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The 'Blues Scale'

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murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 13 Mar 98 - 07:45 AM
nobbler 13 Mar 98 - 02:39 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 13 Mar 98 - 06:29 PM
nobbler 14 Mar 98 - 06:55 AM
nobbler 14 Mar 98 - 07:00 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 14 Mar 98 - 08:27 PM
The Sandman 15 Jun 09 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,lox 15 Jun 09 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 15 Jun 09 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Jun 09 - 02:34 PM
The Sandman 15 Jun 09 - 03:27 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 15 Jun 09 - 04:19 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 15 Jun 09 - 04:25 PM
GUEST,leeneia 16 Jun 09 - 09:29 AM
Lox 16 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM
greg stephens 16 Jun 09 - 09:46 AM
M.Ted 16 Jun 09 - 11:24 AM
Will Fly 16 Jun 09 - 11:52 AM
bseed(charleskratz) 16 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM
Lox 16 Jun 09 - 04:09 PM
greg stephens 16 Jun 09 - 04:28 PM
Lox 16 Jun 09 - 04:49 PM
guitaaress 16 Jun 09 - 07:32 PM
Jack Campin 16 Jun 09 - 08:08 PM
Bobert 16 Jun 09 - 08:19 PM
M.Ted 17 Jun 09 - 03:13 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 17 Jun 09 - 05:14 PM
Tootler 17 Jun 09 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 18 Jun 09 - 04:52 AM
Will Fly 18 Jun 09 - 05:07 AM
greg stephens 18 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM
Lox 18 Jun 09 - 08:00 AM
Bobert 18 Jun 09 - 08:13 AM
Lox 18 Jun 09 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 18 Jun 09 - 10:51 AM
greg stephens 18 Jun 09 - 10:59 AM
greg stephens 18 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM
Jack Campin 18 Jun 09 - 01:24 PM
Goose Gander 18 Jun 09 - 01:37 PM
Stringsinger 18 Jun 09 - 06:42 PM
Jack Campin 18 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM
Lox 18 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM
Goose Gander 19 Jun 09 - 11:23 AM
M.Ted 19 Jun 09 - 02:23 PM
GUEST 19 Jun 09 - 06:57 PM
GUEST,lox 19 Jun 09 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,lox 19 Jun 09 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,lox 19 Jun 09 - 07:16 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jun 09 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,lox 20 Jun 09 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,lox 20 Jun 09 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,lox 20 Jun 09 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,lox 20 Jun 09 - 08:02 PM
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Subject: The Blues Scale
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 13 Mar 98 - 07:45 AM

There has been an interesting thread runing about the notes and chords of a song, but it is getting long, so I won't tack this to the end.

There was a request for sites where pentatonic tunes could be downloaded. This led to a discussion about pentatonic scales and John (of Brisbane) claimed that the blues scale is pentatonic.

I looked at a few and saw that they were made up of more than five notes, so I said the blues scale wasn't.

However, I was recently reading some guitar lessons online from OLGA, and the author claimed the blues scale in C is.

C, Eb, F, G, Bb, C

but that there are other notes added for "spice".

When you think of it, the usual (diatonic) key of C has seven notes, but others are sometimes thrown in for spice too. Like G#, for example. The difference is that this extra note is named by a modification of the name of one of the existing notes.

A person from mars who only had the five blues notes might have used C## for what we call D, and C### for what we call D#, etc. (I hope that when the aliens arrive, we will find that they are well tempered.)

So you can't count notes, just as you can't say a piece is not in C major just because it has an occassional G# in it. How, then, do you tell if a tune is in a pentatonic scale?

Murray


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Subject: RE: The blues scale
From: nobbler
Date: 13 Mar 98 - 02:39 PM

This may start a new thread Murray as my browser wont allow the "quote" marks in "blues scale" on the reply for some reason, -sorry.

You might be confusing the interchange between certain scales that we often use. Think of the blues scale as a pentatonic minor "plus."

It is very similar to the Pentatonic Minor scale except that it has a passing note inbetween the fourth and fifth. The passing note would be an augmented fourth, and it is rarely used as a note to resolve a phrase. Usually, it is used to sort of slur the shift from the fourth to the fifth, and vice versa. Technically this scale could also include passing notes at the major second and major third.

Here's the contruction:

(W+H)-W-H-H-(W+H)-W

W=Whole, H=Half, (W+H)=One and a half or three frets.

