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Hi Everyone,

Need your help once more. Lately I've been playing out more and more. I'm having a great time and love getting a lot of gigs but I seem to be limited to being able to play songs that I am able to play in one key and use the blues/minor pentatonic scale. Ex. Someone calls "statesboro Blues" by the Allman Bros. in "D". No problem. I can tear a solo up. I can play what I hear in my head easily. Don't even have to think. Just comes right out.

The better I get, the better the bands I'm playing with. I'm starting to play w/ bands that are playing more complicated songs. I.e. - songs like "seeing things" by The Black Crowes. I have been listening heavily to the crowes for the past 6 months and can hear great lines in my head. But when it comes to soloing on the tune, I can't wrap my head around what the hell they are doing and what scale/mode to use. Same goes for country songs w/ a blues feel. They are not playing the blues scale in the key they song is in. It sounds like it's a variation.

The song that's really frustrating me right now is "Seeing Things" by The Black Crowes.

It sounds so simple compared to some other tunes I've played on, but I just can't figure it out.

Please tell me what scales/modes you would use when doing background/soloing on this tune.

Here's a link to the tune:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjnOTU0Nexg


Thanks,

Ben P.
 

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I think you need to learn your pent major scale next. The great thing is it is the blues minor pent starting on the 6th of the major scale. So D minor blues pent is the same as F major pent with a flat three. The flat three is the flat 5 in the blues scale. That should get you started on this tune. There is more stuff going on but this will get you through the main vamp of the song until you can sort some of the other stuff out.
 

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Hey Ben,

I would suggest that you try thinking about this question differently.

Your issue is NOT that you have a limited understanding of music theory, but that you're approaching the music as if it were. There's no right answer about which modes to draw from in composing a melody. It will be much easier to approach the rest of this response if you familiarize yourself with ALL modes of ALL keys so that you can draw from different tonalities when the time calls for it. You should also practice all chords (arpeggiate M7, m7 & dom7 chords up and down, and all inversions (for instance, if you're practicing Amin7, play (ACEG, CEGA, EGAC, GACE, ACEG, GECA, ECAG, CAGE, and AGEC.))

Getting these structures under your fingers will drastically improve your ability to play the things you hear, but the real trick is turning a thought into a sound.

So here's how to work on it:
You mentioned that you had melodic ideas in your mind. Pick one idea you really like, sing it against the backdrop of the recording. Now, sing it again. & again.. Once you've really got it in your ears, try to play it. If you practice this often enough, you'll develop the ability to play the ideas you're hearing spontaneously. Soon, you'll be stringing different ideas together. What you're teaching yourself in this process is something called relative pitch: you'll be able to hear distances BETWEEN notes, and you'll know what note comes next in your idea accordingly. Your goal as an improviser should be to tell the story that the music makes you hear. You can only begin to tell a more mature story (content-wise) once you're a more mature musician (to expect anything different would be silly). BUT, you can begin learning to TELL the story you have right now. &, I promise, you can get much better at it. Don't try to be too hip: play the melodies you're hearing. Developing that skill is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Don't worry about whether what you're hearing is "right." If you play what you hear, you are right.

It's also really important to LISTEN. Listen to the other musicians in the group, listen to all the music you can get your hands on, and listen to yourself. Thelonious Monk once said "the genius is the one most like himself."

What I'm suggesting is definitely hard work, but I know firsthand that it pays off.

Best wishes & good luck!
 

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...I seem to be limited to being able to play songs that I am able to play in one key...
If I read that right, I'd say that's the first problem you need to address. You need to play in more than one key.
 

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Everyone is giving good advice here. Not being as musically savvy, I use a more simplistic approach. For songs that are less bluesy and more like country, try using the 6th instead of the 7th as the focal point of your licks. I also find that the maj. 3rd seems to fit more often when you're playing an ascending phrase, and the min. 3rd when descending.

Ascending phrase example in D = D E F# A B D. It also helps if you bend upwards from A to B, like a guitar might do.
Descending phrase in D = B A F E D E D. Again a little scoop up to the B will give it a little interest, and use F natural (the min. third of the scale).

If that's hard to follow, try listening to the head of Hard Times by Fathead Newman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TPV4n3O5y4

granted it turns into more of a hard bop tune once the solos begin, but the head illustrates what I'm trying to get at above.
 

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Excellent advice by Frank in the post above! Keep it simple and effective. But at the very least you need to learn to apply this to all 12 keys, certainly more than one key.
 

