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Technical Skills for Your Instrument

Major Scales. They are the basis of most music in the western hemisphere. They guide the movement of our fingers as we play, and provide the yardstick by which the ear knows what it's hearing. There are twelve different major scales, but three of them exist in dual enharmonic keys. (F#/Gb, C#/Db & B/Cb)

Arpeggios.  Band instruments can't play the notes of a chord simultaneously, but the arpeggios give us the ability to harmonize anything using broken chords--much like finger picking on the guitar. Major arpeggios should be learned as quickly as possible in every key, followed by minor, diminished and augmented. Sevenths, ninths, etc. can easily be extrapolated from these.

Minor Scales.  There are a variety of minor scales in each key. The natural minor is already under your fingers if you know your major scales. Play a C major scale from A to A and you have A Natural Minor. The Melodic and Harmonic minors are the next most standard, though not heavily used in popular music. A very important minor scale in recent years, is the Dorian Mode. (flat 3, natural 6, flat 7) If you play a C scale from D to D, you have a D Dorian scale. These are used extensively in modern jazz and pop music.

Pentatonic and Blues Scales.  Pentatonic scales are found in the music of most ancient cultures, and provide a very safe framework for playing improvised solos. Using notes 1-2-3-5-6 of the major scale, they have an easy, simple sound that most people will find familiar. The signature guitar lick from My Girl (1-2-3-5-6-1) is a pentatonic scale. The black keys on the piano form an F# Pentatonic Scale (F#-G#-A#-C#-D#).

Pentatonic scales can also be minor. The black keys on the piano can also form an E-flat Minor Pentatonic Scale (Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb-Db). The Blues Scale (1-b3-4-#4-5-b7) is a variant of the minor pentatonic. Anyone who knows all 12 major pentatonics can easily extract the minor pentatonic and blues scales from them.

Click the link below for some downloadable exercises to suit your jamming needs. 


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