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Boxes Beyond the Blues

Boxes Beyond the Blues

A Pattern Approach To Jazz Improvisation

J.P. Befumo


Pleasant Mount Press P.O. Box 26 Union Dale, PA 18470-0026

Copyright 2005 by J.P. Befumo ISBN #: 0-9767489-6-7 Ebook

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without premission in writing from the copyright owner. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product ofthe authors imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. This eBook was created in the United States of America. To order additional copies of this book, contact: Pleasant Mount Press, Inc. P.O. Box 26, Union Dale, PA 18470-0026

Introduction........................................................................................1 A Smattering of Theory.......................................................................3 Why the Blues Sounds Cool..............................................................10 Hearing Modes..................................................................................14 A Parallel Approach to Modes..........................................................20 Expanding the Blues With Modes and Alternative Scales...............26 Playing Over Changes........................................................................32 Introducing Some Exotic Scales.....................................................35


J.P. Befumo

Boxes Beyond The Blues

Like many guitar players, I started out by learning a few chords, and marveling at the way some people could play up the neck. At some point, a helpful fellow musician showed me a pentatonic box pattern that I could use to improvise over a standard blues progression in the key of A (Figure 1). What a door that opened for me. I was a lead guitarist!

Figure 1 As time went on, I learned a few additional patterns that worked comfortably in the key of A, and also learned how to slide the entire set of boxes up or down the neck so that I could play in other keys. By shifting each pattern down three frets, I discovered, I could access the major pentatonic boxes. I got a lot of mileage from these handy patterns, and indeed, many competent blues players (B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan come to mind), made entire careers for themselves without ever straying far from these humble box patterns. This approach worked out fine in most situations, but every now and then Id encounter a progression against which my best efforts simply sounded . . . wrong. Similarly, as my musical tastes expanded, Id hear people playing things that I simply couldnt fathom. What patterns were they using? Finally, I reached a juncture where I just couldnt stand listening to myself playing the same familiar riffs, whether they fit the situation or not, and decided to learn a bit of theory, the essentials of which I will share with you shortly. I learned to harmonize scales, picked up the rules of cadence, and discovered the wonder of arpeggios. The problem, however, was that while I could apply this new knowledge in a controlled situation, when it came to just jamming, after thirty years of playing the boxes, I simply couldnt start thinking in a different way. My choices were simple: Either content myself with playing the same tired blues for the rest of my life, or expand my by-then ingrained positional approach to fit a wider range of harmonic environments. This approach is in no way inferior to any other way of conceptualizing the fret board. It is simply a way of envisioning theory that is suited to people with certain preferences and certain backgrounds. Many of the greatest musicians in every genera (except classical) have approached their instruments from directions other than that of classical theory. Moreover, by following the approach

J.P. Befumo  presented in this book, you will begin to internalize the most significant aspects of classical theory, in a thoroughly natural and intuitive manner. Although this is by no means a theoretical book, well need to start with just a smattering of theory to establish some fundamentals. Since Im assuming that most readers are at least somewhat familiar with the blues, Ill evolve these theoretical concepts within the context of the blues. This way youll come away not only with some new theory, but a concrete feeling for how it is applied.

How To Use This Book

My objective in writing this book is to provide guitarists who, like myself, have learned guitar using a pattern-based approach, a way to easily and painlessly expand their repertoire. The second group who will benefit from this book are those who have learned to strum a few chords and play some songs, but are mystified when it comes to playing leads. The approach followed in this book will get you off and running in record time. For both groups, simply following the steps as they unfold herein will help you progress in a logical, structured manner. Moreover, unlike having the hot guitar slinger down the street show you a bunch of licks you dont understand, by working your way through this book, youll actually comprehend what youre doing and why youre doing it. Like any instructional manual, this book is only a starting point. To help you progress beyond what could be included in this single volume, Ive included several blank fret board grids in the Appendix. Please feel free to photocopy these, use them to lay out new scales, and continue what hopefully will be a lifelong journey of musical enlightenment. (The grids are also included as digital files on the companion CD, so you can easily print them out from your computer.) To use them, start out, as we do in the book, by creating a grid for a new scale, or a new position for an existing scale. I recommend using a highlighting marker to color in the dots in the grid. Begin with the grid that includes the note names, so youll know which notes to color in. Create an appropriate harmonic background (as described in the next chapter), using your guitar and a tape recorder, or the included version of Jammer on your computer. Then simply start playing, using the grid as a guide. Once you have the new pattern down, transfer it to the grid with the empty circles, filling in each circle with the scale degrees (as described later). This will help you fully understand what youre doing, and will help you learn to combine scales and start thinking out of the box. Once youve mastered a few scales, begin to experiment with moving between multiple scales during a single solo. Youll see what I mean in the chapter entitled: A Parallel Approach to Modes. Use a music stand or other convenient mechanism to display two or more scale patterns where you can refer to them as you move from scale to scale. Before you know it, new scales will become as natural to you as those familiar old blues boxes.

About the Included CD

The enclosed CD is a mixed mode disk. This means that it includes both audio content, which can be played on any CD player, as well as programmatic content that must be accessed from your computer. Dont worry, the disk is properly formatted so that it wont endanger your stereo by trying to play the digital content (although you can play the audio content on your computers sound system.) The audio potion contains two background tracks for each exercise in the book. The first one includes some simple improvisations over the chords, while the second contains the background parts only, over which you can solo yourself. The computer section of the CD contains background tracks in General MIDI format, as well as transcriptions (with tablature) of the sample leads in Portable Document Format (.pdf). Also included is the latest version (as of this printing) of Adobe Acrobat Reader. Finally, I have included graphical files (.tiff and Microsoft Visio formats) of the fret board grids I use throughout this book. You can use these to help you learn new scales, arpeggios, and changes.

Boxes Beyond The Blues

A Smattering of Theory
While this is primarily a hands-on book, it will be helpful if we can share some common vocabulary and concepts.

The Evenly-Tempered Scale

Guitars, pianos, and most other Western instruments are designed around the evenly-tempered scale. The place where musical theory meets physics is the octave. An octave simply represents a halving or doubling of frequency; that is, if you play an A 440 (an A note whose frequency is 440 cycles per second) on a piano, the next A note you encounter, moving from left to right, will have a frequency of 880 cycles per second. Move left instead, and the next A note will have a frequency of 220 cycles per second. The greater the number of cycles per second, the higher the pitch of the note. Thats all the mathematics well need for our understanding of musical theory. Our most fundamental Western scale divides each octave into twelve equal segments called steps. Hence, all of the scales well be considering are, in reality, simply different variations on this set of twelve notes. We can envision the evenly tempered scale as a series of twelve cells, each of which represents the smallest division we can use in creating our music, as shown in Table 1. 1 Table 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Intervals and Scales

The relationship between any two adjacent notes is always the same, which is why it is termed: evenly tempered. Each step is called a semitone. An interval is just the distance, in semitones, between any two notes. As described above, the music with which we are most familiar divides the octave into twelve basic tones. Other cultures can and do divide the octave into different numbers of steps. This is what gives various other ethnic musical systems their unique sounds. If you play each of these twelve notes in sequence youll have played what is called a chromatic scale. On the fret board, a C chromatic scale, for example, might be played as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

J.P. Befumo  Not very musical, is it? More pleasing results can be produced by omitting some of these notes, and playing only those that remain. The first musical theory to which most of us were exposed as children was the familiar do re mi fa so la ti do. Thats seven notes out of a total of twelve, but which ones? The answer depends on what key you want your do re me scale to be in. In C, the corresponding notes are: C, D, E, F, G, A,B. Which ones were omitted? Obviously, C#, Eb, F#, Ab, and Bb, right? (These omitted notes may just as accurately be named: Db, D#, Gb, G#, and A#. These situations in which one tone has two legitimate names are referred to as enharmonic spellings. The rules as to which spelling is preferred are somewhat subtle, and beyond the scope of this book. (See Table 2.) 1 C Table 2 2 D 3 E 4 F 5 G 6 A 7 B

C# Db

D# Eb

F# Gb

G# Ab

A# Bb

Lets look at this on the fret board and see which notes were included and which were left out:

Figure 3 If the distance between any two circles on the same string is a half step, then we can see that there are two half steps, or one full step between C and D, another full step between D and E, only a half step between E and F, a full step between F and G, a full step between G and A, a full step between A and B, and finally, a half step between B and the C an octave above were we began. This sequence seems to have an inherent musical quality. This compartmentalization is shown in Table 3: 1 C Table 3 2 D 3 E 4 F 5 G 6 A 7 B






Rather than using a big fret board diagram every time we want to illustrate a particular pattern of half and full steps, suppose we write it like so: C=D=E-F=G=A=B-C, where = indicates a full step, and - denotes a half step. (Looking forward to when we may have occasion to refer to an augmented interval of three half steps, well use the following symbol: .)

