DulciTheory Newsletter -- Issue #6: Building the Major Scales

CONTENTS:

1.) Making sure you see the relationship between the whole and half-step pattern as it exists on the keyboard, staff, and especially on the dulcimer fingerboard.

2.) Going up one string continuously, vs. crossing over (playing across the fingerboard).

3.) Mapping the G and A Major scales on the D-A-D Fingerboard.

4.) Mapping the solfege for D, G, and A Scales -- In this exercise, we will fill out the fingerboard survey charts with do, re, mi...etc., the syllables for Solfege used in "sight-singing" classes. The great advantage of solfege is that you don't have to worry about confusing numerical scale-degrees with fret numbers.

5.) Using a Capo to get to the Keys of G and A


1.) MAKING SURE YOU SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WHOLE AND HALF-STEP PATTERN AS IT EXISTS ON THE KEYBOARD, STAFF, AND ESPECIALLY ON THE DULCIMER FINGERBOARD.

The mountain dulcimer is a great instrument for visualizing the intervals that make up the structure of music, because it has a mostly diatonic fret pattern: THE LONG SPACES BETWEEN FRETS INDICATE A WHOLE-STEP, AND THE SHORT SPACES INDICATE A HALF-STEP.

You can see a major scale pattern very easily if you go up any string from the open string to the 7th fret, jumping over the 6th fret and playing the 6+ fret:

.|<-----W---->|<----W--->|<-H->|<---W-->|<--W-->|<--W-->|-H-|

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

You should be able to see and hear this same C Major Scale on the white keys of the piano. Remember: there is no black key between E and F, and no black key between B and C.

Now suppose we want to START the major scale pattern at the 3rd fret, and wind up at the 10th:

.|<-----W---->|<----W--->|<-H->|<---W-->|<--W-->|-H-|<--W-->|<-W->|-W--|-H-|

C|-----------D|---------E|----F|-------G|------A|-Bb|---|--C|----D|---E|--F|
G|------------|----------|-----|--------|-------|---|---|---|-----|----|---|
C|------------|----------|-----|--------|-------|---|---|---|-----|----|---|

Here, with our C-G-C tuned dulcimer, the major scale pattern starting at the 3rd fret gives us an F Major scale.

If you've done the exercises on modeling the major scales on page 10 of the Theory book, you will see that the chart above fits PERFECTLY with starting to go counterclockwise -- in 4ths -- around the CIRCLE OF FIFTHS. Even though we don't tune into them much, you should probably get familiar with the flat keys, and you can do this by continuing counterclockwise around the circle, as the exercises in the book show.

Now lets apply this whole show to the D-A-D dulcimer, since that's where many of us spend most of our time:

.|<-----W---->|<----W--->|<-H->|<---W-->|<--W-->|-H-|<--W-->|<-W->|<-W>|-H-|

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

So -- here we have a G Major scale mapped out on our D-A-D dulcimer, proving once and for all that WE CAN PLAY IN THE KEY OF G WHILE TUNED TO D-A-D!

This is a very important concept, because it allows us to switch to the key of G IMMEDIATELY if we are playing in D out of D-A-D tuning. We don't have to re-tune, or reach for another dulcimer.

Until now, we've been going continuously up one string to build our scale. This is great to visualize the whole and half-step pattern, but in real-life playing situations, we often have to play ACROSS THE FINGERBOARD: it is often much faster, and it allows us to play chords and arpeggios.

2.) GOING UP ONE STRING CONTINUOUSLY, VS. CROSSING OVER (PLAYING ACROSS THE FINGERBOARD).

Filling in the rest of the notes in the Fingerboard Survey for D-A-D, we have:

.|<-----W---->|<----W--->|<-H->|<---W-->|<--W-->|-H-|<--W-->|<-W->|<-W>|-H-|

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

So now if we want to play a G Major scale, here's the TAB:

 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|3---4---5---6---|----------------|
|----------------|3---4---5---6---|
|----------------|----------------|

3.) MAPPING THE G AND A MAJOR SCALES ON THE D-A-D FINGERBOARD.

G Major:

 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|3---4---5---6---|----------------|
|----------------|3---4---5---6---|
|----------------|-----------(3)--|

For the Key of A, you should repeat the entire process illustrated above for G. Here's your cross-fingerboard TAB for A:

 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|4---5---6+--7---|----------------|
|----------------|4---5---6+--7---|
|----------------|-----------(4)--|

So -- you can also IMMEDIATELY switch from the keys of D or G to the key of A.

4.) MAPPING THE SOLFEGE FOR D, G, AND A SCALES -- IN THIS EXERCISE, WE WILL FILL OUT THE FINGERBOARD SURVEY CHARTS WITH DO, RE, MI...ETC., THE SYLLABLES FOR SOLFEGE USED IN "SIGHT-SINGING" CLASSES. THE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF SOLFEGE IS THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT CONFUSING NUMERICAL SCALE-DEGREES WITH FRET NUMBERS.

Solfege syllables on the D-A-D dulcimer for the Key of D (D = "do"):

d|-----------r|---------m|----f|-------s|------l|---|--t|--d|
s|-----------l|---------t|----d|-------r|------m|--f|---|--s|
d|-----------r|---------m|----f|-------s|------l|---|--t|--d|

(I have just used the first letter of each syllable to save spaces.)

Solfege on the D-A-D dulcimer for the Key of G (G = "do"):

s|-----------l|---------t|----d|-------r|------m|--f|---|--s|
r|-----------m|---------f|----s|-------l|------t|--d|---|--r|
s|-----------l|---------t|----d|-------r|------m|--f|---|--s|

Notice that the pattern in G from the 3rd fret up is IDENTICAL to the open string ---> 3rd fret in D.

Solfege on the D-A-D dulcimer for the Key of A (A = "do"):

 4th                           7th
d|-----------r|----|----m|----f|-------s|
s|-----------l|----|----t|----d|-------r|
d|-----------r|----|----m|----f|-------s|

Notice that the pattern in A from the 4th fret up is IDENTICAL to the open string ---> 3rd fret in D.

5.) USING A CAPO TO GET TO THE KEYS OF G AND A

In order to play simple melodies in G against the backdrop of a G drone, your best bet is to put the capo behind the 3rd fret -- this way, you can just pretend that you are still in open D-A-D in the Key of D. All the fret spacing in the first three or four frets from the capo will look VERY familiar. You can even use most of your TAB from D-A-D open (you have no "6" fret now: the actual fret 9 occupies the 6+ fret position if you re-number)

For the Key of A, simply put the capo behind the 4th fret, and disregard the actual 6th fret (re-numbered from the 4th, it is now your "1+" fret, which is great for blues and some minor mode tunes).

Try some chord workouts in G and A: I suggest something along the lines of the "Cabbage Chord" progressions on page 30. (of the Music Theory and Chord Reference book) Experiment to your heart's delight ---- this is how you learn ---- your "wrong notes" may be happy accidents that turn into exciting new tunes!