No second, flat third, major fourth and sharp fourth, no sixth, and flat seventh.

The pentatonic minor on the other hand would be;

(W+H)-W-W-(W+H)-W

No second, flat third, flat fifth, no sixth, and flat seventh.

And just for fun, the pentatonic Major;

W-W-(W+H)-W-(W+H)

No fourth, and no seventh.

As you can see, the pentatonic minor is near on idetentical with the exception of the one passing note. From experience I can tell you, if you are soloing and are not too sure, use the pentatonic minor, it will work! The use of the passing note may disrupt the feel of sound of the piece if you throw it in where it doesn't really fit. On the other hand, if you can use it, the one note itself can REALLY make a difference if you use it in the right place. :)

You are indeed correct, the blues scale has a six notes in it's construction, therefore making it 'hex-atonic' as opposed to 'pentatonic', unless of course - anybody else knows different :-)

nobbler (Always open to debate)


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Subject: RE: The
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 13 Mar 98 - 06:29 PM

Nobber, I purposely brought in the exchanges of the scales we usually use to try to make the point that the "ic" of a scale can't be determined by looking at the score.

For example if I see a piece of music with no key signatures and if when I sing or play the final cadence it lands on C. Then I say the key is in C Major.

I was wondering if there is a similar way to tell a tune is in a pentatonic scale. I think from what you say, it would be hard, because the scale allows so many variations--a bit minor, more minor, very minor, minor-as-hell.

Murray


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Subject: RE: The blues scale
From: nobbler
Date: 14 Mar 98 - 06:55 AM

Ok. There are questions you are asking, which I think are a litte invalid.

First of all, yes there is a way. I'll try my damdest to explain it in laymans terms, but no promises :)

Okay, let's quote some of the previous;

murray; << For example if I see a piece of music with no key signatures >>

If you are looking at a bare music score (with no guitar chord pictures above the stave), it WILL indicate the key signature. If there are no flats or sharps indicated, it is quite simply in C. If a melody was in the key of F# and there were no sharps or flats indicated, it is not written correctly. (I don't know how advanced your music theory is, but believe me, the above is correct).

Now we have that out of the way let's move on.

You said, <>

Well, instead of asking that question, try asking this one instead. <> - A more valid question.

A melody isn't written in a scale, it's written in a key. That key will utilize scales for it's melody, and this is where the clarity of your initial question becomes hazy. The melody utilizes a scale and is not written in a scale.

Now we are edging closer to our answer.

Given the fact the our key signiture is x, we can look at the notes within. Let's say that x were to = C. If the flat third, major fourth and flat seventh were exclusively featured, we could say that the melody is utilizing the pentatonic minor scale. However, if the melody utilized the above notes PLUS the augmented 4th (flat 5th), then we are no longer utilizing the pentatonic minor, we are utilizing the blues scale. The difference being, we have the extra note that differentiates the blues scale from the pentatonic minor.

There are many different scales, and the initial note can often be the factor that determines which scale you are actually playing, but no matter what the key, the scale will often change throughout the piece, and only experience of recognition will tell you what scale you should be playing at any particular part of the melody.

Given that music is all too often predictable, it's fair to say that if a melody utilizes a particular scale initially, it will utilize that same scale ultimately. :-)

I'm hoping you follow this, I will add to it if there's any part you don't follow.


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Subject: RE: The blues scale
From: nobbler
Date: 14 Mar 98 - 07:00 AM

(Cripes, the above messed up on the input for some reason, re-read this one it will make more sense :)

Ok. There are questions you are asking, which I think are a litte invalid.

First of all, yes there is a way. I'll try my damdest to explain it in laymans terms, but no promises :)

Okay, let's quote some of the previous;

murray; << For example if I see a piece of music with no key signatures >>

If you are looking at a bare music score (with no guitar chord pictures above the stave), it WILL indicate the key signature. If there are no flats or sharps indicated, it is quite simply in C. If a melody was in the key of F# and there were no sharps or flats indicated, it is not written correctly. (I don't know how advanced your music theory is, but believe me, the above is correct).

Now we have that out of the way let's move on.

You said, << I was wondering if there is a similar way to tell a tune is in a pentatonic scale >>

Well, instead of asking that question, try asking this one instead. << I was wondering if there is a similar way to tell if a tune UTILIZES a pentatonic scale >> - A more valid question.

A melody isn't written in a scale, it's written in a key. That key will utilize scales for it's melody, and this is where the clarity of your initial question becomes hazy. The melody utilizes a scale and is not written in a scale.