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Lots of great advice so far. I think the initial approach of playing a minor pentatonic/blues scale throughout the I, IV, V of the normal rock and roll blues is a usual starting point, easy to hear and easy to play. In fact T-Bone Walker was famous for basically using this one approach throughout his whole career, so it can bring you quick far.

Learning to alternate the major pentatonic on the I and the minor pentatonic on the IV and V chords would be taking it a step further. A lot of great blues lines play with the pivoting between the major and minor 3rd at strategic spots in the progression to make an interesting effect.

If you want to play scales, then using the appropriate mixolydian scale over each of the three chords would add a further dimension to your blues lines. And of course, you can combine all the approaches to make the solo more interesting, and with different colors and moods. Frank's advice on ascending in major pentatonic and descending in minor pentatonic works well and is well worth working on.

But the final fall back should be singing. Put aside your instrument, keep listening to the piece, and try to sing out a line that pops into your head. Work on hearing those lines for a while till you remember them quite clearly then take up your instrument and work out what those lines actually are. You may not wow the 'master of the universe' saxophonists out there, but the audience will dig it, because melody always sells, and the average audience generally won't care/know if its a pentatonic, bebop or lydian dominant scale that you are using. Also cliched as it may be, working on some solid altissimo notes always works well for rock and pop stuff, so see if you can include this in your blues solos, especially when you are building to a climax.

Of course, if you were playing for a jazz crowd, then the requirements are much higher... It just comes with the territory.
 

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A lot of great blues lines play with the pivoting between the major and minor 3rd at strategic spots in the progression to make an interesting effect.
Yes, like when moving from the I7 chord (maj3rd) to the IV7 chord (min3rd), and in other ways as well.

But I keep coming back to the 'one key' statement. If you can only play in one key, you really need to address that. Or am I missing something?

Wonder if the OP is still with us?
 

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Yes, like when moving from the I7 chord (maj3rd) to the IV7 chord (min3rd), and in other ways as well.

But I keep coming back to the 'one key' statement. If you can only play in one key, you really need to address that. Or am I missing something?

Wonder if the OP is still with us?
Yup, you are right on the money! On both scores. The OP may no longer be with us, but we can still pretend to be pedagogues for a bit longer can't we? I'm told it's good fun being pedagogic eg :

"Since we are changing from the maj pent on the I chord to the minor pent on the IV chord, the maj 3rd note would automatically change to the minor 3rd. So you get this interesting change of colors from bright to dark within the 12 bar sequence in the typical progression... etc etc.."
 

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The OP may no longer be with us, but we can still pretend to be pedagogues for a bit longer can't we? I'm told it's good fun being pedagogic eg :
Yes, it's a lot of fun. Otherwise most of these threads would die out quickly! :)
 

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Lots of great advice so far. I think the initial approach of playing a minor pentatonic/blues scale throughout the I, IV, V of the normal rock and roll blues is a usual starting point, easy to hear and easy to play. In fact T-Bone Walker was famous for basically using this one approach throughout his whole career, so it can bring you quick far.

Learning to alternate the major pentatonic on the I and the minor pentatonic on the IV and V chords would be taking it a step further. A lot of great blues lines play with the pivoting between the major and minor 3rd at strategic spots in the progression to make an interesting effect.

If you want to play scales, then using the appropriate mixolydian scale over each of the three chords would add a further dimension to your blues lines. And of course, you can combine all the approaches to make the solo more interesting, and with different colors and moods. Frank's advice on ascending in major pentatonic and descending in minor pentatonic works well and is well worth working on.

But the final fall back should be singing. Put aside your instrument, keep listening to the piece, and try to sing out a line that pops into your head. Work on hearing those lines for a while till you remember them quite clearly then take up your instrument and work out what those lines actually are. You may not wow the 'master of the universe' saxophonists out there, but the audience will dig it, because melody always sells, and the average audience generally won't care/know if its a pentatonic, bebop or lydian dominant scale that you are using. Also cliched as it may be, working on some solid altissimo notes always works well for rock and pop stuff, so see if you can include this in your blues solos, especially when you are building to a climax.

Of course, if you were playing for a jazz crowd, then the requirements are much higher... It just comes with the territory.
Good idea. Actually if you work on the singing enough you can become the frontman/vocalist and not have to worry about all this theory stuff at all. Just remember the lyrics and you'll get more action than the sax player!
 
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