How To play an Altered Scale
Awhile back I wrote in my blog about Fill ins for the beginner. I mentioned that every fill in pattern uses a group of notes. For instance in a basic arpeggio fill in pattern, the set of notes are none other than the chord notes itself. To spice things up, you can include the 9th note (or the 2nd note). So, now you have these group of notes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 5th for a fill in pattern... if you want some extra notes for a fill or a run, just use the notes of the scale you are in such as "G" in this song which would included G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. Just start on a note of the chord you are playing and end on a note of the chord you are going to...read more
Well, how would you like to learn another way to solo? Let's start with scales.
The easiest way to look at a melodic minor scale is simply to look at it as a major scale with a lowered 3rd tone. For example:
C Major Scale= C D E F G A B C
C melodic minor= C D Eb F G A B C
Now, let's look at modes. Yes, I wrote an article called Fun With Modes.
Every mode gives you unique changes and therefore provides great soloing tools over certain chords.
Here are all 7 modes:
f you play a major scale from the first tone of the scale to the first tone of the scale (e.g. - “C major scale from ‘C’ to ‘C’), this is called the IONIAN mode.
If you play a major scale from the second tone of the scale to the second tone of the scale, this is called the DORIAN mode.
If you play a major scale from the third tone of the scale to the third tone of the scale, this is called the PHRYGIAN mode.
If you play a major scale from the fourth tone of the scale to the fourth tone of the scale, this is called the LYDIAN mode.
If you play a major scale from the fifth tone of the scale to the fifth tone of the scale, this is called the MIXOLYDIAN mode.
If you play a major scale from the sixth tone of the scale to the sixth tone of the scale, this is called the AEOLIAN mode (you should know this as the “natural minor scale”).
If you play a major scale from the seventh tone of the scale to the seventh tone of the scale, this is called the LOCRIAN mode.
So putting together these 2 theory tools, modes and melodic minor scales...
What if you played the melodic minor scale from the 7th tone of the scale to the 7th tone? This is what we call the “altered” or “super locrian” mode. Jermaine Griggs explains the merge with colorful piano illustrations.
Jermaine says the easiest way to play an altered scale,
"Take any major scale and sharp the first and last note. Bam! That’s it!" Jermaine Griggs shares the formula for altered scales...
1) If you want to play a particular altered scale, go down a half step. That will be the major scale you’ll need to know…
2) Then basically raise the FIRST and LAST notes of that major scale to get your altered scale. The first and last note will be the same note.
I have found some great videos to watch on the net regarding how to play specific altered scales such as altered scale in Db and a C Locrian Scale.
One of my favorites, The D Altered Scale in Jazz Music, and a whole list of other videos can be found at
By far, if you're looking for written theory concepts and charts to make things more clear for you, stop by this site for easy reading.
Then there is Wikipedia defining Altered Scale,
"In jazz, the altered scale is a seven-note scale that differs from the locrian mode in having a lowered fourth scale degree. Starting on C, it contains the notes: C, D♭, E♭, F♭, G♭, A♭ and B♭. (This is the C locrian mode, C-D♭-E♭-F-G♭-A♭-B♭, with F changed to F♭. For this reason, the altered scale is sometimes called the "super locrian mode.") It is the seventh mode of the melodic minor ascending scale. The scale is sometimes spelled with two thirds rather than a flatted fourth scale degree--e.g. C-D♭-E♭-E-G♭-A♭-B♭, with E substituting for F♭. In contrast to the term acoustic scale, the term "altered scale" almost always refers to this particular mode of the melodic minor, rather than the scale itself. In this sense, the term "acoustic mode" would be more accurate."
Remember that any chord can be modified or altered. Raising or lowering notes of a chord by a half step may change its dissonance. This increases the tension of the chord. On page 229 of Jermaine Griggs theory book, he introduces altering chords. He goes on to explain the common use of altering chords changes the "feel" of a chord progression. I can relate to this because you always hear musicians say "learn the song in all keys". I have found that playing on all the black notes is indeed a different "feel" than playing a song in the Key of C. Right now Hear and Play is offering a 40% off sale on their 300 page course book with free shipping whether you're here in the U.S. or abroad. If interested, you may want to check out their sale. Remember, it's a book with bonus Cd Rom, not an instructional dvd... it's a good sale.
Thanks for catching up with me on old posts and new posts on Monday's Mail!
Until next time,
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