How and where to apply the scales

In the article about target notes, we say that a solo must be created from the chords of the song, not only from the key (tonality). The truth, however, is that the vast majority of musicians and improvisers see nothing but the key.

They just want the answer to the famous question: “What key is this song in?” And that’s it: they make a solo using a major scale, a relative minor and pentatonic.

To break this “mental block”, we show that we can explore each chord individually in the song, working on the chord notes. But we were still stuck with natural scales. Now it’s time to explore this concept, going beyond the basic scales. The time has come to learn how to use alternative scales!

Okay, you should already have in mind that a certain scale can be used when the key of the song was generated from it. In other words, you know that you can use the scale of the tonality in question. Great, that’s a fact. However, it is not the only resource we have!

Other resources

The other scales, in addition to the natural ones, could almost never be used if we were only thinking about keys, after all the key of a song is 99% of the times natural. Therefore, our approach will now shift away from “tonality” and focus on the characteristics of each chord, to find out what we can do and what scale we can play.

Some chords, especially the tension chords, allow many outside notes on top of them, because their structure and harmonic feel make these variations possible.

In the next topics here on the website, we will see that the most explored chord for outside notes is the dominant chord. On top of it, we can play many scales. And practically every song has a dominant chord. That is, you will always have the option of playing with alternative scales! That’s good news, isn’t it ?! This means that your solo will have more of a “kick” to it!

In short, we will not invalidate the concept of keys, on the contrary, it will always be useful and essential. Let’s just move on to other resources, thinking about chords.

Continue here in the Simplifying Theory website and find out which scales you can use over which chords. You will see that there is no mystery to it: we have many simple resources to apply with surprising results. Study each topic carefully and practice a lot. Remember that there is no point in storing knowledge in your head if it doesn’t come out at your fingertips. Above all, make music!

Go to: Harmonic minor scale

Back to: Module 9