accents on the right notes. If I was playing in C, pattern 1, rootnote at fret 8, E-string, and we go to Am, I wouldn't even have to change positions and/or pattern at all.

    And all this goes for all modes too. Want to play in D Dorian? No problem: just play the C major scale anywhere you want to, but put your focus on the second note (being the 'new' rootnote).
    To use the same C example: just use the next note in the pattern as the rootnote. From C major (using the same old 8th fret example) to B Phrygian? No problem. Phrygian is the third mode: count to notes back en you get G. So B Phrygian is derived from the G Major (or G ionian) scale. The G is right there at fret 10, one string lower (or should I say higher), the A-string. I can play pattern 3 or 4 (in my case) from that position and I'm on the road. Of course once more paying attention to the right notes.
    In fact, if I play all my five patterns in a row, starting each one on the E-string, I can play in all modes without thinking! (Note: my first and thirs patterns 'share' modes: for instance pattern 1 started on the first note results in playing the phrigian mode, starting on the second note results in playing the lydian mode.)

    Using the pentatonic mode is easy too: just leave out notes 4 (one fret afternote 3) and 7 (one fret before the rootnote). Advantage of learning the major scales here is that you can easily learn to play in the pentatonic mode, while you aren't restricted to it: you can know where the extra notes are. The other way around is quit harder!

    And even the blues scale is (quit) easy to learn: just add a sharp 4th (or flat 5th) and your done.

    Hm, after reading this once more and seeing hoe much words I needed, it may not look so simple after all (I mean: you HAVE to know a little theory...!), but my point is: by learning just 5 patterns you can play all major scales, minor scales, all modes, etc. etc.

    Mind you (maybe I should have said this earlier): I'm no jazz player: I usually play rock over pretty straight chords.

    I know I haven't covered the harmonic modes and that kind of stuff. But I think for a beginner my 'method' is a pretty solid and easy method. Or (as I said before, and which is the main reason for this post...) am I missing something...?

    P.S. I suddenly realize now that I haven't read every article on this site yet, so if I'm telling something you all already know... SORRY!

    P.S. 2 Mind you: I\m still LEARNING this all myself! It's really just an idea that I have in my mind and I think it will work. But if you think it WON'T work, please tell me! That's why I posted it!
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    Last edited by hellogoodbye; 01-23-2011 at 04:45 PM.

  2. #2
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    theoratically you are totally right.

    you can look at it that way:

    in western music you have 12 different notes. from these notes all the scales are created. just a matter of where the whole and the halfsteps are according to a root note.
    since you have these 12 notes several times on the fretboard its possible to play the thereoff created scales (modes etc.) in every position.

    i think the reason you get confused is that you have been playing for quite a while and have a different approach to this stuff compared to someone who is totally new to the guitar.

    its easy to say "play a major scale, take the 3rd as a root and you get phrygian" - but someone who is new to scales and modes will say: "phrygiwhat? and what do i need it for", and he will be glad managing to play a Cmajor scale in two positions.

    next thing is that its not possible to play everything you want to in just one position. in one position you have a tone range from a bit over two octaves. a guitar (24 frets) has 4 octaves - and its fun to use them!
    Plus every C (for example) played on the fretboard sounds slightly different - but i guess you know that..

    hope i didn't make it too complicated


    p.s.: 5 mjor scale patterns? you have seven different notes in a major scale - so that would give you 7 notes to start with. makes 7 patterns.
    Last edited by phantom; 10-07-2003 at 12:01 PM.

  3. #3
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    p.s.: 5 mjor scale patterns? you have seven different notes in a major scale - so that would give you 7 notes to start with. makes 7 patterns.
    Theoretically, youīre correct. But in general, people tend to use only 5 patterns... thatīs what I was taught first, too. Those are closely related to the 5 pentatonic patterns.
    7 patterns are used when you think in 3NPS... so, most people will refer to 5 major or minor patterns, 5 pentatonic patterns, and 7 longform- or 3NPS-patterns...
    The "regular ones" ( as opposed to 3NPS-patterns ) are pictured below
    Eric
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  4. #4
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    haven't seen them for a while...

    and i think they are not userfriendly at all. playing and theorywise (seems more logical to have 7 notes and 7 patterns).
    imho the old "5 pattern scales" should rest their life at a campfire

  5. #5
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    They might not be user-friendly, but I think it depends on the player who uses them... a lot of guys still use these patterns, and a creative mind probably can get something out of every kind of pattern.
    As a matter of fact, I think Petrucci used one of these patterns in "Rock Discipline" when he talked about speeding up with a metronome... didnīt look "user-un-friendly" to me when he shredded through it
    I didnīt post them to promote them or anything. Itīs just that theyīre the patterns that are taught the most by guitar-teachers, theyīre pretty much a standard.

