Friday, April 1, 2016

A Scale For Every Chord

Hey folks! This week we talked about chord scales, a useful tool for melodies and improvisation. Let's get to the exercises!

1) For the progression below, I want you to do a couple things. First, I want you to figure out the "correct" chord scale for each chord in it, using relative modes. Try writing a melody using those scales! Then I want you to change one or more scales to different, also-appropriate ones and see if you can write a melody using those too. Get creative! Feel free to send me your melodies and I'll try to get you a demo track if you can't play it yourself.

2) Ok, that last one was a lot of work, so let's keep this next one simple. Near the end we talked about pivot modulations, and how a chord could have multiple scales associated with it at once. What do you think of that? Which answer makes the most sense to you? Absent surrounding context, what would you lean towards, theoretically?

3) Finally, let's grab a quick preview. We mentioned that dominant chords have a lot of available chord scales. Mixolydian is, of course, the most obvious, but there's so many others. Can you think of any other scales we've talked about that would fit over a dominant chord? How about ones we haven't talked about? Are there any scales you've encountered elsewhere that would fit over a dominant 7th chord?

And that's it! Put your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!


  1. Hey 12tone! I completed the first question and I'd like to send you my answer. Is there an email that we could send our responses to? Or is there any way to enable the publishing of PDFs in a comment here?


    1. I'm not sure how to make pdfs work here, but my email is, or if you upload it to dropbox or something you can just post the link here!

    2. Thank you! Here is the dropbox link. Please let me know what you think! :)

    3. Cool! Sorry this took a couple days, but I programmed up a quick sample audio ( and they sound good!

      For the first one, the only thing I'd suggest is maybe saving the sixteenth-note figures entirely for the second half. You've only got one in the first half, and it works but I think it's not really necessary there: The line sounds just as good if you replace the dotted 8th-16th with just two 8ths, and it lets the back part feel more like a development.

      On the second one, there's a couple things I'd do differently. Using locrian over a minor chord probably doesn't work great, because the minor triad has a natural fifth which'll rub with locrian's b5. you can think of it like a #4 instead, but approaching it from the b6 makes that a little hard to hear. The other thing I'd mention is those 32nd-note phrases. I think they're a good idea, but I wouldn't have them repeat the same notes twice. I think it'd work better if they were an ascending line. Keep the first one in each pair where they are, then start the second one at the pitch the first one ended and keep walking up the scale. Does that make sense? The first four bars also feel a little busy, it might be nice to simplify the fourth bar a bit to give the listener a little rest before diving into the back half.

      Those are all fairly minor, though. Overall, I think this is really cool! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hey 12tone!

    Daviddebonomalta again, sorry about the delay in response. I've been busy with vacation! :)

    I totally agree with your comment about the Locean mode over the minor chord. I will keep that in mind in the future.

    Would you say that your comment about the dotted eighth-sixteenth is subjective? I used it to add some rhythmic interest.

    Yes, your suggestion about shifting the pitch of the second pair of 32nds makes sense. I think doing that helps thread the bars together better.

    Last thing, how did you programme the audio? Did you write it out on sibelius and then export the MIDI?



  3. Oh, absolutely, it's totally subjective! That's the fun thing about art: We can have completely different views about what works best and we can both be right! There's no theoretical reason why the figure doesn't work, it's just not quite how I would do it.

    I use Reason for my audio programming, so I just wrote it right into the piano roll. I've been working that way for something like 6 or 7 years now, so it's pretty instinctive, but writing things out in Sibelius and exporting the MIDI works too, it's largely just a matter of preference and habit.