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Dissecting Scales


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I want to learn more about scales, specifically, I want to practice my ability to take a song and say "oh that section is in that scale", or read a bunch of notes and say "oh that's in this scale and it generally produces this mood" (assuming scale is not notated, i.e. I was playing around in FLS Piano roll and have no idea what I did but it sounded nice).

Are there any quick tips some of you might have, or some good on-line resources that might be helpful? I've been using http://www.looknohands.com/chordhouse/piano/ but that's mostly just useful given that I already know what scale I am looking for.

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I suggest reading up on the modes (Ionian-Locrian) and practicing writing with those, then listening to cool tracks that have an interesting sound to them, seeing if you can identify the mode when you try to recreate it.

That last part, trying to recreate it, should help the most.

That's all the help I can offer. Besides google stuff.

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you really just have to train your ears.

learn how the different intervals sound. once you know that, recognising a scale is easy.

you can learn about commonly used scales/modes, but just knowing about the theory won't get you anywhere unless you can link that knowledge to what you're hearing/ what you want to hear.

once you can safely recognise intervals, you can go on to practice in your head anytime. that's what i did (and still do) anyway. think of a melody you know, try to determine the root key, and work your way through the notes. imagining the notes being played on e.g. a keyboard, a guitar fretboard or a piano roll might help, whatever works best for you. i find myself switching between those 3 images.

singing helps a lot! it's the most portable instrument you have.

try stuff like singing/humming a root note, then its minor second, root note again, major second, root note, minor third, root note, major third etc etc.

if you have problems with recognising semitones in your head, practice on your computer or an instrument first.

program arpeggios, scales, melodies in the piano roll, understand the intervals and try to sing them. this will help to burn them into your memory.

at some point, if you keep practicing, you will be able to hear what you just programmed before you even hit the play button.

these are just some techniques that worked for me, you will probably invent some of your own on the way.

some of my suggestions might sound a little dry and annoying, but once you have some basic understanding of intervals, it can get quite fun. your brain will grow so accustomed to recognising pitch that it'll start analyzing tunes without you even asking for it; any commercial or movie soundtrack you listen to can become a lesson in theory.

by the way, scales are overrated. they're helpful in a theoretic context, but when making music, i'd rather focus on the individual relation between notes.

it's true of course that different scales have some inherent quality to them, but the scale a melody is in alone doesn't really tell you all that much about its mood. there's no reason why it shouldn't use three different scales either ;)

hope that helped a bit.

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The way I did it, almost unintentionally was literally sitting on itunes shuffle with my piano and playing along to the songs, Working out the chords and/or melody. It was a bit of a hobby and I still do it, all the time. I guess if you want to know how to instantly recognise 'scales' (I don't know if you mean "scales" or "keys", depends what you mean really...) in any given song, then practising doing that is the way to go!

If I can't immediately work it out, I would play a random note and run up or down chromatically until I found what felt like the root note - though it may take time to be able to recognise the root note quickly - then when I found the root note, I would assume it was in that key and take it from there.

And by recognising what other people are doing you can use and reconfigure these things. That's the most helpful thing I'd say.

Definitely as Naze was saying intervals are important in being able to recognise the shape of a melody etc. I often do it by thinking of a song I know well which had a certain interval and sing that to see if it is infact that interval. For example, every time I tune my violin I sing the E.T. theme because the first 2 notes are a 5th apart (as are violin strings). There are many good examples of these on something like "intervals" on wikipedia or it might be "relative pitch". But that's the way to go. And just practise practise practise all the time with anything you hear! As long as it's fun and you want to do it, you'll succeed!

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Train one's ears to hear the scale. FYI, though, the intervals between the scale (starting + ending on the first note of the key) are 1 -Wholestep- 2 -Wholestep- 3 -Halfstep- 4 -Wholestep- 5 -Wholestep- 6 -Wholestep- 7 -Halfstep- 8 (1).

If you want any other scale, just start on another scale degree (this one began on '1', for example) and follow the steps from that point in the pattern, instead.

As for 'moods', work with them and see what works for you. Best of luck.

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