    Anyway, the problem with those is the same as with 3nps-patterns. You donīt wanna get stuck within them. Meaning that using patterns is great, but you need to be able to get beyond those to avoid becoming what Brett Garsed used to call a "three-note-per-string"-player...
    So once you feel comfortable with patterns ( or maybe even before that ), you wanna work on arps, scales-along-one-string etc.
    Rambling on and on...
    Eric

  6. #6
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    you're right eric..

    you should look at scales as notecombinations and the best thing would be to play them in every possible way. to make a shortcut the "scaleboxes" are made to make it easier to learn all the notes.

    its just seems funny to tell someone to learn them for weeks and month just to let them go.
    ī
    but thats how it works. its just a step towards seeing it as a complete thing where you can move freely from A to B.

    so... hellogoodbye - what do you think?

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    Originally posted by phantom
    i think the reason you get confused is that you have been playing for quite a while and have a different approach to this stuff compared to someone who is totally new to the guitar.

    its easy to say "play a major scale, take the 3rd as a root and you get phrygian" - but someone who is new to scales and modes will say: "phrygiwhat? and what do i need it for", and he will be glad managing to play a Cmajor scale in two positions.
    First of all: I didn't get confused: I thought the reader might get confused.
    But your right: for a newbie this is probably already to complicated...

    next thing is that its not possible to play everything you want to in just one position. in one position you have a tone range from a bit over two octaves. a guitar (24 frets) has 4 octaves - and its fun to use them!
    Plus every C (for example) played on the fretboard sounds slightly different - but i guess you know that..
    I'm not saying it's good to stick to a position! On the contrary! I only gave those examples because a lot of people who only know one (or maybe two) patterns are stuck to a certain position. If they play in C and want to go to E they HAVE to go to a different position inorder fot the same pattern to work. In the case from C to E they have to slide up 4 frets. When yo learn all 5 patterns you can stay on your position if you want to, no matter what mode or scale you are in. But at the same time you have the freedom to go anywhere because you can! With only one patterns this all was impossible.

    hope i didn't make it too complicated
    You certainly didn't!

    p.s.: 5 mjor scale patterns? you have seven different notes in a major scale - so that would give you 7 notes to start with. makes 7 patterns.
    Eric already explained this... The pictures he posted are exactly the ones I use!
    But to make sure no one gets confused...: I have them in a different order! So don't get my examples wrong (with pattern 1, the scale of C on the 8th fret...). I found out later Eric's order is indeed the usual order. I got them in 'modes-order': somehow it all seemed more logic to me. My first pattern (Eric's 4 pattern) is the ionan mode (starting with the second note of the pattern). If you play Eric's pattern 4, 5, 1, 2 and 3 in a row you will be playing all modes without thinking (though you have to play two patterns twice starting on the first and second pattern. But this is getting far too complicated, so forget about it... )

    Originally posted by EricV
    Anyway, the problem with those is the same as with 3nps-patterns. You don?t wanna get stuck within them. Meaning that using patterns is great, but you need to be able to get beyond those to avoid becoming what Brett Garsed used to call a "three-note-per-string"-player...
    So once you feel comfortable with patterns ( or maybe even before that ), you wanna work on arps, scales-along-one-string etc.
    Rambling on and on...
    Eric [/B]
    Yeah, I didn't mention that (I only wanted to know if my method was good or not) but when I practice these patterns, I ALWAYS go from one to another in a smooth way! I DO often play them one by one for some time up and down but I ALWAYS connect them. I usually decide, while I'm playing a certain pattern on which string I'll go to the next one, so I won't be stuck with the same transitions everytime. I also frequently 'skip' a pattern.
    All in all, I always tell myself to look at it as ONE BIG patterns which is divided in order to make learning it easier (that's what I call user-frienly! ). But it's my ultimate goal to be able to play the whole 12 frets pattern just as easy as I'm playing a single small pattern now!

