Fun With Six-Tone Minor Scales!

When October finally rolls around, I usually make a bunch of jams and loose compositions with minor modes and scales. This year I’m going to go into a little more in depth about why this is so cool, and why removing notes or scale resources actually gives you more freedom to improvise and compose intelligent melodies around a simple, repeating chord progression.

In this case our chord progression is mostly Em – D – Em – D — except the end which usually goes Em-Bm – Em (or Em-B5 – Em, which just means that you have no 3rd in your Bm chord: just a Root and 5th – for instance when you do a barre chord on the 5th fret). So the chord pattern is very hypnotic and easy to remember if you play it over a few times. To create more interest and “directionality” I usually move these chords with a descending bass line:

|Em|D|Em/B |D/A |Em/G |D/F# |Em-B5 |Em |

or:

|Em|D|Em/B |D/A |Em/G |D/F# |Em-Bm/D |Em |

If you’re not familiar with these “slash chords” — it is a great system of showing a chord progression AND a bass line at the same time. Its not hard to understand this system if you can get a few things solidly implanted in your brain:

  1. If you see a chord with no slash, like the first two measures: these chords are in “root position” as the bass note is the root or name of the chord.
  2. If you see a chord with a slash and a note after the slash, like Em/B: this means “play an E minor chord with B in the bass”

So to read the descending bass line then, you would just say to yourself: “E down to D down to B, down to A, then G down to F#, and E up to B (1st fret middle string) — and finishing on low E” — or in fret numbers mostly on the bass string:

|–8–|–7–|–5–|–4–|–3–|–2–|–1-0–|–1–:||

This one uses the second progression with the Bm/D instead of the B5 chord.

If you have a keyboard instrument like a piano, organ, or synth, why not try this out and see if you can come up with some ideas. (NOTE: I have no piano chops at all….I barely got through keyboard harmony class before I entered Ohio State as a music major. But keyboard work always gives me another window into what might happen on the dulcimer or the guitar, and besides, if you have a piano handy, your left hand can play such nice low bass notes!!!)

In 2017, I did some lessons at Patreon on this stuff, and for the November lessons I will soon add some new melodic ideas, and even some basic two-part counterpoint for the Intermediate level.

Here are the pdf files from 2017:

SixTones_Oct2017

SixTones_beg_Oct2017

SixTones_int_Oct2017

Thanks for reading and trying stuff!