Q:I've been studying a three-tonic scale recently. Where do you apply this scale? What type of chord suits it best?
Let’s define “scale.” I see it as any series of notes that go up from one note, ending with a higher note several or more steps above – or that go down from one note, through a series of notes, to another. There are the standard Western scales which I learned growing up (such as the Major scale, Minor scales, Diminished scales, etc. You can find these scales defined in most books on beginning harmony or beginning music). Then there are the scales that are used by non-Western musicians from non-Western cultures that I know the sounds of, somewhat, but am less familiar with—like Indian, Japanese, or Balinese music. But just start with the idea that a scale is ANY series of notes that go up or down or up and down—no matter what intervals make up that scale—and no matter that it’s from our Western 12-tone scale or any other scale. It’s still “a series of notes that go up and/or down."
A:Try these ideas on for size. They work for me, anyway:
Ok, now let’s address the last part of your question: “… What type of chord suits it best?” This is the cheap advice that I will continually repeat. It’s that each musician must develop the courage and integrity to make these decisions completely on his own and from his own viewpoint and tastes. That’s a tall order, and it may take all kinds of trial and error to attain that self-certainty—but the end goal should be kept in mind, that in the matter of what parts of music go together best, your own tastes and decisions are the only ones that really count for you.
So here’s my cheap advice as to how to go about it:
1) Learn all the scales you can find - from books, from recordings, from listening to live music, from questioning other musicians—and especially from transcribing from recordings any scales that sound interesting to you.
2) Take these scales (you can start with just one or two) and start experimenting with them. Play them—fool around with them. See what music you can make with them. See how they may fit into songs or improvisations that you like. Make sure you continue to use your own judgment about what works or doesn’t work—what sounds good to you and what doesn’t.
3) When you find some scales that you really like and the music starts to flow, write songs and phrases with the new scales. Improvise with them. Perform the songs. See how it goes. Then write some more.
4) Once you see that you can do these first 3 things (and you can do them over and over again)—then begin creating your own scales. Try a series of notes that sound good to you. Write them down. Even give them names if you want to. Write songs and improvise with these. Combine them with other scales you’ve learned.
4a) By the way, you can do the same thing (1 through 4) with chords and voicings.
5) And finally – forget all about “scales” and “what chords and notes fit into them”—and just play what you hear!
You can do 1 through 5 over and over and over – - and build up your “repertoire” of scales, chords and various techniques—and keep inventing new ones. Eventually these “techniques” become part of you because you are now “inventing” them—therefore you now never need to rely on “memorization”—it’s all just a flow of creation, always in a new unit of present time.
Ahhh—easy to say—but—the test and the fulfillment is in the ACTION! Good luck—and many happy (and/or grueling) hours of searching and creativity—and making Music!
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