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Descending Aeolian with Drone

by Jerry Rockwell

There's something very compelling about a scale or mode starting at the top, and descending note-by-note until you get back home to "do" or the tonic. Here we will take a look at B Aeolian, the natural minor scale relative to D Major. Since our dulcimer will be tuned DAD, every single note we need for this scale is right there: accessible and in front of us.

Here are just the single string notes for the descending B Aeolian:

   /     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|
A|-------------7-----------|-6-----------5-----------|
D|-5-----------------------|-------------------------|

   /     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------7-----------|-6+----------5-----------|
A|-4-----------------------|-------------------------|
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|

Now, to fill in the supporting B drone-tones--B (Root), and F# (5th) in between the actual descending B Aeolian, we might try some eighth-note arpeggios like this:

   /     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|
A|----5-----5--7-----7-----|-6-----6-----5-----5-----|
D|-5-----5--------5-----5--|----5-----5-----5-----5--|

   /     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------7-----7-----|-6+----6+----5-----------|
A|-4--5--4--5-----5-----5--|----5-----5-----5-----5--|
D|-------------------------|-------------------0-----|

Of course, there are many, many different ways to set up these arpeggios. You might try using the bass string more for the filler notes--this will have a different texture than the TAB above where I always fill in with the higher notes.

One thing that has ALWAYS helped me is to try to visualize the scale-degrees as I'm hearing/playing the scale going down. The second chart below has the scale degrees, and after a while, if you stick with it, you will get some of the deep structural things internalized: you will hear that b6 LEANING DOWN into the Dominant or 5:

B AEOLIAN:

|D|---------E|------F#|---G|------A|-----B|--|C#|-D|---E|-F#|
|A|---------B|------C#|---D|------E|----F#|-G|--|-A|---B|-C#|
|D|---------E|------F#|---G|------A|-----B|--|C#|-D|---E|-F#|

b3|---------4|-------5|--b6|-----b7|-----1|--|-2|b3|---4|--5|
b7|---------1|-------2|--b3|------4|-----5|b6|--|b7|---1|--2|
b3|---------4|-------5|--b6|-----b7|-----1|--|-2|b3|---4|--5|

How about putting the capo on the 5th fret? Using the scale-degree chart, you can get an idea how the scale-degrees go down. Any other ways you can think of to descend with B Aeolian?

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