Now we are edging closer to our answer.

Given the fact the our key signiture is x, we can look at the notes within. Let's say that x were to = C. If the flat third, major fourth and flat seventh were exclusively featured, we could say that the melody is utilizing the pentatonic minor scale. However, if the melody utilized the above notes PLUS the augmented 4th (flat 5th), then we are no longer utilizing the pentatonic minor, we are utilizing the blues scale. The difference being, we have the extra note that differentiates the blues scale from the pentatonic minor.

There are many different scales, and the initial note can often be the factor that determines which scale you are actually playing, but no matter what the key, the scale will often change throughout the piece, and only experience of recognition will tell you what scale you should be playing at any particular part of the melody.

Given that music is all too often predictable, it's fair to say that if a melody utilizes a particular scale initially, it will utilize that same scale ultimately. :-)

I'm hoping you follow this, I will add to it if there's any part you don't follow.


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Subject: RE: The Blues Scale
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 14 Mar 98 - 08:27 PM

About the key signature, nobbler. The keys of A Minor also have no sharps or flats in the signature. There are various other scales, lydian, mixolydian, etc, That is why I added the extra condition about listening to where it is rooted.

You are right about chords. They will pin down the scale. Let me be more precise (another way of saying "change the rules in mid-stream :) When I used the word "tune". I meant just one stave of music with the melody written out.

The above may seem like a funny restriction, but that is where the question arose. I looked at a few scores in my Dover anthology of slave songs, and saw that they used more than five notes. The "scores" consisted of just melody lines and words. I concluded that the tunes were not pentatonic by counting notes used.

Later I thought that even our familiar (Major, minor) scales used more than seven notes. In a well-tempered situation, our notation allows us to write twelve, but in a non-well-tempered situation we can write any number (C, C# C##, etc.) That led me to believe that I was more than a bit naive thinking I could determine a pentatonic scale by just counting notes.

I think I can learn to recognize the verious pentatonic scales when I hear them played. But that is not the same as recognizing if tunes are played in these scales. My question was to see if there was a way to look at a tune in written notation, and hear some or part of it to discover if it is in a pentatonic scale.

Murray


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 12:54 PM

THE Blues scale,can be used as a form of improvisation against a chord.against an A MAJOR CHORD,you could use a c nat d d# e gnat a.there is also a scale called the mixy blues scale,which use the above scale PLUS C#.
The pentatonic a major scale,is a b c# e f#,and has been used in country music to improvise,against a chord.and then there is the pentatonic minor scale.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 01:09 PM

Using terms like "pentatonic" to describe the blues scale can be useful but not strictly accurate.

The actual original blues scale comes from Africa. It neither has a major nor a minor 3rd but an ambiguous not somewhere between the two.

We can usefully compare the blues scale with the pentatonic, but we cannot 'define' it in those terms.

By its very nature it is ambiguous.

So the idea that it is a pentatonic with "other notes added for "spice"." is inaccurate.

A better descriptor would be that it is similar to a pentatonic scale but there are key differences.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 02:02 PM

A witty fellow, New York club owner and radio commentator - ~ Eddie Condon (1905-1973 -banjo/guitar Chicago/Diseland style) quipped:

"Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread--without it, it's flat. ..

. They flat their fifths......................................

we drink ours."

~ Eddie Condon (1905-1973)

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 02:34 PM

"How, then, do you tell if a tune is in a pentatonic scale?"

I have heard (and read) more than one definition of 'pentatonic.'

1. Any five notes you care to name.

2. The black notes, most easily seen on a piano.

3. The first five notes of a major scale, minus any sharps or flats that may be in it. (This seems to be for church bells.)
========
I don't think there is such a thing as a blues scale. My dictionary says that a blues song has:

1. duple rhythm

2. uncertainty of scale between the major and minor third. (For example, a song in C might have an E, the major third *, in one place and an E-flat, the minor third, in another.

3. similar uncertainty may occur for the seventh note of the scale.

So if a song uses C D E E-flat, F, G A, B, and B-flat, we'd be hard put to say that it is using a certain scale.

* a blue note is an unexpected minor interval in an otherwise major song.
======
4. the final characteristic is syncopation.

For me, the main characteristic of the blues is the creative use of half-steps, usually lowered half-steps, to create a mood of sadness. I think this fits pretty well with the dictionary definition.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 03:27 PM

the blues scale,is the one I referred to.its called the usage of language.
Blues scale
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The term blues scale is used to describe a few scales with differing number of pitches and related characteristics.