Boxes Beyond The Blues

This pattern of full and half steps is what we refer to as the diatonic major scale, or simply the Major Scale. (This is not 100% accurate since, as we shall see, any scale which has a major third degree can technically be referred to as major.) Another way of referring to this particular sequence of steps and half-steps is the Ionian Mode. If youve ever sang the Do-Re-Mi song, then you know the sound of the Ionian mode, but just to make sure, try playing it on your guitar, using the scale pattern shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4 Start and end on a C note, at least until you start to get the sound of the scale youre your ears. Youll have to stretch a bit to get that B note. The rest of the C-Major scale notes in this position are shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Track 1 on the audio CD presents a simple improvisation over a steady C Major chord. Track 2 contains just the background C-Major jam, so you can play over it yourself. On the data portion of the CD, Example_1.mid contains the background tracks in General Midi format, and Example_1.pdf is a transcription (including tablature) of the example solo. If this seems familiar, its because it looks a lot like the pentatonic minor scale in the key of A, which was probably the first lead box you ever learned (Figure 1). To understand how this coincidence occurs, lets play the same C scale shown in Figure 5, but this time, play it over an Am6 chord. (This will be tracks 3 and 4 on the audio CD, and Example_2.mid and Example_2.pdf on the computer partition). Amazing, huh? Youre playing the same notes as before, but now, played against an Am6 chord instead of a C-Major, they convey on an entirely different feeling. Well be exploring modes in a later chapter, but for now, well just observe that the key of Am is the relative minor to the key of C Major. More precisely, youre playing the Aeolian mode, also known as the Natural Minor. Suppose we rearrange our C scale, keeping the intervals unchanged, but start on A instead of C:


J.P. Befumo

As you can see, we still have a full step between the first and the second notes, but now our first half-step falls between note two and note three. The distance from 3 to 4 is now a full step, rather than a half step. In other words, it appears as if our third note was moved a half step to the left. Thus, our 3rd. is flatted. This is referred to as a minor third. In fact, the presence of the minor third is what makes this a minor scale. Moving on, the distance from 4 to 5 is still a full step, but the distance from 5 to 6 is a half step. By inspection, we can see that our 6th. has been flatted as well. Finally, we can see that our 7th. has also been flatted. Suppose we compare this to an A major scale, that is, a scale starting and ending on the A note, which preserves the original step/half-step pattern of the C major scale. This A Major scale contains the following notes (Table 4): 1 A A R 2 B B 2 3 C# 4 D D 4 5 E E 5 6 F# 7 G#

A Maj. scale C scale, mode VI C F G Result b3 b6 b7 Table 4 Ever notice how music written in the key of A has 3 sharps at the left end of every staff? Well, this is where they come from. On the fret board, this looks like Figure 6:

Figure 6 As you see by comparing Figure 6 with Figure 5, the fingering of the A-Major scale is quite different from the A-minor scale, at least when played from the same fifth-fret root position. If you want to use a more comfortable fingering for the A Major scale, try the pattern shown in Figure 7.

Figure 6

Boxes Beyond The Blues

This is one of the peculiarities of the guitarcertain positions are more convenient for some scales than for others. Looking at this in terms of intervals may help clarify things a bit:

Figure 8 Figure 8 Shows our schizophrenic scale when played in a C Major context.

Figure 9 In Figure 9, on the other hand, we see the intervals as they appear from the perspective of Am. In other words, the same notes take on different roles depending upon the harmonic context. When practicing a new scale, I generally know the notes of the scale, so I start out by taking Grid A (Appendix A), and mark the notes in a single convenient area of the fret board using a highlighting pen. I then play it against an appropriate chord or progression. Once Ive internalized the sound, I transfer the pattern to Grid B, filling in the interval numbers by hand. This allows me to gain an understanding of what Im doing as I practice. Since the intervals will be the same in every key, once I have the pattern down, and have memorized all of the intervals, its a simple matter to transpose to any key, as well as to other areas on the fret board. This approach will become clearer as work our way through the examples in this book.

Scales and Harmony

Harmony is an immense subject, and since this is basically not a theoretical treatise, well only develop as much harmonic theory as is essential for understanding the material at hand. Basically, you harmonize a scale by stacking thirds. What this means is that you start on the first note, and take a pick one, skip one approach until you have created a chord, which is by definition a combination of three or more notes. For example, the first intrinsic chord in the key of C is created by using C, skipping D, using E, skipping F, and using G. This gives you a C Major chord, consisting of the notes C, E, and G. Numerically, you have a 1-note, a 3-note, and a 5-note. This is generally referred to

J.P. Befumo  as the root, the (major) 3rd, and the (perfect) 5th. If you were to continue, youd skip the A (6th) and take the B (7th). This would yield a C Maj7 chord. You can continue doing this, skipping the octave, and taking the 2nd of the next iteration of the scale. This is usually referred to as a 9th, with the next one being a 4th/11th, and then the 6th/13th. Thats as far as chords are generally specified. We can repeat this process, only starting on the second note of the C scale: D. In this case what you end up with is: D, F, A, C What kind of chord do you suppose this is? Is it a DMaj7? The answer is no, and heres why: In order to understand what these notes mean in the context of the chords root note (D), we must compare it to a D scale. The notes of the D major scale (remember the position of our intervals) are: D=E=F#-G=A=B=C#-D In our mystery chord, we have D, which is clearly the root, but now, instead of an F#, we have an F. Remember when we said before that a flatted 3rd indicates a minor scale? Well, the same holds true in chords. The A is right out of the D scale, giving us a perfect 5th, however, the C, in terms of the D Major scale, is a flatted 7th. This combination of 1,b3,5,b7 is known as a minor seventh chord. Ill leave it as an exercise for you to go through the C Major scale, stacking thirds starting on each degree, and comparing the resulting intervals to the major scale beginning on that same degree. The results are as follows: The I chord in any key is always a Major 7th (spelled: 1,3,5,7). The II chord in any key is always a minor 7th (spelled: 1, b3, 5, b7). The III chord in any key is always a minor 7th. The IV chord in any key is always a Major 7th . The V chord in any key is always Dominant 7th (spelled: 1,3,5,b7). The VI chord in any key is always a minor 7th. The VII chord in any key is always a half-diminished (spelled 1, b3, b5, b7). There are, of course, other forms of chords than those listed above, such as: C+ (augmented), Cdim7 (diminished 7th), C7#5b9, And innumerable other alterations.

By the time we finish this book you should have a pretty good idea how to figure these out on your own. The main concept you should take away from this chapter is that so long as you play scale tones against chords built solely from those scale tones, you will never have to worry about hitting sour notes. Tracks 5 and 6 on the audio CD contain a progression built solely of chord tones in the key of C, first with an example solo which uses only the C major scale, and then with just the background tracks so you can improvise on your own. Example_3.mid on the computer partition contains the background music in MIDI format, which you can also use for practice. Example_3.pdf is a transcription of the example solo. The progression, by the way, is: CMaj7-Em7-Am7-Dm7-FMaj7-Bm7b5-G7-CMaj7.

