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What scale is San Ho Zay lead played in?

bratpack7

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Joined
Nov 28, 2003
Messages
242
There are a lot of 8 - 10 fret notes played on the A D and G strings, sort of like the A-minor blues scale at the 5th fret, but I don't see any scales that use the 8th and 10th fret like that. It sounds very bluesy and I can ride in that pocket over a C major jam for quite a while. I don't know very much about theory but I don't see that pattern in the Blues scale, or any scale that I can see.
 

B Ingram

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Jan 3, 2016
Messages
730
... It sounds very bluesy and I can ride in that pocket over a C major jam for quite a while. ...

Look again at what you already wrote. "Bluesy ... C"

Call the scale "C minor pentatonic". The box you're playing for C major pentatonic around the 8th-10th fret is the 2nd box position of the pentatonic scale; as you noted, the 1st box position which looks like it has the notes on the lower strings is down by the 5th fret (around A). Slide that box up to C at the 8th fret.

As for the actual instrumental: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtpCAhbAJdc... Freddie is going back & forth on different licks between parts of the C major & C minor pentatonic shapes. He might start part of a phrase from the C major shape and end it with notes from C minor. While he's switching from C minor to C major, for the most part he's staying in the area of the 8th-10th/11th frets (only occasionally moving up to the 2nd box of C minor pentatonic around the 11th-13th frets).

As you pin down exactly what notes he's playing (from whichever version you're working from), learn/play the notes first, then listen to how they sound in relation to each other and over the chords (a phrase might start off sweet & turn sour), then ask yourself which C pentatonic box contains the notes for this part of the phrase? When you're listening back & thinking about this stuff, keep track of which chord Freddie played that lick over and what impression it gave. With practice (to get the licks under your fingers) and listening (to hear what sound quality each lick has over a certain chord within a blues song) you'll get a feel for when lick to play when to sound sweet, spicy or sour.
 

bratpack7

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Joined
Nov 28, 2003
Messages
242
This is something I missed somewhere along the way. When we talk about positions, are they completely mobile? When I look at a chart, the second position box covers frets 7-10, but the notes are all wrong. If I slide it all up one fret some of the notes work, but better yet if I slide the first position all the way up to the 8th fret, now we're cooking.

I'm probably too old to dive into too much theory, but I am trying to be more melodic in my lead playing and phrasing and knowing these scale notes is important. I read somewhere that you should at least know the first two positions and if I knew that they could be moved up and down the neck with ease, well that would be convenient.

Thanks very much for the reply.
 

B Ingram

Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
730
... When I look at a chart, the second position box covers frets 7-10, but the notes are all wrong. If I slide it all up one fret some of the notes work, but better yet if I slide the first position all the way up to the 8th fret, now we're cooking. ...

Box positions are just a pattern of fretted/not fretted notes. By themselves, they don't tell you anything. I don't know what reference/method you're using to generate the correct position box for a given key. But try this:

Look at that 2nd position box, covering frets 7-10. On the high-E string, the box shows you should play a note on the 8th fret. This is C. If the song you're playing goes around the chords C, F and G, then playing out of this box will sound like part of the "C major scale". In fact, you're playing the C Major Pentatonic scale.

That lower note on the high-E of the pentatonic 2nd position box can be a signpost for what major key you're playing in.

If you keep that 2nd position box pattern around frets 7-10, using it as your reference point, and play only the notes of any adjoining pentatonic boxes (say, 1st position box at frets 5-7, 3rd position around frets 10-12 plus or minus a couple frets), then you still are playing from C Major Pentatonic. Every will still have the same overall bright, upbeat sound.
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You already noticed that moving the 1st position box up to the 8th fret gives a blues-ier sound. The lower note on the high-E string is still your signpost for this shape, and it's a C. But overall, the note's you're playing and the adjoining box patterns are C Minor Pentatonic.

Playing certain notes out of this set of box patterns over major or dominant-7th chords (Like C7, F7, G7) will result in you playing certain notes not otherwise in the key of C major. Mostly, they're notes that are 1-fret flat of what you'd normally play in C major, and give the resulting licks a tangy sound.
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Most of the licks in the song do not exclusively sit in one scale or the other. You really have to go lick-by-lick to see what's going on, as the lick may be mainly in one box but include one or more notes from the other box (minor vs major).

This echoes back to the answer I gave about Tension/Resolution, in that you'll eventually pick up on Freddie (or whoever is covering the song) playing mostly out of minor, or mostly out of major, over certain chords in the progression. When you're first learning it, think of it as a "rule". But really it's not a rule but a sonic effect and you'll get to a point where you include notes out of one scale or the other based the desired sonic effect.

I do it without really thinking about it. I really should sit down to sort out what I'm playing and why it sounds a certain way based on what chord I'm playing the lick over.

... I'm probably too old to dive into too much theory, but I am trying to be more melodic in my lead playing and phrasing and knowing these scale notes is important. ...

"Music Theory" is really just taking musical ideas people already play and decide sounds good, then trying to figure out if there's a logic or order to why it sounds good. The logic and "why?" then become theory, which become "rules" (really just shortcuts to playing something which should sound good).

You can always learn something about theory. You should also have someone (an actual person, not a website) show you some music theory to the extent it explains something important to you, or gives you a helpful way to do musical things easier. In a lot of ways, some theory ideas can be shown to you which take want you already know, show you 2 or 3 ways to alter what you already know/do, and result in you being able to play 3-4 times what you can already do.

But a lot of the challenge is having a good teacher, defined as someone who can communicate the ideas to you in a way that moves your playing to where you want it to be. A teacher who knows the ideas, but doesn't know how to help you in particular (even if everyone else they teach gets it), or wants to teach you music you don't care about... well that's a lousy teacher.
 
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