    In the end, I hope, this will enable me to play ALL over the fretboard, anywhere I want to, without having to think 'Oh dear, which fret can or can't I use here...'

    Mind you, I've still got a long way to go... I mean, I know the (small) patterns by heart now, but not the big pattern. I quit often forget where I was and which pattern I can play at a certain point (specially when I went up and down through some patterns quickly). And I still want to learn (for instance) which note is II, III, IV and so on, compared to the root note. Or which note is on the 8 fret of the G-string. I do know it all, of course, but not quickly enough: I still have to think about it.

    So... phantom - that's what I think about it!
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    Last edited by hellogoodbye; 01-23-2011 at 04:45 PM.

  8. #8
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    i'm sorry if we (i) had a misunderstanding there hellogoodbye..

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    Originally posted by phantom
    i'm sorry if we (i) had a misunderstanding there hellogoodbye..
    Oops! Oh dear! There is nothing for you to feel sorry about! If I sounded a bit harsh somewhere (apparently I did, otherwise you would'nt say sorry!) it's just because English isn't my native language (I'm Dutch) and I sometimes don't know how to express myself.... (I even don't know for certain if 'harsh' is the right word here... Really hope it is! )
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    Last edited by hellogoodbye; 01-23-2011 at 04:45 PM.

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    Can I ask another question as I have struggled to learn this stuff for years and years

    My problem is not theoretical as I have known modal theory, studied counterpoint, 4 part etc for a long time. My problem is one of real time comprehension and use.

    I would ask if anyone could answer the following questions about the contents of their mind whilst improvising:

    Do you see the pattern in which you are playing complete from bottom to top string or do you see the fragment of notes around the location of the finger touching the string i.e. just the scale notes around your present finger position?

    Do you visualise the note relationship i.e. if in D dorian do you see the pattern as 1 2 b3 etc?

    Do you maintain a comprehension of note value i.e. 'D' Do you use this when traversing through changes?

    The problem I seem to have is that playing through chord changes leaves absolutely no time for analysis on a conscious level. Trying to remeber that the next chord is the 6th diatonically, better use Aolean, where is the nearest root note, better still where is the nearest leading or link note, now imagine the shape and try and viualise the interval values i.e. b3 and play - oops we have already moved through two more changes

    Simon
    Regards,

    Simon

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    Oh I missed one thing out - one I have calculated I need Aolean I have then got to work out that its C Major shapes and move roots values and other intervals accordingly
    Regards,

    Simon

  12. #12
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Do you see the pattern in which you are playing complete from bottom to top string or do you see the fragment of notes around the location of the finger touching the string i.e. just the scale notes around your present finger position?
    I usually 'see' a pattern complete from bottom to top string, I also usually see patterns below and above the current one.
    Do you visualise the note relationship i.e. if in D dorian do you see the pattern as 1 2 b3 etc?
    I believe this to be the ideal method, although I am not always able to do this in a manner that I would call complete.
    Do you maintain a comprehension of note value i.e. 'D' Do you use this when traversing through changes?
    To me this is the least useful method because you need to care about actual note values when relative note values are enough.
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    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    THIS is a cool thread. Thanks to everyone for sharing--very, very thought-provoking.
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    I need to go back to learning these scales....QUICK!!!

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    Originally posted by szulc
    Do you maintain a comprehension of note value i.e. 'D' Do you use this when traversing through changes?
    To me this is the least useful method because you need to care about actual note values when relative note values are enough.
    Your other answers are exactly mine. But in this case I think you misunderstood the question: I think grappa meant if you maintain comprehension of the D being the rootnote! (Correct me if I'm wrong...) And that should always be the fact. It's the most important note. I mean, I still have a LONG LONG way to go before I instantly know which note is II and VI and so on in every pattern. But knowing and keeping an eye on the root note is essential and the base of it all. Specially if you got through changes! I change and plan patterns all on the knowledge of the rootnote.

    Mind you, it's still mainly theory in my case: I've still got a long way to go. I'll be very happy the day I can play all patterns as ONE big pattern, knowing where all notes are relative (I, II, III, IV, etc) to the root note in major (ionian mode). But I think it will be a long long long time before I instantly know where all notes are relative to G myxolidian. For instance...

    And then I'm not even talking about the technique that's needed to actually PLAY it all smooth and fast...

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