Where do I use a C aeolian scale?
In my opinion, the most important thing about using a scale is this:
Scales sound best when played over chords created from that scale
In music, scales are used to create chords, and there are known
formulas for this creation. You already know what the notes are for a C aeolian scale (C D Eb F G Ab Bb), so let's look at the chords created from these notes:
- C minor: C Eb G
- D diminished: D F Ab
- Eb major: Eb G Bb
- F minor: F Ab C
- G minor: G Bb D
- Ab major: Ab C Eb
- Bb major: Bb D F
How did I figure this out? Well, I took each note in the scale, and constructed a chord based on the note 2 intervals above and 4 intervals above (this isn't standard terminology, but it might make it easier to learn). For the first chord based on the C, I took C, then skipped the D and took the Eb, and then skipped the F and took the G, resulting in C - Eb - G which is a C minor chord. For the 2nd chord based on the D, I took D, then skipped the Eb and took the F, and then skipped the G and took the Ab, resulting in D - F - Ab which is a D diminished chord. I repeated this same procedure for all the notes in the C aeolian scale.
Listen to the example below which shows the C aeolian scale played over C minor, Bb major, and Ab major. Note how it sounds good no matter what the chord.