Mixoly­dian 3rds

Con­tin­u­ing his ef­forts to make you look dif­fer­ently at scales Shaun Bax­ter shows how play­ing ev­ery other note can lead to ear-catch­ing re­sults.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON | CREATIVE ROCK -

In this cur­rent se­ries, we’re look­ing at ways of us­ing var­i­ous in­ter­vals to cre­ate a va­ri­ety of medium-paced ideas to ex­pand your Mixoly­dian vo­cab­u­lary. Last is­sue we looked at the small­est in­ter­vals (mi­nor and ma­jor 2nds) so to­day we take the next log­i­cal step by look­ing at ma­jor and mi­nor 3rds.

In­ter­vals are a great way of de­vel­op­ing ap­proaches that have dis­tinct flavours. Each in­ter­val-type has its own in­nate char­ac­ter, and this is some­thing that we can use to our ad­van­tage in or­der to con­trol the mu­si­cal

com­plex­ion of what we do when im­pro­vis­ing.

Com­pared to other in­ter­vals, 3rds (like their in­ver­sion, 6ths) sound soft, sweet, melodic and form the ba­sis of Western har­mony (ter­tiary har­mony). Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, 3rds come in two types: mi­nor 3rd = three semi­tones (one-and-a-half tones), and ma­jor 3rd = four semi­tones (two tones).

Within the modes of the Ma­jor scale, a 3rd de­scribes the dis­tance be­tween two notes sep­a­rated by only one other scale note. For ex­am­ple, if you look at Di­a­gram 1, A Mixoly­dian (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G) is pre­sented in a cir­cle . If you jump over ev­ery other note (A-C#, B-D, C#-E etc) you’ll see how each note is ei­ther three semi­tones (mi­nor 3rd) or four semi­tones (ma­jor 3rd) apart. You can move ei­ther clock­wise or an­ti­clock­wise. For ex­am­ple, if you start at C#, you can ei­ther jump for­ward two scale notes to E (mi­nor 3rd), or back two scale notes to A (ma­jor 3rd).

So, to play 3rds within the scale, you sim­ply play ev­ery other note. You can play one 3rd from a given note (A-C#), two 3rds (A-C#-E), three (A-C#-E-G) or more.

Di­a­gram 2 shows what har­monic en­ti­ties are cre­ated by play­ing con­sec­u­tive 3rds in A Mixoly­dian. Hav­ing said that, ap­ply­ing 3rd in­ter­vals when im­pro­vis­ing needn’t be that com­pli­cated: it re­ally is just a case of play­ing ev­ery other note within the scale.

In terms of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, tri­ads and ar­peg­gios can be played: de­scend­ing, as­cend­ing, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween de­scend­ing and as­cend­ing or al­ter­nat­ing be­tween as­cend­ing and de­scend­ing. Use your cre­ativ­ity!

Fur­ther­more, you can work your way for­wards or back­wards through this list of avail­able tri­ads or ar­peg­gios. For ex­am­ple, you could play de­scend­ing tri­ads down through the scale (C#dim-Bm-A etc) or up through the scale (C#dim-D-Em etc). You should also prac­tise shift­ing ideas up and down the length of the neck (lat­eral mo­tion), as well as

stay­ing in the same area (ver­ti­cal mo­tion).

Dur­ing this se­ries, the ob­ject is to build up a va­ri­ety of in­ter­val-based ap­proaches over the same dom­i­nant back­ing track us­ing A Mixoly­dian in con­junc­tion with the A Mi­nor Blues scale (and why the ex­am­ples have been writ­ten out in the key of A rather than D).

BA C# D E F# G A Mixoly­dian – b7 123456


A Mi­nor Blues – b3 b5 b7 1 4 5

All of the 3rds that have been high­lighted in each of this les­son’s demo ex­am­ples, are all taken from A Mixoly­dian, and each of these sec­tions is flanked by A Mi­nor Blues-ori­en­tated ideas. Note that, al­though var­i­ous 3rds might also be played within sur­round­ing Mi­nor Blues-based ideas, we are go­ing to ig­nore them, as they are purely in­ci­den­tal, and not part of the main con­cept in each line.

Re­gard­ing this month’s back­ing track, most drum­mers would write out the drum part in 6/8; how­ever, for ease of read­ing on guitar, I have stuck to 4/4, view­ing the bass drum pat­tern as quar­ter-note triplets. If your rhythm read­ing isn’t great, don’t worry about it: just read the tab and use your ears.

Fi­nally, once you have ab­sorbed these con­cepts, you should also aim to ap­ply the same prin­ci­ples to the other scales that you know in or­der to de­velop use­ful reper­toire that you can draw upon when im­pro­vis­ing. For ex­am­ple, you can also pro­duce A Do­rian equiv­a­lents for each of the GT ex­am­ples ideas (or your own) sim­ply by re­plac­ing any C# notes with C notes. Good luck!

in the ma­jor-scale modes a 3rd de­scribes the dis­tance be­tween two notes sep­a­rated by one other scale note

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