Boxes Beyond The Blues

How did I come up with this particular sequence? Did I just pull it out of the air? Well, in fact, there are some rules, known as cadence, which deal with combining chords in ways that are most musical and contribute to moving the tune forward. These rules are quite simple, and will serve you well in your songwriting career: The I chord can move to any other chord, The II chord can move to any other chord except the I, The III chord can move to any other chord except the I or the VII, The IV chord can move to any other chord, The V chord can move to any other chord except the II or the VII, The VI chord can move to any other chord except the I or the VII, The VII chord can move to any other chord except the II or the IV.

I leave it as an exercise to confirm that my sample progression indeed follows these rules. If youd like to try this scale in its A Natural Minor context, tracks 7 and 8 contain the following A-minor progression: Am7-Bm7(b5)-CMaj7-Am7-Dm7-Am7-G7-Am7-FMaj9(#11)-Am7-Em7-Am7 The corresponding digital files are Example_4.mid and Example_4.pdf. One thing youll probably notice as you experiment is that while none of the notes you play sound bad, some sound stronger than others. Well examine why this is, and one way to get around it, in the next chapter.


J.P. Befumo

Why the Blues Sounds Cool

The reason that minor pentatonic we all rely upon so heavily works so well is that you can just plow ahead and play it over every chord of most common blues progressions. But have you ever wondered precisely why this is so? Lets have a look at our precious fifth position A blues box (Figure 10) for a minute:

Figure 10 We can see by inspection that it closely resembles our A Aeolian or Natural Minor scale (Figure 5), with a few notes missing. In terms of the A Major scale (A=B=C#-D=E=F#=G#), we can see that we have a root, a minor 3rd , a 4th (also known as an 11th), a perfect 5th, and a minor 7th (five notes, hence, pentatonic.) The flatted third, as discussed in the previous chapter, means this is a minor scale. (In fact, this is only one of many other pentatonic minor scales, but it is the one with which most people are familiar.) Going back to our intervallic view, Figure 11 shows us precisely which intervals comprise this handy scale:

Figure 11 In order to understand why this particular scale always sounds so good in a blues setting, lets take a look at the quintessential blues form: the 12-bar blues. This consists, of a I chord, a IV chord, and a V chord, over a 12-bar repeating progression. There are innumerable variations on the 12-bar blues, but a typical one looks like this (in the key of A):

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Table 5 Tracks 9 and 10 on the audio CD contain this progression, with and without a lead track, respectively. Example_5.mid and Example_5.pdf on the computer partition contain the MIDI background track and the lead transcription, respectively. A useful variation on the pentatonic minor is the blues scale, which adds a #4 to the scale, as shown in Figure 13. That altered tone, known as the tri-tone, gives the blues its characteristically boisterous sound.

Figure 12 Lets have a look at the notes that comprise each chord in the progression, and then compare them to the notes were hearing when we play our pentatonic minor and blues scales. The I chord is A7. As we saw earlier, the notes of the A Major scale are: A=B=C#-D=E=F#=G#-A Since a dominant seventh (e.g., A7) chord consists of the root, major third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh degrees, our A7 chord is spelled: A,C#,E,G. When we play an A pentatonic minor, were playing A, C, D, E, and G (plus the Eb in the case of the blues scale). Hence, when were playing over the A7 chord were playing the root, the 4th/11th, the fifth, and the minor 7th right from the chord. These are all strong tones. In addition, were playing a C (natural) against the chords C#, which really makes the solos minor tonality stand out. (Remember, if you played only notes directly from the A7 chord [i.e., an A7 arpeggio], youd be creating a major/dominant sound, rather then the tangy blues tones were all familiar with.) The IV chord is D7. The D major scale is spelled: D=E=F#-G=A=B=C#-D The D7 chord consists of D, F#, A, C.

J.P. Befumo 12 When compared to our D7 chord, the A of our pentatonic minor is the perfect 5th, the C gives us our minor 7th, the D gives us the chords root, the E is the 2nd/9th, and the G gives us the 4th/11th. In this case, we have all chord tones or common extensions. In the context of D7, the Eb of the blues scale is a b9. Thats a common tone in jazz improvisation, and gives a hip, sophisticated sound when played over this chord. Finally, the V chord is an E7. The E major scale consists of the following notes: E=F#=G#-A=B=C#=D#-E The E7 chord is spelled: E, G#, B, D. In terms of this E7 tonality, our A pentatonic minor yields a 4th/11th (A), a minor 6th (C), the minor 7th (D), the root (E), and a minor 3rd (G). Here again we have some nice pungent tones present: The minor 3rd emphasizes the minor tonality against the G# of the E chord. The minor 6th, which is not present in the E7 chord, implies a natural minor (Aeolian) scale. The 11th is a nice strong extension, and the minor 7th strengthens the dominant nature of the E7 chord. Finally, that Eb from the blues scale is a Major 7th, which makes for a tangy clash with the D (minor seventh) of the chord. To sum this all up graphically, C C# (b3) 3 b7 (b6) b3 D (11) R b7 4 Eb (#4) b9 7 #4 E 5 (9) R 5 F F# 3 G b7 (4) (b3) b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B

A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Pent. Scale Table 6

Intervals shown in parentheses are extensions provided by the solo notes, which are not in the unextended chords. The italicized degrees are those provided by the blues scale (the tri-tone), and how they fit into the background chords.

The Major Pentatonic

Somewhere along your musical career, someone may have shown you that you can slide the minor pentatonic down by three frets and achieve a totally different sound. What youd be playing in this circumstance is the major pentatonic scale. For example, if you were playing the minor pentatonic at the fifth position, as shown in Figure 11, sliding down three frets would put this same pattern at the second fret, as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Lets analyze this as we did before, in order to understand why this simple approach sounds good over a blues progression. First of all, we can see that our major pentatonic scale includes the notes: A, B, C#, E, and F#. In terms of the A Major scale, these represent the root, the 2nd/9th, the Major 3rd, the perfect 5th, and the Major 6th. Hence, against our A7 chord, the root and the 5th tend to solidify the tonal center, while the 9th and the Major 6th add some interesting extensions. That Major 7th sounds real tangy against the minor 7th of the dominant chord, which gives you just the right sense of tension. When played against the D7 chord (D, F#, A, C), our major pentatonic yields a perfect 5th, a Major 6th, a minor 7th, a 2nd/9th, and a Major 3rd; all chord tones or common extensions. Bear in mind that when you play an extension over a harmonic background, you are actually creating extended harmony, in much the same way that experienced jazz players often omit the root from their chords, secure in the knowledge that the bass is playing the root. The overall harmonic content is the combination of all these different elements. Over the E7 (the V) chord of our progression, our major pentatonic scales delivers A (the 4th/ 11th), B (the perfect 5th), C# (a Major 6th), E (the root), and F# (the 2nd/9th). Here again, we have all chord tones or common harmonic extensions. Hence, both the minor pentatonic and the major pentatonic will always sound good against each chord of a progression consisting of the I7, IV7, and V7 chords. As before, heres a graphical layout C A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Pent. Maj. Table 7 b7 C# 3 (7) 6 3 D R b7 Eb E 5 (9) R 5 F F# (6) 3 (9) 6 G b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B (9) (6) 5 2/9

This approach should be studied and fully internalized, since it can be used to analyze how any scale will work against any harmonic setting. Track 11 on the audio CD demonstrates the major pentatonic played over the 12-Bar Blues progression. Track 12 is the same background without the lead, so you can play your own. Example_6.mid is the midi version, and Example_6.pdf is tablature for the solo on Track 11.