The hexatonic, or six note, blues scale consists of the minor pentatonic scale plus the ♯4 or ♭5 degree[1][2][3]. A major feature of the blues scale is the use of blue notes,[4] however, since blue notes are considered alternative inflections, a blues scale may be considered to not fit the traditional definition of a scale.[5] At its most basic, a single version of this "blues scale" is commonly used over all changes (or chords) in a twelve bar blues progression.[6] Likewise, in contemporary jazz theory, its use is commonly based upon the key rather than the individual chord.[2]

Blues scale as minor pentatonic plus flat-5th/sharp-4th

The heptatonic, or seven note, conception of the "blues scale" is as a diatonic scale (a major scale) with lowered third, fifth, and seventh degrees[7] and blues practice is derived from the "conjunction of 'African scales' and the diatonic western scales".[8] Steven Smith argues that, "to assign blues notes to a 'blues scale' is a momentous mistake, then, after all, unless we alter the meaning of 'scale'.[9]

Blues scale as diatonic scale with lowered 3rd, 5th, and 7th degrees

Despite this, an essentially nine note blues scale is defined by Benward and Saker[10] as a chromatic variation of the major scale featuring a flat third and seventh degrees which, "alternating with the normal third and seventh scale degrees are used to create the blues inflection. These 'blue notes' represent the influence of African scales on this music."
it may not be in your dictionary,but if enough guitarists and musicians/guitar tutors are using it ,it exists.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 04:19 PM

THis is interesting discussion which would be incredibly useful if it had sound files to illustrate all the possibilities.

Charles


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 04:25 PM

(Hint, hint).

Charles


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 09:29 AM

'it may not be in your dictionary,but if enough guitarists and musicians/guitar tutors are using it ,it exists.'

Well, 'Captain,' just because I quoted my dictionary doesn't mean that I think it knows the only possible way to play the blues. I didn't say that, so don't put words in my mouth.

By the way, the definition you had just quoted was the same as what the dictionary said.

I believe that there are certain musical features which make a tune bluesy, but there's also creativity. Blues musicians (and other musicians) will forever be doing new things that stump the musicologists.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM

"I don't think there is such a thing as a blues scale."

Yes there definitely is - see my post above

"a blue note is an unexpected minor interval in an otherwise major song."

Please refer again to my post above.

These ways of understanding the blues scale are based on a european understanding which isn't strictly compatible with the blues scale origins.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 09:46 AM

People's statements on this type of subject often reflect the very narrow range of music they are familiar with. This is inevtable, who has the time to listen, and think seriously, about all the music in the world? So we often hear things that seem superficially sensible at the time, but become less so later. For example, a statement such as "the blues scale is pentataonic" is obviously untrue. Loads of blues don't use pentatonic scales. Some do. Much like Scottish folk music.Or English folk music.
There is also nothing specifically bluesy, or African, about varying the third or seventh in a scale within one song.This is a widespread practise in many cultures' music. Tunes with variable thirds don't have to sound bluesy. Likewise blusey tunes don't have to have variable thirds. As a matter of fact, I would say most traditional English singers used variable thirds and sevenths. They just did it in a different way from blues singers. A L Loyd discusses this at some length in "Folk Song in England".
Any statements about flattened fifths also need to be viewed with suspicion. Really noticeably flattened fifths are extremely uncommon in early blues(though they became more trendy as jazz modernised).
As with most folk music topics, there is more to this than meets the ear!


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 11:24 AM

Blues scales are used for improvisation, which is something that doesn't happen in Western Classical Music, and so Common Classical Music Theory isn't very helpful for defining them, as was pointed out above.

When the idea of "pentatonic scale" is used in connection with blues, rather than meaning that there are just five notes, it is a way of trying to explain that there is no shift of tonal center like there is in diatonic music--which is to say that the solo sounds like is is happening within one chord, never mind the odd bent sounds tossed in here or there--

Of course, it doesn't always work like that--


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 11:52 AM

M.Ted:
improvisation, which is something that doesn't happen in Western Classical Music

Well... up to a point, Lord Copper.

Basso Continuo - usually known as Continuo - was a bass line played by, say, a harpsichord player, who would then fill in the overlaying chord notes, either by arrangement or through improvisation.

