Scales. Why scales? There are already lots of books on scales. I think the difference with this book is the way they are presented. One of the unusual things I do within the presentation is to introduce mixed meter and give a few different ways of looking at the same thing. If you play the same thing, the same way, each time, you’re going to get bored once you know how to do it. By practicing familiar things in unfamiliar ways, you break into new territory that leads you to new places, new ideas and new perspectives. I have scales groups of 4, 5, and 6 note patterns. When I began working on odd metered phrases, they were very difficult to feel the shape of them. Now, it feels much more familiar and comfortable. Why? Because they are part of my practice routine.
I have written tunes based on some of these intervallic and rhythmic relationships or maybe it was the other way around. I don’t really know for sure. I just know that it’s all connected and that everything influences everything else. If you listen the tune I wrote with Felix Pastorius called L’Esperance you will find some symmetrical and asymmetrical note groupings in the flute part after the first melodies. These exercises are influenced by this type of writing and playing.
Another tune of mine, The Mad Hatter Rides Again, is in the time signature of 17/8 (or 8 1⁄2) (or 4/4, 3/4, 3/8). You can obviously think about time and rhythm a number of different ways. This tune’s rhythmic pattern came directly out of the study of some South Indian rhythmic concepts that deal with symmetrical, as well as asymmetrical, note groupings. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and the Mu’tet’s drummer, Roy ‘Futureman’ Wooten, thinks of this composition’s time signature as a ‘lopsided 9’. You’ll have to ask him to explain…he will take you down the rabbit hole! If you are looking for more traditional musical resources for this style of music, check out Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Ravi Shankar.
Working on these types of figures and patterns directly impacts the way I write and play. It takes time for what you work on to slip its way into your playing. But, it will…and you, and others, will notice when it happens. Be patient, work hard and stay focused.
Another reason to put scales in this book is because of the direct relationship between scales and chords. (Harmony is another of the Big 5 Fundamentals.) To understand where chords come from and how to construct them, you have to know the parent scale of the chord. You have to realize there is a direct connection between a scale and an arpeggio. The arpeggio is the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th tone of the scale. This chord can also extend to the 9th, 11th and 13th tones. Those are called ‘upper extensions’. Knowing how to figure out these chords for each scale and its various modes is important. It will take time and effort on your part.
To reiterate, understanding how to connect chords and phrases comes from a working knowledge of scales, scale patterns, and chord/scale relationships so there is no getting around knowing your scales and arpeggios. I hope what is presented in this book will benefit you for many years to come. Don’t forget – harmony is fundamental!