J.P. Befumo

Hearing Modes
Judging by the frequency with which this topic appears and reappears in the various guitar newsgroups, the topic of modes is one that can be confusing to the developing musician. One of the difficulties is that, as we shall see, there are two ways of conceptualizing modes, each orthogonal to the other. Moreover, devotees of one approach or the other frequently espouse their perspectives with the rancor of any religious zealot. Without making any emotional judgment, Ill adhere to the position that whichever view seems most natural to you is the correct one. In the Chapter 1 we examined two modes of the diatonic major scale: the Ionian (Major), and the Aeolian (natural minor). We learned that although they shared common notes, their effect was drastically different due to the harmonic context against which they were played. In this chapter well delve more deeply into modes (or, more precisely, the modes of the diatonic major scale). What we concluded in Chapter 1 was that one mode (the Aeolian) existed as a variation of another mode (the Ionian); that is, it consisted of the exact same notes, only started and ended at a different offset. (In so doing, the actual starting and ending notes, A in this case, became the effective root of the new scale.) In order to help you to both hear the sound of the modes, as well as integrate them into familiar blues territory, we will examine each of the remaining modes in two different ways. First, we will play them in terms of the C-Major scale, followed by playing the A version of each mode so you can see how it fits into your familiar blues-box regions. This will become clear as we work through the examples.

The Dorian Mode

Starting, once again, with our C major scale, we can begin and end the scale on the second degree, D, yielding the Dorian Mode: D=E-F=G=A=B-C=D Table 8 compares the D Dorian to the D-Major scale: D Major Scale D Dorian Mode Result Table 8 D D R E E 2 F# F b3 G G 4 A A 5 B B 6 C# C b7 5

Hence, we see that we have a minor 3rd, and a minor 7th. This is clearly a minor scale, which differs from the Natural Minor (Aeolian) by having a major rather than a minor 6th. To hear the sound of this mode (which, by the way, is a favorite of the great Carlos Santana), simply play the scale form from Figure 5 over a Dm7 chord. In terms of the D harmonic setting, the notes now take on yet another set of identities, as shown in Figure 14. Track 13 is an example of playing the D Dorian mode over Dm7 Harmony. Track 14 is several bars of the harmony so you can practice the D Dorian yourself. Example_7.mid provides the digital background, and Example_7.pdf presents tablature of the example solo. Remember, this is the D Dorian mode, even though its played in what many people think of as the A position. In fact, it consists of exactly the same notes as the A Aeolian, as well as the same

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 14 notes as the C Ionian. How about if we want to play an A Dorian? Well, remember earlier when we observed that the thing that gives a particular scale its individual sound is the unique pattern of intervals? Well, all we have to do is identify the pattern that exists in the Dorian mode, and apply that same sequence of half-steps and full-steps beginning with A. The characteristic sequence for the Dorian mode is: full-half-full-full-full-half-full. In the key of A, that gives us: A=B-C=D=E=F#-G=A On the fret board, this looks like Figure 15.

Figure 15 In terms of scale degrees, Figure 16 shows how the A Dorian maps out into your familiar fifthposition A region.

Figure 16

J.P. Befumo 16 (For the remainder of this chapter, Ill just demonstrate the modes relative to the C Major scale. In the next chapter well be examining the various modes in a single key, so you can easily add them to your blues repertoire.)

The Phrygian Mode

The third mode of the diatonic scale can be discovered by playing the major scale starting from its 3rd degree. In the case of the C Major scale, this entails starting and ending on E, as follows: E-F=G=A=B-C=D=E Once again, to understand this scale better, we must compare it to a diatonic E Major scale: E E R F# F b2 G b3 G# A A 4 B B 5 C# C b6 D b7 D#

E Major Scale E Phrygian Result Table 9

This time we have a root, a b2nd/b9th , a b3rd, a 4th/11th, a 5th, a b6th, and a b7th. Clearly, because of the minor third, we have a minor scale. The minor 6th is a common alteration. The minor 9th can be a rather dissonant interval, so it has to be approached with a bit of discretion in most harmonic settings. We can really hear the Phrygian mode if we play it over an Em chord,which is precisely what we do in tracks 15 and 16. Example_8.mid provides the backing tracks in digital format, and Example_ 8.pdf is a transcription of the example solo. Note, also, that we have a new set of intervals that uniquely identify the Phrygian mode/scale: half-whole-whole-whole-half-whole-whole It is this combination of intervals that is really responsible for giving the Phrygian mode its unique sound, and this sequence of intervals can be applied to any key, as we will see in the next chapter.

Figure 17 At first glance, Figure 17 may look the same as the previous figures, but notice that the same notes have taken on yet another set of identities. For some extra fun, Tracks 17 and 18 contain a minor progression consisting of Am6, Dm7, Em6, and Em9. You can solo over the entire progression using our basic C-Major scale pattern. Over the first and second bars (Am6) youll be playing Aeolian, over the third (Dm7), Dorian, and over the fourth and fifth (Em6 & Em9), Phrygian. Neat, huh? Example_9.mid is the digital background track, and Example_9.pdf is the transcription.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


The Lydian Mode

The fourth mode of the diatonic scale is created by playing the major scale starting from its 4th degree. In the case of the C Major scale, this entails starting and ending on F, as follows: F=G=A=B-C=D=E-F As before, we must analyze this scale by comparing it to a diatonic F Major scale: F F R G G 2 A A 3 Bb B #4 C C 5 D D 6 E E 7

F Major Scale F Lydian Result Table 10

In this case, the Lydian Mode differs from the F Major scale only in its raised 4th/11th degree. Clearly, this is a major scale (because it has a major 3rd). The ideal chord to play this over is an FMaj9(#11). Tracks 19 and 20 contain this harmonic background, with and without a sample solo. Example_10.mid provides a digital background, and Example_10.pdf is tablature of the solo. Notice that the tri-tone (#4) is the note that gives the blues its tangy sound. You can expect this to be a very powerful note that requires some care when soloing. Here again, were playing the same notes as our C Major scale, with the notes taking on new identities relative to this new harmonic setting. This is illustrated in Figure 18,

Figure 18 Notice how that #4 (the tri-tone, which gives the blues scale its poignant sound) lends the Lydian scale a cool spiky kind of tone. Remember, also, that its the sequence of intervals (wholewhole-whole-half-whole-whole-half) that makes this mode sound as it does, and these intervals can be applied in any key you please.

The Mixolydian Mode

The Mixolydian (also known as the dominant scale), arises from playing the diatonic major scale starting and ending on the fifth degree. In the case of a C Major starting point, this would be G: G=A=B-C=D=E-F=G. An analysis of the Mixolydian mode is shown in Table 11.


J.P. Befumo

G Major Scale G A B C D E F# G Mixolydian G A B C D E F Result R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 Table 11 Comparing the two, we see that the Mixolydian is simply a major scale with a minor seventh. We can hear the Mixolydian by playing our handy C-Major scale over a G7 chord. This can be heard in tracks 21 and 22. Example_11.mid provides the digital backup, while Example_11.pdf contains the tablature for the example solo. Figure 19 shows the identity that each note assumes when played as a G Mixolydian.

Figure 19 Since weve already examined the sixth mode (Aeolian), we can move on to mode seven.

The Locrian Mode

The Locrian mode is created by playing the diatonic major scale starting and ending on its seventh degree. Using our C Major scale as a base once again, we have: B-C=D=E-F=G=A=B. Lets compare this to a B Major scale: B Major Scale B Locrian Result Table 12 B B R C# C b2 D b3 D# E E 4 F# F b5 G b6 G# A b7 A#

Well, this is certainly a hairy one! We have a root, a b2nd, a b3rd, a 4th, a b5th, a b6th, and a th b7 . If you think this is going to be wild sounding, youre right. We could harmonize this scale in a number of ways. First, from the minor 3rd and minor 7th, we definitely know weve got a minor scale here. The diminished 5th means we also have a half diminished sound (a full diminished chord would have a bb7th, or a 6th, but the Locrian scale has a minor 6th. The most common chord to use with the Locrian mode is the Bm7b5. Figure 20 shows the identities our familiar notes take on when played as a B Locrian.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 20 Tracks 23 and 24 should give you an idea of what the Locrian mode sounds like. Example_ 12.mid provides a digital background, Example_12.pdf is the solo transcription. Clearly, this isnt something youd want to use for an entire solo, but the next time you a m7b5 coming your way, grab for the Locrian whose root is the same as that of the chord and youll give your solo a really hip sound.