One of the frustrations felt by Samuel Pepys, who was an avid musician, was that he couldn't work out the continuo - i.e. he couldn't do the improvisation needed.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM

I recall the scene in Amadeus where Mozart embellishes a tune written by the Emperor--it sure looked like improvisation to me. Not bluesy improv, of course.

Charles


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 04:09 PM

Basso continuo is just chord symbols written the baroque way. It isn't really improvisation in the same sense as Jazz improvisation.

You take your bass note and you recognize which inversion you are in by the figure under it and you play the chord.

Once you know your figures it is just a matter of familiarity.

Mozart had a talent for remembering what people had played. The film is a dramatization.

In baroque scores where "improvisation" breaks were included in the score, the "improvised" parts tended to be prewritten and were not spontaneous inventions as is the tradition in Jazz.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 04:28 PM

Improvisation was ubiquitous in classical music, though it isn't nowadays.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 04:49 PM

"Improvisation was ubiquitous in classical music"

Meaning it was everywhere?

I am aware of early baroque and rennaissance ambiguities regarding use of the leading note in early minor tonalities, but beyond that I don't really know of improvisation beign prevalent.

As I understand it, the western tradition has been written pretty strictly since medieval times.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: guitaaress
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 07:32 PM

Most blues players when soloing will usually go straight to the relative minor scale. So when playing in the key "C" a lot of the soloing will be in the minor pentatonic "Am" Playing in key "A" soloing is done mostly over minor pentatonic "F#m" simply playing pentatonic scales of C is incredibly restricting and lacks the "tension" that makes blues exciting, even if you add those extra notes.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 08:08 PM

Maybe the original poster could clarify what was actually wanted?

What is usually called the "blues scale" or the scales actually used in blues? As several people have pointed out the two don't have much to do with each other. Sound file examples of the one will not relate much to the other.

Figured bass and improvisation: there was an illuminating thread on this in rec.music.early recently, centred around a text by CPE Bach which goes into the same sort of detail on how to improvise over a figured bass that you get in jazz texts about how to solo over chords. They weren't very far apart at all. Almost all church organists have always learned how to improvise. Both JS Bach and Olivier Messiaen were famous for it. In Bach's case, as much so in his lifetime as for his written-down compositions, and in Messiaen's case, he had to tell performers would they please NOT play his stuff as he did himself but use the printed scores instead - he was incapable of playing his own music without changing it on the fly.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Bobert
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 08:19 PM

Okay, I am a blues player... That's about all I play and folks who heard me will tell ya'll that I can sho nuff play the blues...

If ya'll gotta think that hard about playin' the blues then ya'll in a million years will never play the blues... Blues ain't hard... It's all purdy much 1-4-5 with a few garnishments for interest... There ain't no "blues key"... That is bull... You can play the blues in any key...

And when ya'll go to the hillcountry in Mississippi all bets are off... This is an area where the blues came from... It and the Delta just west toward the Mississippi River... In these parts, where Mississippi Fred McDowell was so popular, inspite of being from Tennessee, he laid down the foundation where the emphasis was on the 1 chord... Even today lotta songs based on the 1 chord and at best the 1 with a little 4 chord... Mean ass blues... The late R.L. Burnside played lotta 1 chord stuff... Ain't nuthin' wrong with that... I tell ya what.... I'm going to the Sadalia Bles Festival next month for the Blues Challenge, where I placed 2nd last year outta 8 bands, and I'm gonna end my set with an R.l. Burnside song, "Miss Maybelle" and it's basicly a north Mississippi hill country 1 chord song and if I win it will be because of that song and not the fancier stuff will all the garnishement...

Now this ain't been to technical but, as a true bluesman, this is the real deal and trying to intellectualize it ain't possible... It's 1-4-5 or 1-4 plus garnishing... And the garnishing can be very interesting, too...

Bobert (alias Sidewalk Bob)


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 03:13 AM

In case no one noticed, this thread was started eleven years ago.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 05:14 PM

In most guitar music books these days,the blues scale is basically the minor pentaonic scale with the addition of a flattened 5th. Interestingly, not that long ago, a number of blues guitar books would have called the minor pent scale "the blues scale". Of course, to confuse matters more, B B King never relies on just the notes of "the blues scale" as he uses major 2nds and 6ths notes a lot.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 07:58 PM

Basso continuo is just chord symbols written the baroque way. It isn't really improvisation in the same sense as Jazz improvisation.

You take your bass note and you recognize which inversion you are in by the figure under it and you play the chord.

