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Nov 20, 2009 - 1:46:11 AM
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149 posts since 8/16/2005

I've been taking scales more seriously of late. I don't know why, but I avoided them like the plague for years. Since I recently started playing a little clawhammer style, I've been using scales to get used to my right hand position in space and time. But it dawned on me today that I don't know what I should do with all of these scales. Should I memorize them -- if not the names of the notes, at least their individual progressions (as frets and sound)?

As a permanently novice player, how deep into scales should my knowledge go in order that I might play a little old time or bluegrass with other people someday? I guess all this breaks down into a simple question: what do I do with scales? In high school band, I remember learning scales but I think I must've thought it was just so I could learn to read music and memorize finger positions on that danged saxophone.

Btw, it's probably linked to on BHO already, but this scales page is the best I've seen in terms of breadth and quality of image files (he uses very clear, very printable PNGs) and covers banjo, guitar, and mandolin: traditionalmusic.co.uk/scales/...cales.htm (fixed)

Edited by - Poppy on 12/12/2009 16:31:37

Nov 20, 2009 - 2:12:08 AM
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1058 posts since 12/18/2005

I have used this site before with regard to guitar scales but did not see scales for the 5 string banjo only four, am i looking in the wrong place.
Ian

Nov 20, 2009 - 2:21:08 AM
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1058 posts since 12/18/2005

Iv'e just looked again and see the banjo section has two halfs.
Silly Boy!
I find scales valuable with regard to flat picking on guitar its only in the last two years that my practise with banjo scales has paid off ,fiddle tunes in a jam session presents no problems when face with a tune I have only listened to once or twice through.
Ian

Nov 20, 2009 - 2:26:51 AM
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149 posts since 8/16/2005

quote:
Originally posted by tofte32

Iv'e just looked again and see the banjo section has two halfs.
Silly Boy!
I find scales valuable with regard to flat picking on guitar its only in the last two years that my practise with banjo scales has paid off ,fiddle tunes in a jam session presents no problems when face with a tune I have only listened to once or twice through.
Ian



Is the link I posted not working? It's cached in my computer, so maybe it's popping up on mine but not others.

So what you're saying, Ian, is that if you're told that all of the notes to a tune are in a certain scale, you can play the tune by knowing that scale? (forgive my lack of proper terminology -- I'm nervous to say "in the Key of x" because I'm not sure if that means a scale)

Nov 20, 2009 - 5:52:15 AM
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9450 posts since 12/19/2008

What you do with scales depends on where you want to go with the banjo.

I generally teach scales in the context of chord formations, but if you aren't doing lots of chording, that isn't appropriate.
Some folks frail lots of chords; others clawhammer lots of melodies.

How scales are taught to pipers is they show them how to change the key of a simple melody first. They teach the two scales, but the use of them is playing all the songs you already know in the new key. That establishes the relationships of the notes amongst various scales.

Learning scales independent of using them isn't very useful. To start, just focus on the scales of songs/tunings you already play and either convert a song from one tuning to another or from one key to a different, but regular key, such as D to G or G to D, and that will begin teaching you the uses of scales.

Knowing the names of the notes is one thing; knowing their relationships is another, just like knowing C,F,G chords go together and G,C,D chords go together isn't the same thing as knowing they are 1,4,5 relations in _any_ key you wish.

Nov 20, 2009 - 6:49:17 AM
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beegee

USA

23243 posts since 7/6/2005

I'm working through Pat Cloud's book dealing with scales "The Key to 5-String Banjo" and the classical banjo scales & arpeggios book by John Bullard. I previously had little use for learning scales, but it's making more sense to me as a system of approaching melody. I'm still not clear as to practical application, as I have always been more comfortable with a chordal approach. I'm playing Whisky Before Breakfast at every fret as an exercise, using scales and different string sets. the challenge is re-training 60-year-old muscles and synapses previously programmed for Scruggs-rolls.

Nov 20, 2009 - 7:00:36 AM
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79411 posts since 5/9/2007

The only things I use scales for is weighing my banjo bridges and lobsters.

Nov 20, 2009 - 7:15:10 AM
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DeanT

USA

36269 posts since 7/28/2005

30 years ago, a friend of mine drew out a "pentatonic" scale for a guitar fretboard... and told me how to use it and move it, as a minor scale for blues and major scale for rock and country. He said there was all kinds of other stuff to learn, but I couldn't go wrong...if I stayed in this scale, I could make up whatever I wanted and it was almost impossible to hit a wrong note. I still don't know or care much about the theory behind it, but I learned the patterns cold. When I went to open G tuned guitar, I made the necessary adjustments. Even today with the banjo, I use it for all kinds of slides, hammers and pulls all around the chords I'm playing.

