The Altered Scale (Podcast Episode #19)

Posted by: JAZZEDGE on March 2, 2021

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00:06 Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge and I want to welcome you to episode number 19 of the confident improviser podcast. Alright, so today we're going to be talking about the altered scale, I'm going to show you how to form the scale, how to practice it, and how to use the altered scale in your improvisation. So this podcast is designed to go along with the confident improviser course, it's found at jazz edge. So it's a great supplemental podcast to go along with the course. But of course, you can get a lot of information from the podcast, just by listening to it, even if you're not a member of jazz edge, there is a video replay of the podcast if you want to see what I'm doing. It's right in the members area at jazz edge.com. So today, the altered scale. So first of all, the altered scale is probably by far one of my favorite scales to utilize in improvisation and you're gonna see in a little bit and then explain it as to why it's such a versatile scale. But let's first of all figure out how do we form that altered scale. And what we're doing is the altered scale is formed off of the melodic minor scale, it is a mode of the melodic minor scale. In fact, it is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale. So in front of me right here, I have the C melodic minor scale, ascending, right, there is a different descending form if you want us to do that. But typically a melodic minor scale is you take the major scale, so C major scale, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, right, and just flat, the third which is e, MC, E flat, so then the altered scale becomes C, D, E, flat, F, G, A, B, C, as a little side note, that scale works great over minor, major seventh chords. So the C minor, major seventh chord. That might that melodic minor scale. But anyway, we're not we're not talking about that today. Today, we're talking about that altered scale. But we first of all start with that melodic minor scale. Okay, super important that you understand the melodic minor scale, because it makes forming the altered scale. So so much easier. Now, when I say the seventh mode of the scale, what does that mean? Remember, don't get confused by some of these like big terms like mode, right? A mode is simply a scale starting on another note, other than the root. So if I took my C major scale, when I started on the root to the root, this is the C major scale, right? It is also called the modes called the Ionian mode. But we don't have to worry about that right? Now. The point that I want to make sure you understand is like if I go D to D, and I'm still using notes from the C major scale, well, that's a mode of the of the scale, E, that's another mode after app, that's another mode, right? So that would be the first mode, second mode, third mode, fourth mode, and so on and so forth. Well, now if we take our C melodic minor scale, right with our E flat in there, 03:07 if we start from B, and go up to b, this is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale, right. So you could also look at it this way, it's like starting the C melodic minor scale on the seventh note of the scale, remember, let's count up the notes. C is one, D is two, e one is three, f is four, G is five, a is six, and B is seven. So if I go from B, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, B, that is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale. And what that creates is a B, altered scale B is in boy A B altered scale. So if I played the C melodic minor scale, starting on B, go B to be and run that C melodic minor scale, I get the B altered scale. Now some players also like to call this scale, a diminished whole tone scale because it kind of starts with them. First, for a diminished notes and the other four notes in the back end here, our whole tone, right? I'll explain that and show you that a little bit more when we move to the key of C for a second, okay. All right. Okay, so let's do the altered scale in C. So one way of thinking about creating the altered scale and probably the easiest, fastest way is pick whatever note you want to make the altered scale on. So I want to make the altered scale and see so now what I'm going to do is I'm going to go up a half step or up a half step from C would be either C sharp or D flat. For this case, it's going to be a lot easier if you think of it as D flat. So okay, so D flat, create a melodic minor scale starting on D flat will remember to major scale D flat major scale and then just flat the third. Okay, so that gives me the notes D flat, E flat, E natural or F flat to be enharmonically Correct, right, then G flat, a flat, B flat C, that's my D flat melodic minor scale. Okay, and then all I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna start on C. So now the notes of my C altered scale, if you want to pause this podcast for a second, and see if you could figure it out before I tell you, that would be fine. But they are C, D flat, E flat, E, natural, F, G flat, a flat, B, flat, C, okay, now I labeled them a little bit differently, and I labeled them more as C, D flat, D sharp, E, F sharp, a flat, B, flat, and C. And the reason I do that is you could see, in this altered scale, that you're getting a lot of these tensions, so that's why I label those notes that way. So C is the root, D flat is the flat nine, D sharp is the sharp nine is the third, F sharp is sharp, 11, a flat is flat, 13, B flat is flat seven, and then we get back to the root again. Now, this is what's really cool about the altered scale, the altered scale, has everything that you need to create the dominant chord sound. So notice in the altered scale, you have the root, the third, and the seventh, hey, it can't be any more efficient than that, it gives you the root, and then the guide tones. So root three, and seven. Hey, so you have