Once you know your figures it is just a matter of familiarity.


And how does that differ in any fundamental way from a jazz musician improvising a solo over a chord sequence? After all, what the jazz musician is doing is using the chords to select the notes he is playing. The two don't seem that different to me.

In baroque scores where "improvisation" breaks were included in the score, the "improvised" parts tended to be prewritten and were not spontaneous inventions as is the tradition in Jazz.

Not true. Baroque musicians were expected to improvise and embellish the music as they played. This certainly continued into Mozart's era where cadenzas in a concerto were expected to be improvised by the musician. It was a point in the composition where the musician could demonstrate his virtuosity. Written out cadenzas are a relatively modern feature because the training of classical musicians over time came to discourage improvisation so they no longer developed the skill.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 04:52 AM

"Classical" improvisation, of course, existed way beyond Mozart; indeed, Franz Liszt just might be the greatest improvisor in history. He would greatly annoy composers by playing their composition as written, the first time through, but then building improvisation upon improvisation thereafter.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 05:07 AM

Hi Bobert - good to see a "back to basics" post on this thread! I liked the bit about the "garnishing can be very interesting too"...

I was having a good trawl through some Blind Blake stuff last night - trying to get the ageing fingers round some of it - and I can tell you his garnishings were very interesting indeed. I only have the rest of my life left to get to grips with it all!


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM

Lots of people theorise about which notes are in this "blues scale".As many have pointed out, the actual blues-singers and guitarists didn't necessarily adhere to this so-called scale at all.Practice has a way of confounding theory.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 08:00 AM

Tootler,

Interesting post. I am particularly interested to know where I can find examples or other evidence of Improvisation on Mozart cadenzas and of Baroque improvisation as you described in your post.

I am always hhungry for new musical experience and knowledge so would be genuinely grateful for the above.


On the subject of Basso continuo versus Jazz improvisation. there are three practical differences which are significant.

The first is the practice in Jazz of imrovising a seperate and distinct melody from the written melody of the tune. Even in Jazz this didn't occur straight away, as early Jazz improvisation centred around embellishing the written melody and improvisation developed from that until the time of coleman hawkins when jazz musicians began to improvise around the harmonies.

In the case of samuel pepys, I imagine that - while a useful diarist - he wasn't the most committed musician and was probably having trouble playing the chords in the same way that many people who don't really play the guitar find it hard to remember chord shapes or to keep up with chord changes in a song.

Basso continuo is very specific. It is more specific than a chord chart used by a folk or a jazz musician. It tells you which note is in the root, it tells you whiich notes to suspend and when and it tells you when to use passing notes such as passing 7ths as part of V I cadences.

The only freedom given is that to decide which way round the remaining chord tones are stacked.

So in a 6 chord (first inversion) you know that the 3rd of the chord is in the bass, and it is up to you to decide which way round the root and the fifth are voiced.

So the second difference is that In jazz, an accompanist is free to voice chords as he chooses - i.e - he can choose whatever inversion he likes, he can decide to use a pedal note, he can use rootless voicings, he can play a sympathetic countermelody ... the world is his oyster.

To do this he must of course have a good knowledge of counterpoint and in that respect there is a similarity.

But rhythmically he has more freedom to deviate and syncopate, harmonically he has the freedom to alter chords, add suspensions, extend chords, arpeggiate chiords, substitute them for a range of alternatives, plane through diatonically sumpathetic chords, embellish static harmony (CESH) and where appropriate to reharmonize, etc ... things which a baroque musician was not given the freedom to do even if we assume that the instrumentalists had the practical knowledge to improvise freely in the way that Jazz musicians do today.

Finally, the third difference is that in a band context where say a brass section is serving he purpose of accompanist, such as in Jerry mulligans band where there were no chording instruments like Piano and guitar, improvisation occurs in each instrumentalists choice of which melodic line to take through the harmonies.

This is something which definitely did not occur in Baroque music.

In Baroque music, independant contrapuntal harmony was written by the composer for individual voices to follow.

In jazz, horn players in horn sections must apply principles of counterpoint there and then to create smooth movement between chords. In situations where musicians haven't played together before, this is achieved by good communication and good practical application of principles of counterpoint and the harmonies arre improvised.

As with Chording instruments, the players are free to alter chords, add extensions, suspend notes etc according to their preference rather than as prescribed by a figured bass.

The principles of Jazz harmony are based on the principles of counterpoint as discovered in the Baroque era, but the scope for improvisation between the two does not compare.

So while figured bass is extremely specific and prescriptive, chord symbols allow for a significantly more arbitrary interpretation.

Am I right to suggest that we should be careful to distinguish between embellishment and improvisation?


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Bobert
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 08:13 AM

Will Fly,

If ya' like figurin' out Blind Blake then try a little Skip James as a diversion... "Hard Time Killing Floor"... Oh, yeah...

B~


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 09:13 AM

I understand That there are other cultures that bend notes, but in the context of American Blues, it was the African tradition of having an ambiguous note somewhere between the minor and major 3rd that was important.

It was the African tradition of vocal hollering that blues is a direct descendant of. The flexibility and improvisational freedom of Blues tonality comes from Africa.

Ghana

Blues


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 10:51 AM

Arab music, in many ways, seems the mother of lots of music. Certainly, Arab music must have influenced the music of Africa - like it did the music of India. All those "inbetween" blues notes are to be found in Arab music.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 10:59 AM

Lox: You say "Even in Jazz this didn't occur straight away, as early Jazz improvisation centred around embellishing the written melody and improvisation developed from that until the time of coleman hawkins when jazz musicians began to improvise around the harmonies."

I don't think this really stands up.Have a listen to some pre-Hawkins jazz. Eg Louis Armstrong Hot Five, or King Oliver. You will hear plenty of stuff being played that isn't "embellishing the written melody". Of course, it might be argued that any given solo wasn't improvised. Well, maybe so, but they were certainly constructed round the harmonic structure, not round the melody. Just take "Savoy Blues" by the Armstrong Hot Five. The Ory, Johnson and Armstrong solos are built on the 12 bar chord sequence, not on the melody.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM

Here is Savoy Blues to see what I mean. One could choose hundreds of other examples.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 01:24 PM

There is no one "African scale" - Africa probably has a greater variety of indigenous scale structures than any other region of the world (with most cultures having more than one, as exemplified in hardware by the kora, which usually has two banks of strings so it can play in two different tonalities alternately). And most of Africa (including a sizable part of the area where American slaves were taken from) was not significantly influenced by Arabic music.

Perhaps the implication is that if you throw together a whole bunch of people whose musical systems have almost nothing in common, anything can happen.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Goose Gander
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 01:37 PM

"Perhaps the implication is that if you throw together a whole bunch of people whose musical systems have almost nothing in common, anything can happen"

Nothing in common?


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 06:42 PM

Actually with due respect to Condon, flat fives are used in the blues scale. (He was of course referring to the dominant seventh flat five chord used in be-bop sometimes used as an augmented 11th or 13th, inasmuch as the aug. 11 is a sharp four enharmonic to a flat five.)
It has to be said that those chords emanated from blues albeit a more recent sophisticated harmonic development.

Condon was also quoted as telling Hugh Pannasie that his view of American jazz was too narrow and that he didn't know what it was because he was French. "We don't tell him how to step on a grape".

This scale was originally an untempered scale probably emanating from the West Coast of Africa. It was adopted in rural counties by African-Americans in the South who carried their heritage with them.

Much is made of the theory of the blues scale but for every example of its use, there are blues singers and players who don't always adhere to it.

I must say that Charlie Parker and Miles Davis used the blues scale and took it to new creative heights. I maintain that Parker was one of the greatest blues players ever.

The Cabaret songs of the early blues singers such as Bessie Smith did not adhere to
the blues scale but used it as a condiment.

Louis Armstrong used the blues scale to integrate it into his solos making them the most influential musical devices as their adoption into the arrangements of the swing band era.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM

"Perhaps the implication is that if you throw together a whole bunch of people whose musical systems have almost nothing in common, anything can happen"

Nothing in common?


Yes, the "almost" was mistaken.

About as much as Bavarian beerhall music has in common with Mongolian throat singing.

It's what you'd expect given that Africa also has the greatest genetic variety to be found anywhere in the world and the greatest range of fundamentally different languages.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Lox
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM

Jack,

re - your post [18 Jun 09 - 01:24 PM]

we can narrow ourselves down to quite specific areas of Africa. In general the west, but more specifically Ghana and Nigeria. We can see from the types of drums and rhythms played in the carribean that their musical traditions derive from tribes in these areas, such as Asante and Yoruba. The vocal traditions that evolved into the blues come from there too which was why I posted a ghanaian work song above.

I agree that there is no one specific African scale, but the root of the blues holler with its open expressive individuality and its ambiguous tones is definitely to be found in west african singing whether for funerals, parties or to make the working day more profitable.

My point is that this holler can generally be compared to the pentatonic scale, but isn't defined by it or any of the other typically used blues resources, be they the 'blues scale' the 'prez scale', the dorian or the mixolydian mode.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Goose Gander
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 11:23 AM

"Yes, the 'almost' was mistaken . . . . About as much as Bavarian beerhall music has in common with Mongolian throat singing."

Jack, I suspect you may be trolling, but I'll take the bait - there is a small mountain of literature exploring the relationship between African-American music and African antecedents. I do agree that African-American music is distinct to this continent (qualitively different than what you would hear on the other side of the Atlantic and down in Brazil, as well) but there are clear continuities. Just as there are connections between European music and the music of both black and white Americans (lots of stuff on this as well).


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 02:23 PM

This is beginning to sound like the blind men and the elephant--

Music is syncretic, and that confounds the impulse that we all seem to have to explain its source in a single sentence. Jazz is the most syncretic of all, because it's "rules" allow the performer, in the instant of performance, to infuse new elements at will, so breaking it down into parts can be very misleading--


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 06:57 PM

"This is beginning to sound like the blind men and the elephant--"

That's music all over if you ask me. But as long as we give our testimony and listen to all the other blind men we might just get an idea of the elephants magnitude.

Jack isn't rolling in the lightest.

His posts have been insightful and challenging.

"breaking it down into parts can be very misleading--"

It depends on what your reasons are.

Understanding how a particular strand of music has evolved assists the performer hugely.

Knowing what has come before, how it came to be and the context in which it was created ensures that you do not reinvent the triad, and that you can genuinely contribute something to the development of your chosen art form.

So much to learn ...


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 07:09 PM

sorry folks ... Last post was me ...


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 07:11 PM

By the way, a significant typo should have read "jack isn't trolling in the slightest"


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 07:16 PM

Something to bear in mind with messaien is that he was a 20th century composer, unlike Bach, and as such he was exposed to Jazz and influenced by it.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 07:41 PM

If I remember right, Messiaen absolutely despised jazz (and pretty much all popular music). His improvisation came directly from a long tradition of church organists, going all the way back to Bach by master-pupil links (and probably way before that, through the Christian Middle Ages to the theatre organists of ancient Rome). This interview gives an idea:

http://www.oliviermessiaen.org/messiaen2index.htm

I'll see what I can dig out about African tonality next week, insofar as it's relevant here. There's a lot of urban legend about.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 04:01 PM

Messiaens contribution to the development of music was similar to other 20th century composers insofar as he wanted to get away from functional harmony.

In this sense, he was trying to distance himself from the conventions of Bach, Rameau etc and create an alternative to the baroque concept of tonality.

It was this attempt to create alternative ways of organizing notes and harmony that led him to develop the modes of limited transposition.

If he had a problem with Jazz it was probably because most jazz uses functional harmony and ideas of tonality and key center are central to much jazz analysis and improvisation.

If this was his approach though, then he was being a bit unfair as there are definite overlaps between his work and some jazz theory, notably in the use of the whole tone scale and the diminished (octatonic - wholetone/semitone) scale, both of which are modes of limited transposition.

Messiaen would have made a great jazz musician as he had an amazing set of ears, with which he was able to hear up to 12 partials (harmonics - overtones) on any given note struck on a piano.

It was from these partials that he was able to construct the "chord of resonance", which is an 8 note chord built on the first 8 partials all condensed into a two octave range.

The chord is constructed using the following intervals

Major 3rd
minor 3rd
minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Major 3rd
Major 2nd
Major 2nd

So if C were in the bass, it would be spelt:

C, E, G, B flat, D, F#, G#, B natural.

Play it on the Piano - it sounds beautiful.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 07:54 PM

before someone else points out my error, the last interval should be a minor 3rd and not a major 2nd.

Sorry :-(


To clarify, there are seven intervals between the 8 notes of the chord

Where the root is C you get:

C E G Bb D F# G# B natural.


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 07:57 PM

< a >


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Subject: RE: The 'Blues Scale'
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 08:02 PM

O dear - I'm not having a very good night ...

... Let me try that again ...

C < M3 > E < m3 > G < m3 > Bb < M3 > D < M3 > F# < M2 > G# < m3 > B natural.

where 'M' is major and 'm' is minor


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