J.P. Befumo

A Parallel Approach to Modes

In the previous chapters, we tried to get the sounds of the various modes into our ears by playing the same scale (the C Diatonic Major) over a variety of chords against which the modes distinctive sounds would be most obvious. This approach, often referred to as the relative approach, is one of two ways of looking at modes. The other, sometimes known as the parallel approach, is more focused on the sequence of intervals that we noted for each mode in the previous chapter. In most jamming situations, this approach will prove to be more useful. Hence, you should strive to start thinking about modes and scales in this manner, that is, in terms of the constituent intervals.

One-Chord Jams
One of the best ways to gain facility with switching from one scale/mode to another is to use a single-chord jam. Lest you think this no more than a didactic artifice, Ill point out that The Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa, among others, used precisely this approach to provide a harmonic environment against which they could freely explore a variety of scalar forms.

A Minor Key Example

Well start out with a nice simple Am7 jam, over which you can freely switch between the following scales: 1. The Pentatonic/Blues Scale 2. The Aeolian Scale 3. The Dorian Scale 4. The Phrygian Scale 5. The Dorian b2 6. The Dorian #4 Those last two are common exotic scales. (Well be looking at several more a little later). The Dorian b2 is the second mode of the Melodic Minor scale. The Dorian #4, also known as the Romanian Scale, is mode 4 of the Harmonic Minor scale. All are given in the key of A. Tracks 25 and 26 provide the background, first with me soloing over it, then without, so you can practice your own leads. In the solo track, I do 6 bars of each scale, in the order listed above. Example_ 13.mid provides a digital accompaniment. Example_13.pdf is a transcription of the example solo. (I list each scale being used on the transcription for your convenience.) This is the approach I typically use myself when working with one or more new scales. Ill start by setting up grids for just one position of each scale, perhaps adding some notes identifying where in a song, or over which chords they should be used. This allows me to take in the whole picture with a glance, and improvise freely. Later, when I have the sound in my ears, Ill start to expand the patterns to other regions of the fretboard. Finally, once I know the sound well, Ill start mapping out the intervals. Eventually, I reach the point where I just know which intervals define each particular scale, and hence, which chords theyll work with. Do try to become aware of the intervals youre playing, and what they sound like. In time, youll stop thinking in terms of these handy little patterns, and start grabbing for a b3rd, or a #4th. Also, use the grids in the Appendix and start mapping out these scales at other positions on the fret board. Before you know it, youll be able to find any sound, anywhere on the neck.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 21


J.P. Befumo

A Major Example
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. This example will give you six scales you can use over a major vamp. These will be: The Major Pentatonic The Diatonic Major Scale (Ionian Mode) The Lydian Scale The Kumoi, Mode 3 The Lydian #2 Scale (Mode VI of the Harmonic Minor) The Hirojoshi, Mode 6

As before, all are presented in the key of A, so you can easily incorporate them into your familiar patterns. Ill illustrate them in the second-fret position (with the exception of the Hirojoshi, Mode 6, which is in the fourth position), but there are lots of other handy locations, so be sure to map them out on your own using copies of the grid patterns in the Appendix and on disk. Tracks 27 and 28 provide examples. Example_14.mid provides a digital representation of the background. Example_14.pdf is a transcription of the sample solo.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 22


J.P. Befumo

A Dominant Example

The neat thing about dominants is that the blues is traditionally played with all dominants, so if you find something sounds good over a dominant chord, you can be pretty sure theres some way you can use it to spice up your blues repertoire. This doesnt mean you cant employ minor scales and modes. This tension between melodic and harmonic content is what gives the blues its power and appeal. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. As examples, Ive selected the following scales and modes over a steady A7 chord: The Mixolydian Mode The Pelog, Mode 3 The Lydian Dominant (Mode 4 of the Melodic Minor), The Ahava Raba (Mode 5 of the Harmonic Minor) The Hungarian Major The Lydian Minor (Mode 4 of the Neapolitan Major)

In the interest of mechanics, Ive slipped the Pelog Mode 3 and the Ahava Raba up to the fifth position, but I encourage you to pick the scales that appeal to you and map them out all over the fret board, using the grids in the appendix or those on the digital segment of the CD. You can, of course, apply any of the previous major and minor scales weve looked at thus far in any of the harmonic settings. Different combinations will introduce different degrees of dissonance, but this isnt necessarily a bad thing. It is, in fact, this very dissonance that adds interest and drama to your solos, so experiment, and let your ears guide you. When you hear something you like, internalize information about the interval that associates with the sound; i.e.: this is the sound of a minor third played over a dominant harmony. . . . Tracks 29 and 30 illustrate the dominant examples. Example_15.mid provides digital accompaniment. Example_15.pdf is a transcription of the sample solo.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 23


J.P. Befumo

Expanding the Blues With Modes and Alternative Scales

In the previous chapter we worked with playing a number of related scales over a backing track consisting of a single chord. This allowed us maximum flexibility for exploring the sounds of each scale over a stable harmonic context. In this chapter were going to expand our range by applying multiple scale forms over a chord progression. Well need to be a bit more careful here, since the notes of any particular scale will take on multiple roles depending on the chord against which it is being played. (Remember when we earlier played our C Major scale against a minor chord progression? This is the same idea.) Hence, well need to analyze each scale against the context of each chord in the progression. Ill go through this twice, first for a typical dominant 12-bar blues shuffle in the key of A, and then for a progression in A minor. Well analyze things in some detail, so after going through it twice, youll be in a good position to evaluate any new scale against any progression, and understand how it will function in that harmonic environment. Ill also provide you with a selection of exotic scales to get you started. A search of the web will turn up many more.

Example 1: 12-Bar Blues

When you get together with other musicians for the first time, chances are good that the first thing youll do is a 12-Bar Blues shuffle in some convenient key. Wouldnt it be cool to be able to slip some surprises in there thatll get the others to perk up their ears and listen? And dont just rip through a bunch of weird scales at random places in your solo. Think about effect. Have a strategy. The way I look at it, common harmonic situations can either be pitfalls, in which a tired old set of familiar riffs will mark you as one of many, or an opportunity to establish yourself as someone with a real statement to make. Sometimes Ill start out with something thats really way out there--so much so that people are going to be wondering whether Im even playing in the same key as them. Then, fairly quickly, Ill introduce a few anchor notes: a root, a fifth, a third, but still, Ill be well outside the expected region. Then I move through some territory thats more melodic, though still full of uncommon passing tones. Finally, Ill converge onto something really familiara pentatonic minor/blues scale, which, had I started with that in the beginning, would have seemed merely predictable, whereas now, its a welcome relief as the listener recovers aural equilibrium. I usually dont spend too much time there, either, but float out into some related textures, such as a bit of Aeolian, or Dorian, before ending. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Some of the scales I like to use over a 12-bar blues to break out of the pentatonic doldrums include: The Blues Modified, The Hungarian Gypsy, The Kumoi (Dorian Pentatonic), The Kumoi Mode V, The Ritusen, The Phrygian Major.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 24

J.P. Befumo 28 Notice that the A Ritusen (Figure 24) is identical to a B Pentatonic Minor. This means that in many circumstances where youd be reaching that familiar 5th position box, you can just slide up two frets and youll be playing the Ritusen. Lets analyze each of these in terms of the three chords of the familiar blues progression: A7, D7, and E7,

The Blues Modified

Table 13 shows the Blues Modified scale with its relationship to the three dominant chords of the 12-bar blues progression in A: C C# A7 Chord (b3) 3 D7 Chord b7 E7 Chord (b6) A Blues Modified b3 Table 13 D (11) R b7 4 Eb E (#4) 5 b9 (9) 7 R b5 bb6 F F# 3 G b7 (4) (b3) b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B (9) (6) 5 2

We can see immediately that when we play the Blues Modified scale over an A7 chord, we have a 1,2,b3,4,b5,bb6, and b7. (The bb6th is equivalent to a 5th, by the way.) The b3 and the b5 are bona fide blues tones, and the minor seventh is right out of the chord. The 9th (2nd) and the 11th (4th) lend a jazzy feel, as does the b9 (which can be a somewhat dissonant interval, so handle with care.) There is, however, yet another way to look at this. Remember when we talked about harmonizing the major scale, and observed that the chord built on the fifth degree is always a dominant seventh? We also discovered that while the other chords (with the exception of the m7b5 built on the 7th degree), could appear in multiple positions, the dominant seventh is unique. The rules of cadence, which are too complex for our current needs, reveal that the sound of the dominant seventh strongly implies the key center a perfect fifth below it. In the case of the A7 chord, the implied key center would be E. The E Major scale is spelled: E=F#=G#-A=B=C#=D# The relationship of the scale to this temporary key center is the same as to the V chord (E7). In terms of this (implied) key center, our A Blues Modified scale gives us: A=11th B=5th C=b6th D=b7th Eb=7th E=Root G=b3rd

Here again, we have all very strong, musical tones, so the scale works regardless of how you approach it. Moving on to the D7 Chord, our A takes on the role of a perfect 5th, the B is a major 6th, the C is a minor 7th (right out of the dominant chord), the D is the root, the Eb is a minor 9th, the E is a 2nd, and the G is the 11th. There is a lot of chromaticism in that R-b9-2 region, so approach it with caution when playing over the IV (D7) chord.