Nov 20, 2009 - 7:29:56 AM
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3383 posts since 10/10/2008

getting scales (the sounds and the knowledge of) into your playing is the only point to studying scales.

scale study for me has a couple of different focal points.

1. simply being able to "visualize" major, minor, pentatonic(S), etc scales both horizontally and vertically across the fingerboard, while "hearing" the scale in my head.
I sometimes will "play" a scale in my head while facing the banjo ... "seeing" the notes on the fingerboard and "hearing" it in my head, while "knowing" the note names of the notes being played.
It works your brain a bit ... and "ear trains" you to instinctively be able to find the melodies you hear ...
I do it in all keys.

2. as you study different scalar sounds, you broaden your ability to hear all music and immediately KNOW what that scalar or harmonic sound is. You begin to recognize things that you previously might not have recognized.
This extends to chord types as well ... every type of scale has harmony that it implies, and you start to see the scales as harmony ... or chords/arpeggios.

i.e. a Cmajor scalar sound is
CDEFGABC, but breaks out into
CEGB Cmaj7
and DFA or Dmin ... so you begin to see that a Dmin chord stacked on top of a Cmaj7 is a fully extended Cmaj chord. That chord or arpeggio has a sound to it that is unique in music.
each mode of major
each mode of harmonic minor
each mode of melodic minor
... and many others ...
each has it's own unique flavor in music.
some are more usable than others.

scales are not the end, but the means to an end for me ...

on a side note ... the chart you linked has some fairly unusable fingerings for scales, but can be used as a primer for a scale shape. It can get you started.

recognition of scales has definitely helped my bluegrass playing ... as well as reading piano music ... understanding modern harmony ... modern jazz .... whatever ....

Nov 20, 2009 - 7:31:20 AM
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1004 posts since 6/16/2007

Minstrel Mike

quote:
I generally teach scales in the context of chord formations, but if you aren't doing lots of chording, that isn't appropriate.


I am a chord player. I try to form the chords even if I am picking only the melody out of the shape. I do this because I like the sound of the strings that resonate even if I don't pluck that particular string in the chord. I have never worked on scales. Last night my man and I were playing, and said we should learn scales and practice them together. Where would I start with a chord scale progression? Say in G or D. I would need to be more proficient with chords up the neck, I think.

Nov 20, 2009 - 8:56:50 AM

1058 posts since 12/18/2005

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic

getting scales (the sounds and the knowledge of) into your playing is the only point to studying scales.

scale study for me has a couple of different focal points.

1. simply being able to "visualize" major, minor, pentatonic(S), etc scales both horizontally and vertically across the fingerboard, while "hearing" the scale in my head.
I sometimes will "play" a scale in my head while facing the banjo ... "seeing" the notes on the fingerboard and "hearing" it in my head, while "knowing" the note names of the notes being played.
It works your brain a bit ... and "ear trains" you to instinctively be able to find the melodies you hear ...
I do it in all keys.

2. as you study different scalar sounds, you broaden your ability to hear all music and immediately KNOW what that scalar or harmonic sound is. You begin to recognize things that you previously might not have recognized.
This extends to chord types as well ... every type of scale has harmony that it implies, and you start to see the scales as harmony ... or chords/arpeggios.

i.e. a Cmajor scalar sound is
CDEFGABC, but breaks out into
CEGB Cmaj7
and DFA or Dmin ... so you begin to see that a Dmin chord stacked on top of a Cmaj7 is a fully extended Cmaj chord. That chord or arpeggio has a sound to it that is unique in music.
each mode of major
each mode of harmonic minor
each mode of melodic minor
... and many others ...
each has it's own unique flavor in music.
some are more usable than others.

scales are not the end, but the means to an end for me ...

on a side note ... the chart you linked has some fairly unusable fingerings for scales, but can be used as a primer for a scale shape. It can get you started.

recognition of scales has definitely helped my bluegrass playing ... as well as reading piano music ... understanding modern harmony ... modern jazz .... whatever ....



