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The Chromatic Scale, Part I

Hello, music lovers. Callouses nice and hard? Been practicing? No one has to remind you that practice is everything. Practice is what you do so you can forget the facts and figures.

I recently received a letter with the question -- How do I mix scales? (Thanks Andreas)

This, with a few additions, is the answer I sent him:

How do you mix scales?

By forgetting about scales completely.

I have hated the idea of scales all my playing life. I never use them (consciously), and never think them. I think melody. I don't know, or care to know, the names of the various scales and modes. I know the major scale and see all others as being distortions of it.

I am also aware that there is the chromatic scale (all twelve notes) to use at all times. You can link any interval with semitones if you so choose, any scale note to any other scale note, from any scale you care to name. It becomes a question of timing, to get to the note you want in the time left to do so, if you follow. All twelve notes are there for the asking.

But seriously, do yourself a favor, stop thinking about scales and concentrate on melody and viewing notes simply as Ones, or flat Threes, or sharp Fives or whatever. You can name all twelve notes like that.

i.e., in ascending order (major scale notes are in bold):

  • One (or Tonic, or Root note)
  • Flat Nine
  • Two / Nine
  • Minor Three
  • Major Three
  • Four / Eleven (often referred to as Sus Four)
  • Flat Five
  • Five
  • Sharp Five (the augmented note)
  • Six / Thirteen
  • Dominant Seven (or plain old "seventh", or minor seventh)
  • Seven (usually referred to as "major seventh")
  • and One again.
All scales and modes that ever were fit into the chromatic scale.

Kirk Lorange writes a weekly column for GuitarSite and is the author of the instructional book, PlaneTalk