• Who else wants to learn how to solo with the “altered scale?”

    in Scales

    In this past lesson, we covered the melodic minor scale. And in this past lesson, we covered the modes of the major scale.

    In today’s lesson, we’ll actually combine the two concepts.

    But let’s review first…

    Recall my easy way of remembering the melodic minor scale. There’s tons of ways to think about the melodic minor scale but the easiest way is to simply look at it as a major scale with a lowered 3rd tone.

    C major scale

    C melodic minor scale

    The only difference is the 3rd tone. In the melodic minor scale, it is lowered by a half step. Simple!

    Now that you’re caught up on playing melodic minor scales, let’s recap on the concept of “modes.”

    Modes are a system of scales that began in Ancient Greece. Basically, if you start and end on a different degree of the major scale, you’ll get a different mode.

    Let me explain…

    If you play the C major scale starting and ending on C, that’s called the Ionian mode. Now most of us would think of this as the regular C major scale and we’re correct… it is! The Ionian mode is the regular major scale. But this isn’t the case for the other modes of the scale.

    For example, if you play the same C major scale starting and ending on D, this is what we call the “Dorian” mode.

    And when you look at what’s really going on when you play a “C major” scale from “D” to “D,” you’d realize that it’s basically a regular minor scale with the 6th tone raised a half step.

    Think about it…

    The regular D minor scale is…

    And the “D Dorian” mode is…

    The only difference is the 6th tone.

    So basically, every mode gives you these unique changes and therefore provides great soloing tools over certain chords.

    Here are all 7 modes…

    If you play a major scale from the first tone of the scale to the first tone of the scale (e.g. – “C major scale from ‘C’ to ‘C’), this is called the IONIAN mode.

    If you play a major scale from the second tone of the scale to the second tone of the scale, this is called the DORIAN mode.

    If you play a major scale from the third tone of the scale to the third tone of the scale, this is called the PHRYGIAN mode.

    If you play a major scale from the fourth tone of the scale to the fourth tone of the scale, this is called the LYDIAN mode.

    If you play a major scale from the fifth tone of the scale to the fifth tone of the scale, this is called the MIXOLYDIAN mode.

    If you play a major scale from the sixth tone of the scale to the sixth tone of the scale, this is called the AEOLIAN mode (you should know this as the “natural minor scale”).

    If you play a major scale from the seventh tone of the scale to the seventh tone of the scale, this is called the LOCRIAN mode.

    So now that you’re refreshed on the modes, let me combine the two concepts.

    See that last mode… the Locrian mode?

    Well, what if you applied that same thinking to the melodic minor scale?

    What if you played the melodic minor scale from the 7th tone of the scale to the 7th tone? This is what we call the “altered” or super locrian mode.

    Here’s the scale you’d get…

    B Super Locrian

    In terms of the scale itself, here’s what you end up with…

    Altered / Super Locrian scale = 1, b9, #9, 3, b5, #5, b7

    If you think about it, this is the basis for a lot of altered chords.

    For example, if you’ve watch our GospelKeys 202 or GospelKeys Urban Pro 600 courses, you’ve undoubtedly seen these chords:

    C7 #9#5
    C7 b9 #5
    C7 b9
    C7 #9
    C7 #5

    All these chords come from the altered scale. That means if you just find out what the C altered scale is, you could play that scale over any of these chords and it would sound awesome!

    So let’s recap…

    How do you play an altered scale?

    1) You’ll need to know your melodic minor scales

    2) That’s easy! Just play a major scale with lowered 3rd note

    3) And then play THAT scale from the 7th tone to the 7th tone. So if you know your locrian mode, just change your mindset a bit to think of the 7th tone of the melodic minor scale and you’re good to go!

    In other words, if you play this chord on your left hand:

    B7 #9#5 (B on bass not shown)

    …and solo with the B super locrian mode…

    …you’ll sound great and people will think you’ve been playing for years!

    Well, I know this is a lot to digest so take your time!

    Until next time —

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!




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