Tetrachords, Scales, and Modes: Answer to a Student Question

Hey there folks, I got some more theory for you today.  Yipee!

The following is a question and answer thread from my YouTube channel, regarding my video about how to quickly visualize any major scale on your keyboard, by using something called the major tetrachord.  First, the original video, and then the Q&A.

Student: Is there something that is just as easier to use to identify minor scales?
Me: Thanks for your question! I will answer in terms of the “natural minor,” although this answer applies to the harmonic and melodic minor scales as well. First of all, the standard minor scales, as well as each of the “modes” of the major scale (dorian, mixolydian, etc), can all be broken up into tetrachords. The bad news is, the lower tetrachord of a minor scale has a different whole-step/half-step pattern than the upper tetrachord. (The cool thing about the major scale, on the other hand, as I describe in this video, is that the lower and upper tetrachords have the same pattern.) You may still find it helpful to break any scale type into two tetrachords. I hope this helps!
Student: Thank you for your reply. Do you have any videos going through each modes (Lydian, Mixolydian etc) and the easiest way to identify them using the tetrachords? Different modes have different patterns.
Me: I don’t have any videos on that yet. When I get a chance I will make a blog post (soon) on pianowithkent.com, which will give a description of my own approach to memorizing the modes. Meantime, try using C-major as your master reference. Starting there, realize that the modes of C Major all share the same pitches as C-major (the white keys of the piano). That is, Dorian mode of C Major starts on D. Phrygian starts on E. Lydian, on F. Mixolydian, on G. Aolian (aka the natural minor scale) starts on A. And finally, Locrian, which starts on B. Since these are all the modes of C major, they all use just the white keys of the piano. Use these modes as your master reference to building any given mode starting on any note. It helps to attack the problem from several angles. One angle is to break up each mode’s unique pattern into two successive tetrachords. Another is to be able to find the major scale (the parent scale) associated with the mode you want. For example, E-flat Dorian is the “Dorian mode of D-flat Major.” (By definition, they share the same pitches). Yet another angle is to become a master of every major scale and every natural minor. Then learn the modes as distinct variations of either the major or the minor. For example, Mixolydian is simply a major scale with a flatted seventh. This last approach is the one that I find easiest But in different contexts I use all these approaches. As far as the modes go, focus on Dorian, Mixolydian and Lydian. These are by far the most commonly used modes.

 

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Video: Ray Charles “What I’d Say” — Practice your blues licks with this one!

 

What’s up, Blues Cats and 12-bar Chicks?

If you want to get better at your blues piano playing, who better to learn from than Ray Charles? Try playing this video while throwing in your own blues licks on top.  Also try to imitate or paraphrase some of Brother Ray’s.

Here’s some insight to help you:

(1) The key is E.  You can start joining in by using the E-minor blues scale, throughout the whole jam, right hand only.  The E-minor blues scale is E, G, A, Bb, B, D, (E). Even if that’s all you practice here — which is quite valuable — it still helps to realize the following things about the chords involved . (If you’re especially ambitious,  you can try playing these chords in your left hand, while riffing with the right.)

(2) The chords are E7, A7 (added ninth, optional), and B7.

(3) The chord progression is a classic 12-bar blues, in its most basic form, outlined here:

E7 — 4 measures (bars)

A9 (or just A7) —  2 measures (bars)

E7 — 2 measures (bars) 

B7 — 1 measure (bar)

A9 (or A7) — 1 measure (bar)

AND THE TURN-AROUND:

E7 — 1 measure (bar)

B7 — 1 measure (bar) 

Now go back to the top.

(4) Repeat the above progression over and over, as you would in any 12-bar blues.  EXCEPTION: You may notice that the B7 in the turn-around does not happen in the 12-bar introduction, where Ray is playing the left-hand bass line and nothing else.  Here, E7 is implied throughout the last two bars.

(5) In the sections where the band stops, but the singing or soloing continues (called a break, or “stop-time”), the prevailing harmony is four bars of E7, as usual. Each time this break happens, we are sitting at the top of the 12-bar cycle. Therefore, each break leads us right into the A7 at measure 5.

So here’s the video, and have fun!

Easy 3-finger Technique for Impressive Pentatonic Runs on Piano (that’s right, only 3 fingers!)

Hello improvisors and jammers: Here’s a powerful way to play impressive pentatonic piano/keyboard licks when soloing in rock, blues, or jazz settings, using only three fingers in your right hand.  This video uses the famous “minor pentatonic” scale (“pentatonic” refers to a five-note scale). With a little work you will be amazed how fast you can fly across the keyboard using this simple trick of the trade!

Für Elise and other Easy Sheet Music with Letter-note names

“Für Elise” Notes (Beethoven, “Bagatelle in A minor”)

 

OTHER SHEETS (with Letter-notes included):

Here’s a collection of easy-to-read, easy-to-play sheet music I created a few years ago.  This collection resides on my older website, which is has been purged of most stuff, but still has these sheets on it.  The notes are all labeled with their associated letter-names (such as E, Bb, F#), as an aid to reading, for those who don’t read well.

These are all free and can be downloaded as PDF files.  See link below.

Be advised, these are easy arrangements, some of which are also abridgedClaire de Lune, for example is simplified, and only covers the opening theme.

Here is a list of the pieces:

Claire de Lune (intro)

Star Spangled Banner

Ode to Joy 

Happy Birthday

Moonlight Sonata

Minuet in G (Bach’s)

Greensleeves

Here’s the link:

Easy Sheet Music with Letter-note names (downloadable)

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic (video lesson)

Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic scale (a video lesson). The relationship between any major scale (or key) and its relative minor scale or key is explained here as well, in terms of traditional music theory.

Video: Pentatonic scales, Major and Minor

“A Study in Blues Piano” Course Coupon (starts now, offer expires 3/31/2018)

BLUES ALERT — PLEASE SHARE THIS!

Coupon Expires March 31, 2018* Here’s a handy dandy discount coupon for my “A Study in Blues Piano” on Udemy: Lifetime access for just $12.99. (List price is $24.99.)

*If you missed the discount window, see the bottom of this post for a another link, where you may find this course at a discount as well.

The Course at $12.99 (coupon is automatic)

or use coupon code 88KENT when purchasing.

Please share this with your musical friends!

Expires March 31, 2018 so act now! 

MISSED THE SALE WINDOW?

If you miss the coupon window, the course can be accessed using the link below. Sometimes Udemy sets their own temporary discounts, so you could get lucky!

The course at regular price ($24.99) (may be discounted by the vendor)

 

Beethoven’s Für Elise – Slow-motion video for reference

Here’s a slow-motion demonstration of the notes to Beethoven’s Für Elise.  Shown here is the most well-known first section of the piece.

This is not a performance video.  Meaning, you can’t take cues from this video on the phrasing, dynamics, tempo, pedaling, etc.  However, many people find it useful to have a reference like this, especially those who play by ear, and are simply trying to acquire the notes.