This is very close to how i have developed my playing it applys just as much to scruggs style of melody playing, or keith style or single string.
memory of notes can be achieved just as you know the finger positions of a chord and practising scales can improve you memory of note Or (sound)and its position on a particular string and fret.
The break through comes when the melody Ie: tune your trying to play perhaps for the first time becomes less pot luck the moment you hit the first note.
Ian

Nov 20, 2009 - 9:11:22 AM
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3383 posts since 10/10/2008

quote:
Originally posted by tofte32

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic

getting scales (the sounds and the knowledge of) into your playing is the only point to studying scales. ......
....... recognition of scales has definitely helped my bluegrass playing ... as well as reading piano music ... understanding modern harmony ... modern jazz .... whatever



This is very close to how i have developed my playing it applys just as much to scruggs style of melody playing, or keith style or single string.
memory of notes can be achieved just as you know the finger positions of a chord and practising scales can improve you memory of note Or (sound)and its position on a particular string and fret.
The break through comes when the melody Ie: tune your trying to play perhaps for the first time becomes less pot luck the moment you hit the first note.
Ian



absolutely !! ... very good

yes .. I play in lots of situations every week that demand I be able to look at a piece of music ... or chart and "hear" it in my head before I ever touch the instrument. Sometimes the music is very complex ... and over my head/ears, but I find that the work I've done on scales/arpeggios really helps.

some people don't need it, for any number of reasons ... I do.

Nov 20, 2009 - 9:33:48 AM
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13420 posts since 3/6/2006

I had a student who is an excellent Scruggs player who expressed his desire to learn melodic style banjo. He had learned a few riffs/licks but didnt really understand how/why they worked and only used them in songs, copying their use from another players version. His goal was to be able to fluently solo with melodic style and know the 'why' behind the patterns so that he could make up his own solos.
We began the first lesson and I explained what a scale was and the formula. I then proceeded to give him a few basic melodic scale patterns. Almost immediately he bgean to see the relationship between scales and the style. I explained that meldoic style IS scales. But the ultimate goal is to play 'music' with the patterns, and not just play scale patterns verbatum at infinatum.
Do Scruggs players need to study scales to be great, of course not, since a majority of them are already proficient at the style and probably dont know the scale tones they use anyway. Many melodic players understand the pathways for scales from just doing them and copying them from other players and maybe dont even know what the tones are.
My view is that learning scales and theory for most proficient players is just a jargon/nomenclature exercise. They already 'know' how these principles work; they just dont know the proper terminology. Learning the theory terms and applying it to what they do is a choice, but not a necessity, to be a good player.
For rank beginners, I dont think scale study is as useful as it is for players with a few years under their belts. But once youre ready, learning scales, theory and the realtionships involed, combined with proper ear training, just makes you a most knowedgeable player. Learning more about how music works is never a bad thing if you dont turn it into a 'cerebral only' exercise. Learn to use it to play music and appreciate that music on a deeper level.

Nov 20, 2009 - 9:55:25 AM
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79411 posts since 5/9/2007

When I play melodically to fiddletunes I find the melody notes through the
chord or build the chord around the melody note.
By using chords for my foundation I burn the structure of the tune into my
brain which helps keep me oriented.

I find it easy to picture the fretboard with the chords layed out on it.
This helps me tackle those 3 and 4 part tunes and come to grips with
them in a timely fashion.

Nov 20, 2009 - 10:04:49 AM
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5949 posts since 3/6/2006

I agree with John B on this. Learning scales are a beginning, but you don't want those exercises to creep into your playing. A typical scale exercise would be to start on the root note and play every scale step up to the octave, then back down. If music sounded like that it would be very boring!Applying that knowledge in a musical way is the pursuit of a lifetime

Nov 20, 2009 - 10:06:16 AM
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9450 posts since 12/19/2008

Here's what I'd do for someone who can play the chords to Blackberry Blossom in G and Whiskey Before Breakfast in D

Blackberry A part end: G D C G C G D
Whiskey B part end: D A G D G D A D

Now you can transpose them in your head or one paper and discover they are exactly the same.

You can also use chord positions up the neck and have already discovered that.

First, for EVERY SONG you say you know, you must know the chord pattern by shape starting from each of two different positions: F-shape and D-shape. I don't hardly ever use barre to start a song but that is the third place to start.

That's about the the only thing you need to practice to make the rest of this useful. I think most people don't go up the neck until they atart learning theory which makes the theory (and playing up the neck) seem more difficult than it is.

Now play the backup to both those songs above start from F-shape (G at the5th or 17th frets 1st string or D at the 12th).
They are exactly the same. If you played all your songs up the neck from two (at least) starting positions) and you have played 20 songs IN DIFFERENT KEYS (the reason to strum your way thru a song book instead of work slowly thru a banjo picking book), then you would already _know_ the 1,4,5 commonalities by feel and when someone starts talking theory, it starts making sense.
====================
Using the theory.
Start either of the songs on the D-shape chord (G-9th fret 1st string or D 16th fret) and drop down the chords and do any sort of picking whatsoever, you'll have most of the melody. If you can find the rest of it by using the correct chords, then you have found the melody using chords and you can change keys using chords.