Boxes Beyond The Blues

29 As before, we can also think of the D7 chord as suggesting a transient key center of A, but weve already analyzed this scale in terms of A major, so we know it works in that context as well. Overall, we can conclude that the A Blues Modified is a good fit for a dominant blues progression. The notes of the A Hungarian Gypsy scale are:

The Hungarian Gypsy


In terms of the A7 Chord, we have the following intervals: R,9,b3,#4,5,b6,b7, as shown in Table 14. Here again, we have several bluesy notes: the minor 3rd, the tri-tone, the minor 6th and minor 7th. C C# (b3) 3 b7 (b6) b3 D R b7 Eb (#4) b9 7 #4 E 5 (2) R 5 F (b6) (b3) (b9) b6 F# 3 G b7 (4) (b3) b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B (9) (6) 5 2

A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Hung.Gypsy Table 14

In terms of the implied E Major tonal center (and the E7 chord):A=11th, B=5th, C=b6th, D#=7th, E=Root, F=b9th, G=b3rd. Here youre implying a minor/Major-7th feelingvery hip. When you play this over the E7 chord (the V in the I-IV-V progression), that major seventh is going to create some tension with the dominant seventh of the chord, so let your ears guide you. As we analyze the IV chord (D7 in the case of a 12-bar blues in A), we find that the A corresponds to the perfect 5th of the D harmony, the B gives us a major 6th, the C is a minor 7th, the D# is a very tangy b9th, the E is a 2nd, the F is a minor 3rd, and the G is an 11th. These are definitely not tones youre going to be hearing out of every would-be blues god who slings a guitar. On the other hand, theyre not so alien that people will be wondering whether youve just lost track of your key orientation. This is one of my favorite pentatonic (that is, 5-note) scales. Its got a minor tonality against the root (A) harmony, by virtue of its minor 3rd. The 9th and the 6th are nice tension tones, while the perfect 5th keeps it well centered. C C# (b3) 3 b7 (b6) b3 D R b7 Eb E 5 (2) R 5 F F# (6) 3 2 6 G b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B (9) (6) 5 2

The Kumoi (Dorian Pentatonic)

A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Kumoi Table 15

Against the E harmony, which is both the V chord of the progression, as well as the tonal center implied by A7, these notes take on a different shade of nuance. Our A is the 11th, and the B is a 5th. The C gives us a minor 6th, the E yields the root, and the F# is a 9th. Here again, all nice musical tones.

J.P. Befumo 30 Finally, against D7, the A is a perfect 5th, the B a Major 6th, the C is a minor 7th, the D, of course, is the root, the E gives us a 9th, and the F# gives a Major 3rd. Hence, against the D7, the Kumoi will have a harmonious dominant tonality.

The Kumoi Mode V

Just as we did earlier with the diatonic major scale, we are free to play any of these alternative scales from any of their scale degrees. Just as the different diatonic modes had drastically different sounds, we can expect the same when we experiment with modes of other scales. C C# A7 Chord (b3) 3 D7 Chord b7 E7 Chord (b6) A Kumoi Mode V b3 Table 16 D Eb (11) (b5) R (b9) b7 (7) b5 4 E 5 R F F# 3 G b7 (11) (b3) b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B

The Kumoi Mode V contains the Root, b3rd, 4th, b5th, and b7th. Very bluesy! In A this works out to: A, C, D, Eb, G. Considered against the implied E tonal center (as well as the V chord of the progressionE7), this works out to: A=11th, C=b6th, D=b7th , Eb=7th, G=b3rd. All nice musical relationships. Finally, played against the IV chord (D7 in our examples), the A is the perfect 5th, the C is a minor 7th, the D is the root, the Eb is a minor 9th, and the G gives us the 11th. Expect this to have a sophisticated jazzy sound, but handle that minor 9th with care, as it can be dissonant.

The Ritusen
This is another useful pentatonic scale you can use to spice up your blues repertoire. It consists of a Root, 9th, 11th, perfect 5th, and a Major 6th. In A, this is: A,B,D,E,F#. C A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Ritusen Table 17 b7 C# 3 D (11) R b7 4 Eb E 5 (9) R 5 F F# (6) 3 (9) 6 G b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb B (9) 6 5 2

Against the implied E key center, these notes represent the 11th, the perfect 5th, a minor 7th, the Root, and the 9th. That takes care of both the implied key center of A7, as well as the V chord. Over the D7, the same notes take on new identities. A becomes the perfect 5th,B the Major 6th, D is the Root, E is a major 9th, and F# is a major 3rd. Hence, we have one more scale that can work over all three chords of the standard blues progression. This is an interesting scale with a neat mix of minor and major characteristics: 1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7. In A this works out to: A,Bb,C#,D,E,F,G. Next to all those Phrygian tones, that major 3rd really stands out. Over our E7 chord/center, this gives us the 11th, a diminished 5th, a Major 6th, a minor 7th, the root, a minor 9th, and minor 3rd. These relationships are shown in Table 18.

The Phrygian Major

Boxes Beyond The Blues C A7 Chord D7 Chord E7 Chord A Phryg. Major Table 18 b7 C# 3 (7) b6 3 D (11) R b7 4 Eb E 5 (9) R 5 F (b6) (b3) (b9) b6 F# 3 G b7 (11) (b3) b7 Ab A R 5 (11) R Bb (b9) (b6) b5 b2 B


Tracks 31 and 32 provide examples, first with a sample solo, then without. Example_16.mid is the MIDI file, and Example_16.pdf is a transcription of the solo.


J.P. Befumo

Playing Over Changes

In the previous examples we have either played a single scale over all of the chords of a progression, or, alternatively, have played multiple scales over a single chord or a progression. For maximum versatility, however, its important to develop an awareness of the changes so that you can switch between different scales within the same musical composition. For our first example, lets return to our familiar 12-bar blues progression.

Table 19 We learned earlier that the Mixolydian mode was particularly appropriate for playing over a dominant seventh chord whose root is the same as that of the scale. Hence, we should be able to play an A Mixolydian over our A7 chord, a D Mixolydian over our D7 chord, and an E Mixolydian over our E7 Chord. Of course, you could use the same Mixolydian pattern shown in Figure 19, and simply slide it up and down the neck for each chord, but thats an incredibly clumsy approach. Instead, lets use our handy fret board grids to map out each of these scales in the same position. That way we can switch between scales with a minimum of movement. (You should, of course, aspire to be able to do this in any position, but the best way to start is to fully assimilate one position at a time.) As we determined earlier, the Mixolydian mode is characterized by the following step/half-step pattern: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-half-whole; that is, it is identical to a major (Ionian) scale, except for the minor seventh. The A Mixolydian, therefore, is spelled as follows: A=B=C#-D=E=F#-G=A. Similarly, the D Mixolydian looks like this: D=E=F#-G=A=B-C=D. Finally, heres our E Mixolydian: E=F#=G#-A=B=C#-D=E. All three patterns are shown in the 5th-fret position in Figure 25.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Figure 25

J.P. Befumo 34 The practice tracks 33 and 34 provide 36 bars of 12-bar blues in A, first with an example solo, then background accompaniment only. Use the corresponding digital track (Example_17.mid) to adjust the tempo as desired. Example_17.pdf is a transcription of the solo. You can use a similar approach to learning to solo over any set of chord changes. Notice, however, that if you are working with a progression using only scale-tone chords (e.g., chords harmonized from each note of the scale), you will automatically end up playing a single scale. For example, if youre playing over a familiar I-V-IV progression in the key of C (CMaj7-G7-FMaj7), and you solo using only the C Major scale, youll be playing the C Ionian over the CMaj7, the G Mixolydian over the G7, and the F Lydian over the FMaj7. Note, also, that, in the case of the F Lydian, your solo will be suggesting an FMa7(#11)over that FMaj7. If that #11 sound (the tri-tone) is a bit too spiky for you, you can switch to the F Ionian instead, as shown in Figure 26 (this is what I do in the example track.)

