Chord Scales Learn the function of the individual notes in scales by matching them to the chords in your favorite songs
ost guitarists learn the fingerboard through scale practice. If you’ve done very much of this you’ve probably realized that, while scales are great finger exer-
cises and give you a basic sense of where the notes are on the fingerboard, if you don’t combine your finger work with some mental muscle you’re not going to know how to use those scales when it comes time to making music. (You’ve probably noticed that very few pieces of music consist of long strings of scales.) So, in addition to practicing scales, it’s good to remind yourself of the function of the individual notes of those scales. One way to do this is by practicing “chord scales”—the appropriate scale for each chord in a song’s progression. In this Weekly Workout we’ll do that with the chords to the first eight bars of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves.” Now before you jazzophobes turn the page, let me point out that the first half of this progression is basically Am–D–G–C (a vi–V–I–VI progression in the key of G) and the second half is a ii–V–i in the key of Em, two basic progressions nearly anyone can relate to.
WEEK FOUR We could continue our progression of scales by starting the next batch of chord scales on the seventh and running up to the 13th, but I’ll let you do that yourself if you want. In this workout we’re going to use some of this chord-scale work to create a few single-note lines that would work as solo lines to “Autumn Leaves.” The first half of the first measure of Week Four’s workout is a motif that begins with a slightly syncopated three-note ascending scale fragment starting on the third of the chord, and this is followed in the second half of the measure with a three-note descending scale fragment that begins on the ninth. This motif is repeated for the D7 chord, although you’ll notice that the descending scale fragment is an octave lower. Measures 3 and 4 continue the rhythmic motif and basic idea but start the ascending phrase on the fifth and the descending phrase on the 11th. Measures 5, 6, and 8 begin the first phrase on the third and the second on the ninth, but the rhythmic idea has changed, and measure 7 begins the first phrase on the fifth and the second on the 11th with the same rhythmic idea as measures 5, 6, and 8. This may seem like a complicated, overly intellectual way to create simple melodic lines, and it is. But, once again, doing this consciously is a way to keep from starting every melody on basic chord tones like the root and third.
EXTRA CREDIT The workout in Week Four is too mathematical sounding to be something you’d want to play all the way through in a solo. So this extra credit uses some ideas derived from chord scales but varies them enough to sound more like real solo lines. Example 1 consists of some scale-based lines that begin on the third, seventh, fifth, or 11th, as indicated between the staffs. Once you’ve learned the function of the notes in the scales you’re playing, you can use this knowledge in numerous ways. For example, suppose you’ve come up with the melodic line notated as the first two bars of Example 2. Do a simple analysis of the notes in the melody (shown between staffs) and you’ll see that this melody consists of the root, seventh, third, ninth, fifth, and 11th of Am7, followed by the third and ninth of D7. If you want to re-create this melody over different chords, you just need to play the appropriate intervals when you go to the next chord, as I’ve done in measures 3–4 over the Gmaj7 and Cmaj7 chords,
measures 5–6 over the F#m7b5 and B7b9 chords, and measures 7–8 over the Em7 chord. You’ll notice that I’ve shifted octaves a few times and changed the rhythm of the phrases to make them a little more varied. The only modification I’ve made in the order of notes is on the Gmaj7 chord, where I swapped the fifth and 11th so the melody didn’t linger on the 11th of the Gmaj7 chord. I hope these exercises not only give your fingers and brain a workout, but also give you some ideas for creating solo lines. Try this with some of the other songs and chord progressions you play and your knowledge of the fingerboard should increase exponentially. I hope these exercises not only give your fingers and brain a workout, but also give you some ideas for creating solo lines. Try this with some of the other songs and chord progressions you play and your knowledge of the fingerboard should increase exponentially. 2.