Then the rest of theory of scales is in making chords in the same way single note instruments study scales in the context of making melodies.

Nov 20, 2009 - 10:09:01 AM
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2732 posts since 7/29/2003

When you play bluegrass or oldtime music, many of the melodies stay within the scale of the key you are in. The melodies are often composed of fragments of the scale or arpeggios from within the scale and arranged in various ways. If you practice so that you can hear and play scales, every time you encounter one of those fragments, or even a whole scale, it will not be an obstacle.

This is actually true of other types of music as well.

Edited by - salvatone on 11/20/2009 10:12:29

Nov 20, 2009 - 1:03:32 PM
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3383 posts since 10/10/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

I agree with John B on this. Learning scales are a beginning, but you don't want those exercises to creep into your playing. A typical scale exercise would be to start on the root note and play every scale step up to the octave, then back down. If music sounded like that it would be very boring!Applying that knowledge in a musical way is the pursuit of a lifetime



I agree with John B too Lawrence, but when you comprehensively study scales, with the goal of being musical .... you practice every possible combination of rhythms, feels, intervals, note groups, etc ... so that you are adept at playing thru WHATEVER you hear ... scale studies is MUCH more than 1 octave up and down rote memorization.

Nov 20, 2009 - 1:27:26 PM
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5949 posts since 3/6/2006

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

I agree with John B on this. Learning scales are a beginning, but you don't want those exercises to creep into your playing. A typical scale exercise would be to start on the root note and play every scale step up to the octave, then back down. If music sounded like that it would be very boring!Applying that knowledge in a musical way is the pursuit of a lifetime



I agree with John B too Lawrence, but when you comprehensively study scales, with the goal of being musical .... you practice every possible combination of rhythms, feels, intervals, note groups, etc ... so that you are adept at playing thru WHATEVER you hear ... scale studies is MUCH more than 1 octave up and down rote memorization.



I get what you are saying, Doub but I don't think that that is what most banjo players are up for when they first take some interest in scales. They want to learn a few scales, then get on with learning tunes (that's what I think anyway). The kind of discipline you are talking about would be more typical of a jazz player - when I played horns I would do a lot of this.

Nov 20, 2009 - 1:38:06 PM
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3383 posts since 10/10/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

I agree with John B on this. Learning scales are a beginning, but you don't want those exercises to creep into your playing. A typical scale exercise would be to start on the root note and play every scale step up to the octave, then back down. If music sounded like that it would be very boring!Applying that knowledge in a musical way is the pursuit of a lifetime



I agree with John B too Lawrence, but when you comprehensively study scales, with the goal of being musical .... you practice every possible combination of rhythms, feels, intervals, note groups, etc ... so that you are adept at playing thru WHATEVER you hear ... scale studies is MUCH more than 1 octave up and down rote memorization.



I get what you are saying, Doub but I don't think that that is what most banjo players are up for when they first take some interest in scales. They want to learn a few scales, then get on with learning tunes (that's what I think anyway). The kind of discipline you are talking about would be more typical of a jazz player - when I played horns I would do a lot of this.



true .. but we're not necessarily talking about beginners here. People become GREAT musicians along different paths. If a student is interested in scales .. as this thread suggests, I think it's important to give them a complete picture of what they can accomplish. AND some guys are LOOKING to become professional musicians. They are EAGER and HUNGRY for as much as they can take on. I speak directly with world class players/arrangers/composers/producers regularly ... and I want to share with others what they have shared with me ... the things that it takes to be as good as you can be. Scales aren't for jazz players ... they are for all musicians ... any instrument ... any genre .... for those who wish to study them ... for the purpose of being a better musician.

If someone DOESN'T want to study scalar music ... I see no problem with that at all.
... but don't I don't think we should dissuade those who do.

Edited by - pearcemusic on 11/20/2009 13:45:24

Nov 20, 2009 - 2:32:54 PM
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1058 posts since 12/18/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic

quote:
Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

I agree with John B on this. Learning scales are a beginning, but you don't want those exercises to creep into your playing. A typical scale exercise would be to start on the root note and play every scale step up to the octave, then back down. If music sounded like that it would be very boring!Applying that knowledge in a musical way is the pursuit of a lifetime



I agree with John B too Lawrence, but when you comprehensively study scales, with the goal of being musical .... you practice every possible combination of rhythms, feels, intervals, note groups, etc ... so that you are adept at playing thru WHATEVER you hear ... scale studies is MUCH more than 1 octave up and down rote memorization.



