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Aug 24, 2019 - 12:33:38 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

Scales, how important are they? I take it most people know their major scales, but then there are the other scales like blues scales, pentatonic scales, melodic scales, do any of you banjo players take an effort to memorize other scales?

Or is it more important to know a whole lot of possibilities of rolls and licks and how to fit them together?

Aug 24, 2019 - 4:39:18 AM
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181 posts since 6/25/2016

They aren't very important to me personally. I like to enjoy as much of my time on the banjo as possible. Nothing is more tedious and boring to me than learning scales. I could be learning a new tune or variation thereof instead.

Aug 24, 2019 - 4:45:34 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23177 posts since 8/3/2003

If you're a beginning banjo picker, I wouldn't worry about scales at this point. I'd worry about timing, technique and tone. Once you get the basics down and are comfortable with them, then if you want to delve into scales, go for it.

From my point of view, scales aren't important. Bluegrass banjo is more attuned to arpeggios; i.e., rolls than scales, so learning your basic rolls and various versions of them will, in my opinion, be more helpful than playing scales. Also, learning techniques of slides, hammers, pull offs, chokes and learning licks that can be inserted into chord specific places is more important than scales.

Having said that, I delved into scales a few years ago (after playing for years, not as a beginner) and learned all the major and minor scales. The pentatonic scales may help you with melody notes.

If you delve into melodic, then learning the various scales and modes may be of help in improvising.

Just my thoughts. Others may feel differently.

Aug 24, 2019 - 5:25:34 AM

3178 posts since 7/12/2006

As Texas banjo said, work on getting a solid right hand and basic chords down first. But if you want to know the neck inside and out, then scales and chord theory go hand in hand. Pat Cloud's Key to the 5 String Banjo is an excellent place to start for that.

Aug 24, 2019 - 5:45:48 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

What if you are like 8 years in? Haha

I have given learning other scales a crack in the past, but ye forgotten them as I didn't really put them to use much in my playing. It's one thing to practice them, but you gotta really use them to remember them.

Aug 24, 2019 - 6:18:54 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly

What if you are like 8 years in? Haha

I have given learning other scales a crack in the past, but ye forgotten them as I didn't really put them to use much in my playing. It's one thing to practice them, but you gotta really use them to remember them.


 

Is there much advantage to knowing all sorts of scales? Or is it mainly just head knowledge?

Aug 24, 2019 - 6:40:37 AM

R Buck

USA

2665 posts since 9/5/2006

I have taught scales to advancing players in the past. Not teaching as much these days and they are for clawhammer and told time styles as an aid in filling out tunes. As old time players retune more than bluegrass I teach how to find find scales. This is what you are writing about. Knowing the intervals for the different scales and starting points for different modes. As in the major scale W-W-1/2-W-W-W-1/2 with W = a whole step and 1/2 being a half step for the major scale.

Aug 24, 2019 - 7:10:37 AM

1200 posts since 2/10/2013

I think learning scales helps familiarize a player with the fingerboard. And, learning something easy like the minor pentatonic scales, enables one to easily add interesting flavor to some tunes, and is essential for tunes like "Man of Constant Sorrow", "Clinch Mtn Backstep".

If you want to do more than just memorize where your fingers go when you play.
a little time devoted to practicing scales will provide big "paybacks", especially when and if you want to play a tune melodically. Learn a little at a time, and try to understand what is happening musically.

Aug 24, 2019 - 7:52:19 AM

86 posts since 7/28/2019

Good video from Mike Hedding:

youtube.com/watch?v=Ilhmct4_smQ&t=82s

Aug 24, 2019 - 8:53:26 AM

3178 posts since 7/12/2006

the key is to transfer whats in your head to your fingers. and thats where practice comes in.
quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly
quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly

What if you are like 8 years in? Haha

I have given learning other scales a crack in the past, but ye forgotten them as I didn't really put them to use much in my playing. It's one thing to practice them, but you gotta really use them to remember them.


 

Is there much advantage to knowing all sorts of scales? Or is it mainly just head knowledge?


Edited by - stanleytone on 08/24/2019 08:54:07

Aug 24, 2019 - 10:34:53 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7078 posts since 8/20/2016
Online Now

Whether we know it or not, we are using scales all the time. Scales are the building blocks of melodies, harmonies and chords. If you are interested in single string, then I would say, memorizing a few different movable scale patterns will help a lot. It is not difficult to learn how to play the diatonic scale in G along with all it's modes and shift positions to every other key simply by memorizing the patterns. You will rarely zip through an entire scale or mode from G to G in a song, but if you like understanding how music works, they are essential. Pentatonic, Blues, Harmonic Minor, and Melodic Minor are important too, and with a tiny bit of work you can apply them to the fretboard. But you will probably never even think of them when you are playing the bluegrass favorites. If you enjoy picking, you can go a lifetime and never even think about scales even though you are using them without knowing it. If you like to create music, they can be very helpful and give you a lot of ideas and a lot of oddball chords can be created by learning how to harmonize the different scales. If you are interested, by all means, learn scales. If not, have fun picking.

Here's Bill Keith showing how to harmonize a scale in a wonder bread shirt.

Edited by - Mooooo on 08/24/2019 10:48:51

Aug 24, 2019 - 11:00:43 AM

2508 posts since 11/15/2003

There is a reason since the dawn of mankind's ability to comprehend that music has been taught in basic scales, and there is absolutely no way learning scales will hurt your Scruggs Style picking, in fact, many people have found there Scruggs style playing improved once they expanded there thinking and learned scales!

Warp!

Aug 24, 2019 - 12:15:58 PM

2252 posts since 9/12/2016

If I am playing some other genre that goes away from the major or relative minor I alter whatever note to make the correct chord or harmony. As far as calling them out as scales I just pick out the ''ones I want'' as I learn a song.I look at all 12 notes and use what the song calls for.Not saying mine is the only way or even correct.

Aug 25, 2019 - 10:07:20 AM
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116 posts since 6/22/2012

I think for single string style, you can use all sorts of scales and put them into application right away. Scales make single string style fun to practice.

Aug 25, 2019 - 10:24:21 AM
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2252 posts since 9/12/2016

with hammer ons . pull offs and melodics I get all 11 of the notes. My taste goes that way on faster tempos with my abilities.Slow stuff I can get a little clarity with single string.

Aug 25, 2019 - 2:02:01 PM
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116 posts since 6/22/2012

Single string work is good for developing your hands.
It can only make all else better.

It's not so bad, and a nice break from rolls.

Aug 25, 2019 - 2:26:15 PM

2252 posts since 9/12/2016

I beat my head against the fast single string wall many years,so all else is fixed as much as possible with it's magic charm fix. I still use it in little clips in fast songs and many times in slower ones.
To develop my hands I just learn other things that also help fix me. I was not dissing what you are liking ,go for it.I would love to here a good clear flop eared mule with some improv.

Aug 25, 2019 - 10:00:10 PM
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6551 posts since 2/14/2006

Even though I know how to figure out a scale and plant my fingers where the scale demands, I've never learned scales to memorize them. If I have to play a scale, I have to think about it first. Especially if I have to learn the name of it. And my playing shows I don't memorize scales. It's all Scruggs style these days. If I want to learn something like a Bela Fleck tune, I'm listening for how it sounds more than how to necessarily do the scales that make the riff in question. Then I slowly figure out how it would play out on the fretboard according to how I hear it. And I memorize the riff. So I guess I memorize riffs (which are scales, indirectly), and not pure scales themselves. I probably wouldn't recommend this to everyone. It would be nice to know more about scales, but I haven't time to learn those at this point.

Edited by - banjo1971 on 08/25/2019 22:01:30

Aug 26, 2019 - 12:28:32 AM
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JoeDownes

Netherlands

3143 posts since 2/7/2008

If you learned the G, C and D chords, you learned the G major scale.

Aug 26, 2019 - 1:04:58 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

quote:
Originally posted by banjo1971

Even though I know how to figure out a scale and plant my fingers where the scale demands, I've never learned scales to memorize them. If I have to play a scale, I have to think about it first. Especially if I have to learn the name of it. And my playing shows I don't memorize scales. It's all Scruggs style these days. If I want to learn something like a Bela Fleck tune, I'm listening for how it sounds more than how to necessarily do the scales that make the riff in question. Then I slowly figure out how it would play out on the fretboard according to how I hear it. And I memorize the riff. So I guess I memorize riffs (which are scales, indirectly), and not pure scales themselves. I probably wouldn't recommend this to everyone. It would be nice to know more about scales, but I haven't time to learn those at this point.


Hmm, "Spring Hill" by Dailey & Vincent has a pretty good one. Would you even recommend trying your favorite riffs in different keys?

Aug 26, 2019 - 1:07:35 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

I have honestly never tried much single string. Some pretty good suggestions on here so far though, man I wished I used banjo hangout more years ago.

Sep 3, 2019 - 12:30:02 PM

3420 posts since 5/6/2004

As I see it, there is a big difference between understanding scales and playing scales. Major, minor, 7th, 6th, diminished, augmented, etc. chords are all built from scales. A I-IV-V or a I-VI-II-V-I or a I-III-IV-I-V-I chord progression, for example, relates to the notes of that key's scale. The Circle of Fifths (and Circle of Fourths) track the growing number of sharps and flats in each successive key's major scale. All music theory deepens your understanding of why you're playing what you're playing.

However, my playing is all chord-based, not scale-based. I play from chords and chord shapes, and know how and when to add non-chord melody notes based on where they're located relative to the chord. I don't practice or play scales. Then again, I don't play melodic or single-string, just Scruggs. Perhaps if I played in these other styles, I would approach scales differently.

So for me: know scales, yes; play scales, no.

Sep 3, 2019 - 12:54:25 PM

6252 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi JK,
Scales are just learning music vocabulary. If you want to understand how music and melodies are created then scales are important. Most pro banjo players of the past did not learn banjo and guitar by learning scales, they learned how to listen, imitate and memorize melodies. 
I teach music theory every day at a University here in NYC and so Scales are required learning. Pentatonic scales or fragmented scales and the different minor scales are probably more important to hear and know about where the 1/2 steps fall since most Rock, Pop and Jazz use them far more than a Major scale. Interesting topic for sure. I have no practical theories or thoughts either way I guess...Jack

Originally posted by JKabilly

Scales, how important are they? I take it most people know their major scales, but then there are the other scales like blues scales, pentatonic scales, melodic scales, do any of you banjo players take an effort to memorize other scales?

Or is it more important to know a whole lot of possibilities of rolls and licks and how to fit them together?


Edited by - Jack Baker on 09/03/2019 12:59:16

Sep 4, 2019 - 5:33:09 AM

116 posts since 6/22/2012

Jack, to explore pentatonic improvisation on the banjo, would you suggest simpler modal tunes first?

I've heard some up the neck pentatonic breaks which sound fantastic, but it seems easier to work out with certain tunes over others.

Want to dig into this deeper on my own.

Edited by - sirtwangalot on 09/04/2019 05:33:42

Sep 4, 2019 - 1:29:25 PM

1998 posts since 4/5/2006

A Scruggs style banjo player can get by for decades without studying scales. That being said, it helps to know chords by their real name and where they are on the neck. You need to know the three major chord shapes & how to modify them to make minor, & 7th chords. You'll probably depend on the capo a lot to play in "odd ball" keys. And when you get very far up the neck, you need to think of those chords by their real names or you'll get lost.

This music makes use modes, OT & Gospel more so than BG. Modes are built on scales by shifting the intervals. Each mode has a name. Don't ask me to name them all but the internet is your friend.

In Mid Evil times, the churches were the only one's that understood music, and they used the modes to their advantage. When you become more familiar with them, you may feel they should have been called moods. But that would have let the cat out of the bag. ROF 

Sep 4, 2019 - 6:09:53 PM

stanger

USA

7217 posts since 9/29/2004

I agree with Jack.
When I learned to play back in 1963, there were no teaching manuals available except for a couple of chord books and Pete Seeger's "How To Play the 5-string Banjo".

Pete's book had most of the basic Scruggs rolls in one chapter, and I learned them all. And after learning all the basic key's chords, and their fingerings on the neck from a chord book, using the rolls and going from one chord fingering shape to the next shape up the neck, I got a handle on how to play basic bluegrass.

Once I got the chords down, I began picking them apart and learning the scales that are inside them, and that gave me the rest of the stuff I needed to play a solid melody surrounded by chord arpeggios.

The Scruggs style doesn't use scales very much, so a melody in the style isn't note for note to the fiddle, mando or guitar. The Scruggs style may sketch the melody line loosely, but to do it well is fiendishly difficult for beginners, as it all depends on precise syncopate timing and volume dynamics on the strings.

Earl did it well, but it's very tough to capture for a beginner. And most of the time, Earl was playing more rhythm that melody in all his bands, throwing licks in, playing counterpoint, or adding harmony to the melody line of a song that was played on the fiddle, the dobro, or a mandolin.

If you want to play all the notes that are in the melody of a bluegrass or fiddle tune, learning scales is a must. Learning them from the first also makes learning the melodic style much, much, easier for a beginner.

The Scruggs style is so grounded in playing a solid rhythm role that learning it well actually makes learning the melodic style much harder. It's counter-intuitive to the Scruggs style.

When I was teaching, I found that teaching the melodic style to a beginner first made learning 3-finger much easier. Beginners all want to play the melody they hear, and the melodic style provides the melody to be played completely.

Since the melodic style is grounded in the Scruggs roll patterns, the beginner learns both at the same time while making music that isn't dependent on Scrugg's masterful, subtle timing and expression.

Using Scruggs in backup can follow. Learned in that order, switching from one to the other is no problem.
Knowing both frees the player up so much that about any song a player wants to learn can be played on the 5-string. Once a player knows the scales, it's the complete package.

The other big advantage to learning scales is they work just as well in the clawhammer style as they do with the 3-finger style. They'll work with 2-finger playing too. Forky Deer will sound the same on the banjo as it does on the fiddle in any of them.
regards,
stanger

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