Figure 26 The practice tracks 35 and 36 demonstrate this example. Example_18.cmp and Example_ 18.mid provide a digital equivalent.

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Introducing Some Exotic Scales

For our purposes, exotic scales are those whose intervals dont correspond to that of the diatonic major or one of its modes. This includes some that may be familiar, such as the Melodic Minor and the Harmonic Minor, as well as a myriad of more foreign sounds. In this chapter, Ill work thorough the technique of harmonizing one (the Harmonic Minor), and then will provide you with a list of some of my favorites, along with their intervallic patterns. Basically, the approach youll use when confronted with any new scale is the same. You harmonize the scale from each of its degrees, and this tells you the chords over which it will work. You can then compose a progression that uses only these chords, in which case you can improvise using just that scale, or, alternatively, you can use one of those chords in a progression that also contains more familiar harmony, and just use the exotic scale in that single section. One thing you should notice is that you dont always have to play a particular scale over a chord that contains its corresponding extensions. For example, if you play a scale that contains extensions like a #11th, b9th, and so forth, over a simpler chord form, you will be turning that harmony into the extended form with your solo notes.

Harmonizing the Harmonic Minor Scale

When we harmonized the diatonic major scale (Ionian mode), we discovered that the most important chord for establishing the overall tonal center was the dominant seventh chord, which was built on the fifth degree of the scale. In terms of cadence, the strongest harmonic movement is the transition from the V chord to the I chord. This is known as perfect cadence. When we harmonized the Natural Minor (Aeolian) mode, although we didnt analyze this property explicitly, one of the outcomes was that the V chord turned out to be a minor seventh chord, rather than a dominant seventh. The result is that the power of the perfect cadence is compromised in this harmonic setting. This shortcoming of the Natural Minor led to the development of the Harmonic Minor scale. 1 C C C 2 D D D 3 E Eb Eb 4 F F F 5 G G G 6 A Ab Ab Bb <======> 7 B B

Major Natural Minor Harmonic Minor Table 20

The Harmonic Minor scale addresses the problem by substituting a major seventh for the minor seventh of the Natural Minor. he resulting interval pattern is as follows: C=D-Eb=F=G-AbB Notice that we have introduced an augmented interval of 3 half-steps between the Ab and the B. This is what gives the Harmonic Minor scale its characteristic exotic sound.


J.P. Befumo Lets see what emerges when we start stacking thirds in order to harmonize this new scale.

I Chord: C Maj. scale Harm.Minor 1st. degree Result Table 21 1 C C R 2 D D 2 3 E Eb b3 4 F F 4 5 G G 5 6 A Ab b6 7 B B 7

Our first chord give us: C,Eb,G,B. In terms of the C-Major scale, these represent the Root, minor 3rd, perfect 5th, and a Major 7th. This is the first time were encountering this particular combination (minor 3rd and Major 7th). The resulting chord, not unexpectedly, is called a Cm/Maj7 (also sometimes referred to as a Minor Large). II Chord: D Maj. scale Harm.Minor 2nd. degree Result Table 22 1 D D R 2 E Eb B2 F b3 3 F# 4 G G 4 5 A Ab b5 6 B B 6 7 C# C b7

Moving on to our II chord, we have: D, F, Ab, and C. Taken in the context of the D-Major scale, these intervals are the Root, minor 3rd, diminished 5th, and minor 7th, which gives us the half-diminished (m7b5) chord that shows up in the VII position of the harmonized diatonic major scale. III Chord: Eb Maj. scale Harm.Minor 3rd. degree Result Table 23 1 Eb Eb 1 2 F F 2 3 G G 3 4 Ab Ab 4 5 Bb B #5 6 C C 6 7 D D 7

Our III chord will consist of: Eb, G, B, D. Compared to an Eb-Major scale (Eb=F=GAb=Bb=C=D-Eb), these notes represent the: Root, Major 3rd, augmented 5th, and Major 7th; another interesting jazzy chord, known as a Maj7(#5). IV Chord: F Maj. scale Harm.Minor 4th. degree Result Table 24 1 F F 1 2 G G 2 3 A Ab b3 4 Bb B #4 5 C C 5 6 E D 6 7 E Eb b7

Continuing with our IV chord, the notes well be working with are: F, Ab, C, and Eb. In terms of an F-Major scale, these give us the Root, minor 3rd, perfect 5th, and a minor 7th. The result is a common minor seventh chord.

Boxes Beyond The Blues V Chord: G Maj. scale Harm.Minor 5th. degree Result Table 25 1 G G 1 2 A Ab b2 3 B B 3 4 C C 4 5 D D 5 6 E Eb b6 F b7 7 F#


Next, analyzing the V chord (which was the motivation for this scales origin), we have a G, B, D, F. In terms of G, these are the Root, major 3rd, perfect 5th, and minor 7th. As predicted, this gives us a dominant seventh chord, right in the V position, where it is needed to restore cadence. VI Chord: Ab Maj. scale Harm.Minor 6th. degree Result Table 26 1 Ab Ab 1 2 Bb B #2 3 C C 3 4 Db D #4 5 Eb Eb 5 6 F F 6 7 G G 7

The VI chord of the harmonized Harmonic Minor scale uses the notes: Ab, C, Eb, G. Compared to an Ab-Major scale, these represent the Root, Major 3rd, perfect 5th, and Major 7th; an Ab Major 7th chord. (Note that the #2 can also be treated as a b3, in which case you can use the Ab Harmonic Minor over an Abm/Maj 7 chord.) VII Chord: B Maj. scale Harm.Minor 7th. degree Result Table 27 1 B B 1 2 C# C b2 D b3 3 D# Eb b4 4 E F b4 5 F# G b6 6 G# Ab bb7 7 A# 7

Finally, our VII chord has the notes: B, D, F, Ab. These represent the Root, minor 3rd, diminished 5th, and a bb7. This is a diminished 7th chord. Hence, we can generalize all this by observing that in the harmonized Harmonic Minor scale, in any key, The I-chord is always a m/Maj7. The II-chord is always a m7b5. The III-chord is always a Maj7(#5). The IV-chord is always a m7. The V-chord is always a dominant 7th, or a 7(b9). The VI-chord is always a Major 7th, or a Maj7(#11). The VII-chord is always a diminished 7th.

Since the very reason for devising this scale was to restore the rules of cadence, we can apply these rules to come up with a progression over which you can solo using only the Harmonic Minor scale. There are many valid progressions. Heres the one I use for tracks 37 and 38 (and Example_19.mid and Example_19.pdf): Cm/Maj7-Dm7(b5)-Fm7-Cm/Maj7-Fm7-Eb7(#5)-AbMaj7(#11)-Bdim7-G7(b9)-Cm/Maj7.

J.P. Befumo 38 Solo over this using the following pattern (the grid on the left shows the note names, the one on the right, the scale degrees):

Figure 27 As always, once you are comfortable with this position, use the blank grids to learn the scale all over the neck. Also, experiment with devising your own progressions in which you can use the Harmonic Minor scale over just one or two of the chords, and more familiar scales over the others. This will give your solos a refreshing sense of variety.

