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Scales and Modes with Joshua Barnhart – Modal Mayhem

Welcome back for more modal mayhem. This article we’re going to get into something that I’ve been looking into recently. I’ve been digging through some of Nicolas Slonimsky’s “Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns”. Something that Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, Buckethead,  Jaco Pastorius, and Allan Holdsworth have all studied. I feel like, if anything, this will give you one or two licks that sound out.

The main concept is to not worry about scales, keys or any of the major theoretical rules that would generally apply to most musical situations. We’re simply doing math with music.

First thing we’re going to do is pick a note to start on. I like A. So A will be out root, or point of reference. Now we’re going to pick an interval between the tritone and a major second as our pivot note. For this example I’m going to use a tritone aka D#.

Now the concept here is to take a pattern that works from the A to D# interval, but does not include the D#.

I.E.
A C D.

Now we take that same shape, and play it from our pivot note the tritone.

I.E.
D# F# G#

And now that you’re sitting on the leading tone of the starting note. You can go ahead and slide up and grab that high A. Putting you safely back at the root. This is a great lick for a minor vamp that you want to start getting away from. The ear is tricked by the repeating pattern that was established in the first 3 notes. It’ll sound out, but still be tasteful.

This is just one example. I recommend using different interval pivot intervals, as well as different note patterns. Experiment and see what you can come up with. This is a great simple tool to have in your back pocket for those one or two jazzy licks that you man need to fake.

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