your dominant seventh chord embedded within that ultrascale. And then you have four tensions, believe it or not, this scale gives you four tensions, right gives you flat nine, sharp, nine, sharp 11 and flat 13 in there. So you got your chord tones, the root three and seven, and then flat nine, sharp, nine, sharp, 11, flat 13. That is your altered scale right there. Right. So let's just try doing it on a different one. I haven't written this down, but let's just play it and see if we can figure it out. Let's try and do the G altered scale. Alright, so again, I want to do g altered scale. So what I do is I go up a half step to a flat and create a melodic minor scale on that note, and remember, a melodic minor scale is the A flat major scale with a flatted third, so that'd be a flat, B flat, C flat, D flat, E flat, F, G, A flat. Alright. And then what I'm going to do is I'll take off that a flat up top here, and instead I'll replace it with a G down here. So that I have G, a flat, B flat, B, D flat, E flat, F, G, and the fingering for that and the right hand 12312345, same fingerings for C major scale, that's the same thing for your C 07:58 123. Cross underneath 12345. All right, so that's your G altered scale. Remember another way of forming the scale, if you don't want to go up a half step and do the melodic minor and stuff like that, okay, well, you already know that it's root three, and seven. So let's try doing it. Let's do it an E flat, alright, so we get root three and seven, E flat, G, and D flat, I need flat nine, which is going to be f flat, right? Or e natural, I need sharp nine, which is going to be F sharp, I need sharp 11, which is going to be a natural, I need flat 13, which is going to be B natural, okay. And there's my, there's my scale right there. Now, there's a couple of different ways in which you can kind of check yourself as well. Alright, so if we take a look at the top four notes of the scale, let's move back into the key of C, or second c altered scale. So C, D flat, D flat, D, F sharp, a flat, B flat, C, we take a look at the top four notes, that is a whole tone scale. So those were going from C down to B flat down to a flat down to F sharp, G flat, right, those are whole steps apart. That is the top four notes of our whole tone scale. And then these bottom four notes, it's the root and the third, flat nine sharp nine. Make use of that, that cool. Sound. Alright, so let's get into how we're going to practice this scale. So what I've done is I've broken down the scale into two different chunks, right, or blocks, we can think about it as well. So the first chunk here is playing the C, the C sharp or D flat, D sharp and E natural, right? So C, D flat, D sharp. Natural. And the left hand is playing route three, seven. Now what I did here is I went up to the F sharp, I didn't have to go up to the F sharp, but I just wanted to go up to the F sharp just to add in one more note, I really think of F sharp as being part of the other block or the other chunk, right? So if we're going to just think about it as four notes, four notes, F sharp would be part of the other chunk, but I put it in here anyway, so we have, 10:40 okay, so what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna focus on those first four notes or five notes, you know, the idea is that I'm not playing the whole scale, I'm just gonna play the first part of the scale. Right? Now what I've done is I've created a play along track for you, as well, that you can just kind of like, well play along with this is an i real pro track. And let's play along with that. 11:03 Here we go. Now after you get that down, right, pretty simple, they're now trying to mess around with those notes. 11:42 Notice when I'm messing around with the notes, I am not moving to the rest of the scam. So I'm going to stay within those four or five notes. Okay, I'm just gonna stay right there. And I'm not going to try to to expand the scale too quickly. Now, obviously, if we've done chunk a, we can do chunk B, and chunk piece. Right, we're just playing the top four notes. I have C, D flat, D flat, F sharp, G flat, right, whichever one, then a flat B flat, C, D flat, C. And when I say F sharp or G flat, whichever one, because there is a theoretically correct way of saying it, we should say F sharp because it's a sharp 11 in there, that kind of makes a little bit more sense. But when we're spelling out the notes of the scale, C, D flat, a flat, G flat, just kind of flows a little bit nicer than C, B flat, D flat, F sharp, right. Alright, so now let's take this and play along with our play along track as well. 13:06 And, of course, mess around with it. So all I'm trying to do is I'm just trying to play around with these notes for five notes at a time, just kind of get comfortable with them, get them in my fingers, and also get them in my ears as well. Right. Now of course, you could go ahead and you can play the entire scale. And then play that with the backing track and you know, just kind of mess around there. But if you find that playing the entire scale, you get a little bit lost or you it kind of falls apart on you. One reason might be due to the fingering, right? And this is why we break that scale into these smaller chunks, or blocks. Because then we can kind of stay within a five finger position and we don't have to worry about crossing. Okay. So if you find that you're having any pain points, while trying to play the entire scale, well just back it off, and just play one chunk or the other. Alright, so now let's ask this question, why write the chord symbol using a L t? Well, if you take a look at these two different chord symbols that I have up on the screen, and I'll say them to you, in case you happen to be listening to the podcast in the car or whatnot. On the left here it says c seven flat 13 sharp 11 flat nine. Okay? Now imagine reading that quickly on a gig especially if it's dimly lit. You know, it's very difficult to read that especially like it's hard for me to even see that flat 13. Sharp, right? It's very easy for those numbers to get mushed together, and you make a mistake and you don't see the flat 13, or the sharp 11 or the flat nine in there, right. Whereas on the right, it just says c seven, a lt and a lt obviously is short for altered, right? So alt altered. So the Al T, also provides you a little bit of open endedness. So when we say altered that might be flat 13, with sharp nine, flat 13 with flat nine, flat 13, flat nine, flat 13, sharp, nine, sharp, 11, sharp, nine, sharp 11, flat nine, you know, so you might have different combinations in there. Now the question, I'm sure that you would logically ask is, whoa, how do I know which one to use? And at that point, if there's a melody involved, whether it's going to, you know, it's going to be dependent upon the melody, if I'm playing c seven here, and I have a D flat in my melody, Well, I better make sure that I'm putting that flat nine in the chord, right? That makes good sense. Now, could I leave it out and play sharp nine Instead, it could do that. But the point is that if the melody is in there, and it's a flat nine, I'm probably going to have the flat nine in my chord, right? If I have a flat 13. All right, well, then I'm going to want to put that in there as well, right? So the combinations that you choose, whether you're going to do a flat nine, or a sharp nine, oftentimes is Melody dependent. Now, if you not playing the melody, you're just improvising. Well, guess what you can choose whichever ones you want. If you want to put in flat 13, would flat nine one time and flat 13 with sharp nine the next time, go ahead and try it. Of course, it always depends on the sound, right? So you're going to listen, you're going to use your ears, and you're going to say, Okay, do I like the sound of that, or I like the sound of that also depends what chord you're going to next. So I wouldn't worry too much about which one you should be using which one of those tensions, the main thing is right now understanding that that altered scale works over these dominant seventh chords and these altered chords. Alright, so the next question is, where can I use that altered scale? And the answer is, you can use the altered scale and pretty much any dominant seventh chord. Okay, so let's say that I had a blues, which is dominant seventh chords, right? I want to get a real jazzy sound. Now, you might not like that sound. Personally, I'm not all that in love with that sound, either, it doesn't sound really good, it kind of a shuffle thing like that. But the point is, you could use it, let's say I did this. 17:56 A lot of times, I might use my blues scale. Right. But I could do also do that. I did see altered and I went to my f altered scale. So you can play around on the dominant seventh chords by using the altered scale. Now, the best way of doing this is going back to those chunks going back to those blocks. So again, I'm going to put on my dominant seventh practice, you know, play along here, and it just says c seven. All right, so what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna play that C seven chord, right. And if I wanted to play in a rootless chord voicing, I'll show this to you as well, we're not going to get into we're not going to dive into it too deep right now, but I could play the third and the seventh in the left hand, so that's E and B flat, and then put flat nine or sharp nine up top, I personally like that sharp nine. It says D sharp up there, or D flat right. From the bottom, it's A, B flat, D sharp, so I can play those notes in the left hand. And then I can just improvise using the first four notes in my altered scale or the top four. So either block and I can move back and forth between those blocks 19:42 the entire scale He can get some really, really neat sounds with that altered scale. One thing that I like to do as well as I like to kind of like open up that scale a little bit. And here I have E flat, D flat, a flat, D flat, E flat, D flat C. 20:31 real neat sounding, real neat sounding lick to do that kind of stuff. But point is, you learn the scale by playing around with it and exploring. Hey, that's really how you get the scale underneath your fingertips. You do it on one chord, one key to start All right, I did on on C seven alter it. Now let me move and I'm going to do it on G altered. Okay, so here we go. Joke. I could play around with that. And just like keep going going going and vamping on that one chord. The one chord vamp is a great way of practicing this because it allows you to like just kind of like really kind of sit with the scale sit with the chord, and you're not worried about trying to change from chord to chord to chord, right. So I definitely suggest, if you want to start to bring that altered scale into your playing, sit with it on one chord to start, right. So just download this practice track, play along with that practice track on one chord. And then you can move into other chords if you want. So we went from C to G, you can go to D flat, B flat, whatever you want to do, right? And then you can try bringing that altered scale in. Anytime you see a dominant seventh chord, right? It's going to work most of the time. Now what's going to happen is it's going to create some more tension. So again, you use your ears, you might say, Yeah, I don't want that much tension this time. You know, I'll just go with my plain old mixolydian scale or maybe my blues scale. Okay, but that altered scale is a great scale to have in your back pocket. Now if you have any questions, you can join me every other Thursday for the TCI q&a session and the link for that is right within the sites. Okay, so just go log into jazz edge, go to live training, and you'll see the link right up there. I do. Anyway, that's it for me. Thanks, guys for joining me on the altered scale. And I'll see you in the next podcast episode.

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