Some Other Exotic Scales

There are literary hundreds of scales, along with their associated modes, and thats only considering those based on our evenly-tempered 12-tone chromatic scales. If you get into microtonal scales (which can be played using synthesizers), the number is practically infinite. Ill present a few scales that Ive found useful, showing one fret board pattern, along with an appropriate progression for each. I encourage you to search the web for more. Using the harmonization technique described earlier, you should be able to come up with appropriate harmonic backdrops on your own. The Neapolitan Major Scale (1 2 2 2 2 2 1) [these numbers represent the scales intervals] As we can see in Table 28, the Neapolitan Major really isnt a major scale at all, since it contains a minor 3rd. It does, however, contain a major seventh, so its basic tonality is a min(Maj7). As Table 28 illustrates, the Neapolitan Major is close in structure to the Melodic Minor scale, and features a minor second in addition to the Melodic Minors minor third. 1 C C C 2 D D Db 3 E Eb Eb 4 F F F 5 G G G 6 A A A 7 B B B

C Maj. scale C Melodic Minor C Neapolitan Major Table 28

Boxes Beyond The Blues The C scale-tone chords we have to work with from the Neapolitan Major are: I=Cm(Maj7) II= DbMaj7(#5) III=Eb7(#5) IV=F7(#11) V= G7(#5) VI= A7(#5#9) VII= B7(#5b9) Figure 28 shows a convenient pattern for soloing using the Neapolitan Major.


Figure 28 An interesting progression that utilizes all of these chords is: Cm(Maj7)-A7(#5#9)-F7(#11)-Cm(Maj7)-B7(#5b9)-Cm(Maj7)-G7(#5)-Eb7(#5)Cm(Maj7)-DbMaj7(#5)-Cm(Maj7). Tracks 39 and 40 (and Example_20.mid and Example_20.pdf) use this progression.

The Ahava Raba Scale (1312122) The Ahava Raba, which we encountered earlier when playing over a dominant harmony, is an interesting scale that merits further analysis. It is basically dominant in tonality (Major 3rd and minor 7th), but with the minor 9th and minor 6th of a Phrygian. The result is an ambivalent feel that can create terrific tension. You can see a comparison with a major (Ionian) scale in Table 29. 1 C C 2 D Db 3 E E 4 F F 5 G G 6 A Ab Bb 7 B

C Maj. scale C Ahava Raba Scale Table 29


J.P. Befumo The C scale-tone chords we have to work with from the Ahava Raba are: I= C7(b9) II= DbMaj7(#11) III= Edim7 IV= Fm(Maj7) V= Gm7(b5) VI= AbMaj7(#5) VII= Bbm7 Figure 29 presents one convenient fingering for the C Ahava Raba scale.

Figure 29 Heres an interesting progression over which you can practice your Ahava Raba scale: C7(b9)-Edim7-Bbm7-C7(b9)-DbMaj7(#11)-AbMaj7(#5)-C7(b9)-Fm(Maj7)-C7(b9)Gm7(b5)-C7(b9). Tracks 41 and 42 (and Example_21.bmp and Example_21.pdf) present this progression.

The Dorian b5 (2121312) The Dorian b5 is mode II of the Harmonic Major scale. It contains a minor 3rd and a minor 7th, making it appropriate for use over a minor 7th harmonic setting. t also contains a b5, the blues note, so it can function nicely in a blues environment. It can also be used over a m7(b5) chord whose root is the same as that of the scale. You can see a comparison with a major (Ionian) scale in Table 30. 1 C C 2 D D 3 E Eb 4 F F 5 G Gb 6 A A 7 B Bb

C Maj. scale C Dorian b5 Table 30

Boxes Beyond The Blues If we harmonize this scale, we come up with the following scale-tone chords in C: I=Cm7(b5) II=D7(#9) III=Ebm(Maj7) IV=F7(b9) V=GbMaj7(#5) VI=Adim7 VII=BbMaj7 A convenient fingering for the C Dorian b5 is shown in Figure 30.


Figure 30 Heres a progression you can use for exploring the Dorian b5 scale: Cm7(b5)-GbMaj7(#5)-Cm7(b5)-BbMaj7-Cmin7(b5)-D7(#9)-Adim7-F7(b9)-Cm7(b5). Tracks 43 and 44 (and Example_22.mid and Example_22.pdf) provide recorded versions of this progression. The Byzantine (1312131) The Byzantine is mode V of the Hungarian Minor scale. It contains a Major 3rd and a Major 7th, making it appropriate for use over a Major 7th harmony. t also contains a minor 9th, like the Phrygian, an 11th, a perfect 5th, and a minor 6th, which contribute some minor tones. The Byzantine is compared to a major (Ionian) scale in Table 31. 1 C C 2 D Db 3 E E 4 F F 5 G G 6 A Ab 7 B B

C Maj. scale C Byzantine Table 31

J.P. Befumo 42 Notice that the Byzantine differs from the other scales weve looked at thus far in that it has two augmented intervals (one between the b2nd and the 3rd, and another between the b6th and the 7th. If we harmonize this scale, we come up with the following scale-tone chords: I=CMaj7 II=Db7(#9) III=Em6 IV=Fm(Maj7) V=G5(b5b9) VI=AbMaj7(#5) VII=C#Maj7/B Figure 31 shows one fingering pattern for the C-Byzantine scale.

Figure 31 You can use the following progression for getting a handle on the Byzantine scale: CMaj7-Db7(#9)-AbMaj7(#5)-CMaj7-Fm(Maj7)-DbMaj7/B-Em6-G7(b5b9)-CMaj7.

Tracks 45 and 46 (and Example_23.mid and Example_23.pdf) are recordings of this progression. The Enigmatic Minor (1231311) The aptly-named Enigmatic can function over a minor 7th or a min(Maj7) tonality, as a result of its #6th degree (which effectively gives it both a Major 7th and a minor 7th). As always, that minor 9th needs to be approached with a degree of discretion. The F#, the tri-tone, lends a bluesy feel. The Enigmatic is compared to a major (Ionian) scale in Table 32. 1 C C 2 D Db Eb 3 E 4 F F# 5 G G 6 A A# 7 B B

C Maj. scale C Enigmatic Table 31

Boxes Beyond The Blues


This is another scale with two augmented intervals (one between the b3rd and the #4th, and another between the perfect 5th and the #6th). If we harmonize this scale, we come up with the following scale-tone chords: I= Cmin(Maj7) II= Ebm6/Db III= Eb7(#5#9) IV= F#6 V= GMaj7(#5) VI= Cm7/A# VII= BMaj7

Figure 32 shows one convenient pattern for playing the Enigmatic Minor scale.

Figure 32 Heres a progression you can use for getting your arms around the Enigmatic Minor scale: Cm(Maj7)-Ebm6/Db-Cm7/Bb-Eb7(#5#9)-F#6-GMaj7(#5)-BMaj7-Cm(Maj7). Tracks 47 and 48 (and Example_24.mid and Example_24.pdf) are recordings of this progression.

Regardless of your starting point, I hope that this book has helped you to progress as a guitarist and musician. The approach presented is the one I followed myself on my journey from basic blues playing into the world of jazz and fusion. Any one or two of the scales presented here are sure to breath new life into your solos. Pick a few that you like and work on integrating them thoroughly into your musical thinking. Build upon that basis by gaining an awareness of the identities of each note within its immediate and overall harmonic contexts. Just let taste be your guide, and youll be well on your way to being the best musician you can be.


Appendix A: Fretboard Grids

Grid A J.P. Befumo

Boxes Beyond The Blues


Grid B


J.P. Befumo

Hope you Enjoyed Boxes Beyond the Blues Here are some others youll enjoy:
Exotic ScalesNew Horizons for Jazz Improvisation by J.P. Befumo Ariadnes Clew by J.P. Befumo Science and SpiritWhat Physics Reveals about Mystical Belief by Angelo Parodi A Heritage of HypocrisyWhy They Hate Us by Holliston Perni

Some URLs of interest to readers of this book: