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Music Theory the Fun Way:
Through Soloing!
Steve Danielsson
[email protected]
“So What” - Miles Davis
D Dorian - Use Dm Pentatonic at the 10th fret
• Now try to add
these new cool
notes!
• The Blues
notes are
added to the
pentatonic
scale!
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• Basics of music theory
• Pentatonic Review - Why it’s
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awesome
Starting point - The Major Scale
Advanced (more fun!) scales
Building your knowledge further
• Music theory is the formalized
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study of the rules of music that
we hear
It is studied to further our
understanding of what we hear
The formalized study is based on
musical trends
• Learning rules to music implies there is a “right”
answer
• Many of us learn music theory in a regimented
classroom setting
• There is no immediate success in the study of
music theory
• Studying/practicing music theory with your
instrument in hand increases your understanding
and enjoyment
• Learning to
approximate your
ear takes practice
• Building a low
stress environment
is easy!
• Simply take out
your guitar and get
ready!
• In all three musical
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examples, we will
work to find what key
we are in
We will find this
simply by using the
sixth string
Play along with the
song, until you find
the note that the song
seems to rest on
• Most musicians ear are developed enough to
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find Do in popular music
Occasionally, it will be difficult to find a key,
feel free to use online hints!
Every second you are playing and listening to
your instrument, your musicianship is
developing
The most important thing to learn is The
Confidence To Try!
• According to most guitar players: “All
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music was written to have guitar solos
played over it”
Approximating with a familiar shape will
develop your ear, your hand and increase
your fluency using the scale
Let’s start by Approximating on a famous
progression
• A Blues in A is built on the idea of
tension
• An A7 Chord has a C# in it, while an A
pentatonic has a C natural in it
• These differing notes create musical
tension, that many of us today know
as a “bluesy” sound
• We will now play a Blues in a
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few new keys
After each 12 bar phrase, we
will switch to a new key
Find the key by experimenting
with the pentatonic shape
• The tension in blues makes
it feel safe to miss notes
• In Diatonic music (music
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“BAM!”
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built in one key), missed
notes will sometimes sound
more out of place
Ignore your desire to be
perfect, and try as many
pentatonic shapes as you
can
The location of the scale will
tell you what key we are in!
• Alway!
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The best way to develop your ear and
understanding of your guitar is to have your
guitar out while your listening.
Try everything you hear
Every missed note should be thought of as an
exercise
Sitting on the couch watching TV? Take out the
guitar! You’d be surprised how much there is to
try and play along with!
• Let’s take a look
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at the pentatonic
scale
• Five different
notes
• We use this shape
for major and
minor
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• Learning to hear the sound, for you
and for your students
• Avoid “happy” and “sad”
• Make the terms Minor and Major part
of your classroom vocabulary
• Most songs use major AND minor
chords together
The difference is only one note. When
the second fret moves to the first, we are
lowering on note in the chord by a half
step.
• All modern Western music is built
on the same pattern
• Even the most advanced music
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theory is based on the same
simple information
That information is so famous,
most people already know it
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The major scale is the foundation of music
Let’s play five different major scales
Here is the pattern we can use for a One String major scale
0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12
Do - Re - Mi - Fa - Sol - La - Ti - Do
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The minor scale has three different notes than the major scale
Here is the pattern we can use for a One String minor scale
0 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 8 - 10 - 12
Do - Re - Me - Fa - Sol - Le - Te - Do
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Notes different from major scale are underlined
Notice how Lowered notes end with an “e” sound!
• The Minor Pentatonic Scale
is a simple five note scale
0 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 8 - 10 - 12
Do - Re - Me - Fa - Sol - Le - Te - Do
• The black notes are
Do
• The scale is shaped
perfectly for the
guitar
• Most guitarists
master this scale
without knowing its
origin
• Now you know!
• Knowledge of how a
scale works will ALWAYS
enhance your ability to
use it
• Even just knowing where
“Do” is
• Learning scales is a life
long process, each time
you play it, it builds itself
stronger into your
musical lexicon
• The full minor scale
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can be played in the
same position as
the minor
pentatonic
• Only one finger is
slid out of position
• The new notes are
marked in blue
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4
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• We add two important notes in
the full scale
• These notes are the 4th and
7th of the major scale
• They add a lot of tension,
which can be a great tool for
soloing
• Playing the
world famous
progression,
you can use
this scale to
craft new
melodies
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• A “Mode” is a unique
scale pattern and
shape
• These are all based
on the original major
and minor scales
• Just like minor/major
have the same notes,
so do modes
• Most guitarists learn
these modes in new
• The full Dorian Mode can
be played in the same
position as the minor
pentatonic
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• One finger is slid out of
position
• The Dorian Mode will be
two frets (one step) up from
the key of the song
• If a song is in G (3rd fret),
you can use the A Dorian
Scale
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• The dorian mode has a
minor sound, but the one
different note gives it a
different feel
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• It is used in jazz, rock
and all kinds of music
• The two most prominent
examples are “Kind of
Blue” and Carlos
Santana’s soloing style
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• Jam on “Oye Como
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Va” using the A
Dorian mode
• For fun, try
switching it up to
the E minor
pentatonic, which
will also work but
have a different
sound to it!
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• Miles Davis’ “So What”
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off the album Kind of
Blue is a great
example of using the
dorian mode in
improvisation
• It also changes keys!
• We change keys by
sliding up just one fret,
using the same scale
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