Theory Question of the Week #2

Question: I know that if a song is in the key of, let's say E minor, then I can solo using E pentatonic minor and it's relative major scale Gmajor. I would like to know how, and when you can use all the minor scales (melodic, harmonic,etc..) and major modes (ionian, phrygian,etc...) with a given progression? Guess i'm tired of the pentatonic sound...
This is a very big question. I will be answering this in several installments. Let's begin by figuring out exactly what the key E minor means. A minor scale can be made by combining notes in this configuration: WHWWHWW. This creates a scale with a b3, b6 and b7 when compared to a major scale starting on the same note. For an example, let's look at E minor:

Notice that the G Major and the E minor both contain the same notes. The difference between G major and E minor is that with G Major, the tonic (or key note) is g and for E minor it is e. When soloing, this means that we will focus many if not most of our ideas around the tonic note.(at least to begin with)

The first step for you to lose the 'pentatonic sound' is to practice playing over the song using E minor (also known as natural minor.) This is still somewhat oversimplifying the answer, but it is the best way to get to the more complicated scale methods. Now, practice playing over the same progression, but use the natural minor scale. To begin, try playing using mostly pentatonic and then add the extra notes of the natural minor only periodically. It works to add them as trills or as passing tones. Here is an example of converting a lick from minor pentatonic into natural minor using these two techniques.


click here to download this example (all tablature is created in In-Depth Guitar)

Here are the seven triads in E Minor: Em - F#dim - G - Am - Bm - C - D

Here are some sample chord progressions in E Natural Minor

| Em | G | D | Am | ----- and ----- | Em | C | G | D |.

Try practicing playing over these and any other progressions you may know, trying to incorporate the new notes in E natural minor.

Click on the icons below to see the entire set of scale patterns for each type of scale.

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