I get what you are saying, Doub but I don't think that that is what most banjo players are up for when they first take some interest in scales. They want to learn a few scales, then get on with learning tunes (that's what I think anyway). The kind of discipline you are talking about would be more typical of a jazz player - when I played horns I would do a lot of this.


The hard part is not to look at this and try to see how it can move you down the path of learning. In it's basic form we all need to know the melody of a tune to be able to accompany, ie chords or partispate in a break the melody or tune is usually found by trial and error picking out strings untill you come across the right note in this case you are trying to find the right notes within a scale how much easier would that be if you had a road map in your head of a set of notes and then you could move that road map up and down the fret board.
That road map becomes inbeded through practise in the same way that you know chords up and down the fretboard.

Nov 21, 2009 - 12:31:23 AM
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149 posts since 8/16/2005

This is a fantastically useful collection of answers. It should perhaps be a sticky somewhere; I know I'm going to refer to it often as I learn more and more about what the heck most of you are talking about.

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic
absolutely !! ... very good

yes .. I play in lots of situations every week that demand I be able to look at a piece of music ... or chart and "hear" it in my head before I ever touch the instrument. Sometimes the music is very complex ... and over my head/ears, but I find that the work I've done on scales/arpeggios really helps.

some people don't need it, for any number of reasons ... I do.



Well, Mr. Pearce, it was you that started me scaling up this mountain; if the climb drives me mad(der than I already am), it's on you! Kidding, but it was your blues scale chart and youtube video that got me all hip on learning how to use scales.

What Mike said about knowing the scales and converting from one key to another is very interesting to me; and useful, yes? I may need to pick up a book on music theory -- I can't believe I just wrote that. I'd like, however, that such a book would always use the banjo as the mode of instruction so I don't go too far off the farm. I've read a few mentioned here -- is there a beginner music theory banjo book you'd'all suggest?

Edited by - billyshake on 11/21/2009 00:37:10

Nov 21, 2009 - 12:54:04 AM
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1058 posts since 12/18/2005

I have used this begineers music theory site for my beginner guitar students but they are only aged from eight to ten but give it a try Good luck!
zebrakeys.com/lessons/beginner...ictheory/
Ian

Nov 21, 2009 - 12:59:37 AM
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1058 posts since 12/18/2005

I should point out the site is piano based but can be used for stringed instruments.
Ian

Nov 21, 2009 - 5:17:10 AM
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3383 posts since 10/10/2008

quote:
Originally posted by billyshake

This is a fantastically useful collection of answers. It should perhaps be a sticky somewhere; I know I'm going to refer to it often as I learn more and more about what the heck most of you are talking about.

quote:
Originally posted by pearcemusic
absolutely !! ... very good

yes .. I play in lots of situations every week that demand I be able to look at a piece of music ... or chart and "hear" it in my head before I ever touch the instrument. Sometimes the music is very complex ... and over my head/ears, but I find that the work I've done on scales/arpeggios really helps.

some people don't need it, for any number of reasons ... I do.



Well, Mr. Pearce, it was you that started me scaling up this mountain; if the climb drives me mad(der than I already am), it's on you! Kidding, but it was your blues scale chart and youtube video that got me all hip on learning how to use scales.

What Mike said about knowing the scales and converting from one key to another is very interesting to me; and useful, yes? I may need to pick up a book on music theory -- I can't believe I just wrote that. I'd like, however, that such a book would always use the banjo as the mode of instruction so I don't go too far off the farm. I've read a few mentioned here -- is there a beginner music theory banjo book you'd'all suggest?



it is a mountain, huh? Sorry to have placed you on that path ... you'll be cursing me at some point for sure.

I know others don't feel the way I do about it, but scale study is just another "leg" of the study of music ... it goes hand in hand with the study of harmony, composition, arranging, improv for sure. AND ... I actually have fun digging in to a new scale study, working hard at it, and seeing that study come out in my playing. I spend more time "improv-ing" with a scale study than doing an actual structured up and down an octave type of rote playing. It is not boring to me at all. I'm always playing a scale in the context of a tune or set of changes. There is always a musical point to the study.

I'm sure you've seen the theory lessons on my pics page ... I do it the way I do because I find it advantageous to know music principles in my head ... not on an instrument ... and be able to "hear" what I know, so that the theory comes alive in music in my head. THEN I translate it to the instrument.

I hope you find a theory curriculum that works for you .... let me know if I can help you.

Nov 21, 2009 - 6:51:13 AM
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79411 posts since 5/9/2007

I find myself able to hear in my head what chord I will need and how to alter it to fit
the melody...what chords will have an economical collection of melody notes...I call these my
"One stop shopping" chords.

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