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Ugh... chords or scales first?
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King Of World
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Ugh... chords or scales first?

I've been teaching myself piano and it's boosted my beats times a million so far, but I'm trying to get deeper into learning much more chords. I want to be able to eventually hear a song and play it and play with that kind of ease ya know? I just don't know how to get there since I'm only teaching myself (with the help of the internet obvz)

Scales I know: C major scale with correct fingering/crossovers BOTH hands (i can play with ease already)

Chords I know: All the basic major/minor Triads + all of their inversions (took me a while), I also know how to play major 7th chords now (not with inversions yet though), Starting to delve into flat chords and sustained chords etc...

So I'm at a sort of fork in the road right now ... should I be focussing on Scales or Chords??? I feel like the scales don't do anything for me and when I learn new chords I become so much more creative right away with my compositions. If you think I should learn scales plz explain what I can even use them for. And remember I'm ultimately trying to get "there" and by "there" i mean to be able to hammer out ANY melody I hear in my head right away.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Basic scales for me is understanding keys. If you know the scales then a diatonic melody (a melody containing only notes from a particular major/minor scale, ie key) will be very easy to play by ear because your fingers will fall in the right place (you develop a ear-finger relationship). There is so much more to say about scales and chords of course. One thing though, the chords with complicated exrensions that you see in some cases are most of the time written that way because of the melody notes. People looking at a the sheet music for a jazz song can get the impression that chord extensions are pretty much used arbitrarily. Look/ listen to the melody and a lot will be reveiled. And melody comes from scales. So we're back again.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Of World View Post
I feel like the scales don't do anything for me and when I learn new chords I become so much more creative right away with my compositions.
I think you answered your own question. Learn whatever you're most interested in first, and what inspires you. You'll eventually get to both anyways, so it doesn't matter which you learn first, imo


Quote:
Originally Posted by King Of World View Post
If you think I should learn scales plz explain what I can even use them for. And remember I'm ultimately trying to get "there" and by "there" i mean to be able to hammer out ANY melody I hear in my head right away.
You answered your own question here too . A melody is basically just a scale played in a different rhythm and/or different order. So if you want to learn melodies, knowing some scales will help you a lot.

Look at it like this - Theres only 12 notes, so if you're trying to play a melody you hear in you head, there's only 12 options each note could be. Once you know the scale that its in though, there's only maybe 6 or 7 notes in a simple scale, so now you narrowed it down to an even smaller grouping of notes, and you know your melody is somewhere in those notes. And if you can't find a note you're looking for in those 6 or 7, then you know its probably a note in between. Then its just a matter of playing around with it all until you figure it out.

So essentially scales just help you narrow down your options and guide you in the right direction. The more exp, the less time needed to figure it out basically.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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You make them sound as if they have to be learned separate and apart from each other. It shouldn't be an either or type of thing, you should be learning one in conjunction with the other. Learning scales will only enhance your learning of chords. Scales are the building blocks and learning them will make you learning chords that much easier.

Since you know the C Ionian already you should be able to at least from a theoretical aspect be able to figure out a myriad of chords, everything from major 6ths, 7ths 9ths,11ths to sus chords, dominant chords, add chords and so on and so forth. Getting them under your fingers is another matter but from your knowledge of that scale alone you can at least theoretically figure out every possible permutation of diatonic chords in C Major. Learning the scale first gives you a context in which everything else can be easily related to. Learning the chords without knowing how they relate to different scale degrees will do you little justice and make your knowledge segmented.

You will know the chords yes but the trick is how they create whatever soundscape you're after by relating to other chords whether diatonically or non - diatonically. Scales help to not only bridge the gap but give you near infinite ways of progressing from point A to point B. In addition any kind of improvisation is damn near impossible without basic knowledge of scales and as you will be hard pressed to do voice leading without scale knowledge either.

Chords and scales shouldn't be viewed as mutually exclusive, you should learn them in conjunction with each other, not either or. If you set out to just learning the chords you will end up learning chords yes, but you deficient in the skill of linking those chords together and trust me there are A LOT of chords. Trying to learn them without scales is making life much MUCH more difficult than it has to be. If you have a solid grasp of scales, you have pretty much every available at your finger tips, it's just a matter of picking scale degrees. Having a solid grasp of scales as a good foundation is probably one of the best things you could ever do to enhance your music. As long as you know your scales and know how to form the chords you're after you can figure out and learn any chord you wish.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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The pentatonic scale is like a magical melody generator. I swear.

I know 4 keys by heart but I always use the Fm scale. I navigate thru that one really easily. So a lot of the time, I just stick with it and use my transpose button on my Axiom keyboard if I want to use another key. It's a bad habit tho.. I get stuck in a pattern and use similar chord progressions a lot.
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28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TYPHY View Post
The pentatonic scale is like a magical melody generator. I swear.

I know 4 keys by heart but I always use the Fm scale. I navigate thru that one really easily. So a lot of the time, I just stick with it and use my transpose button on my Axiom keyboard if I want to use another key. It's a bad habit tho.. I get stuck in a pattern and use similar chord progressions a lot.
Which pentatonic scale might I ask? The major pentatonic sounds very much oriental.
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28th January 2013
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Minor Pentatonic scale.

Most of my melodies are formed with that scale... it sounds really good to me.

Soemtimes I throw in the 6th or the 2nd for extra flavor.
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28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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you are right, 4 keys by heart but I always use the Fm scale. I navigate thru that one really easily. So a lot of the time
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28th January 2013
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They're pretty much intertwined - you shouldn't be learning one without the other.
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28th January 2013
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28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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You should really learn scales.

I know it ****ing sucks but scales are the basis of EVERYTHING musical.

Once you learn about scales, chords, and the "rules" of music theory, you can break those rules and make crazy stuff!
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28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TYPHY View Post
The pentatonic scale is like a magical melody generator. I swear.

I know 4 keys by heart but I always use the Fm scale. I navigate thru that one really easily. So a lot of the time, I just stick with it and use my transpose button on my Axiom keyboard if I want to use another key. It's a bad habit tho.. I get stuck in a pattern and use similar chord progressions a lot.
Wow! I do the exact SAME thing.

I had a keyboard player over one day and when he saw me do that he yelled "CHEATER!!!!"
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