(Originally from Chapter 25, but broken out here for ease of access.)
Just For the Curious
In his 1993 video (with supplemental book and CD), Allan talks about his favorite scales and some of his ideas about chord-melody composition. Several song selections are played live in the studio with Allan joined by drummer Chad Wackerman, bassist Skúli Sverrisson and keyboardist Steve Hunt. Unfortunately, the recording process for these sessions had some engineering issues. Nonetheless, the package was released (and is still in print), although Allan was sorely disappointed in the outcome (sonically, at least).
In the instructional portion of the video, Allan describes his 10 "most usable" scales. In his mind, he transposes his scale shapes to the nearest Dorian mode shape (which is always - and confusingly - referred to as "the minor scale" in the lessons). The related modes don't matter, since he files every mode for a scale under one umbrella name. The 10 sequences below give varying "flavors" to play with, and you can fit these scales over various kinds of chords to get different effects. The first 4 scales have 7 notes each (like most diatonic scales). Scales 6-9 have 8 notes. Scales 5 and 11 are symmetrical scales, and so are extra "atonal". All of these scales are meant to be transposed to whatever tonic key is appropriate for the underlying chord harmony.
Personally, and I think most guitarists probably do this, I started learning scales with the classic pentatonic blues scale, and then added in the extra notes to get to a minor scale (Aeolian mode). In that spirit, I also looked at Allan's 10 scales as alterations and additions to an arbitrarily-rooted minor scale. For me, it was easier to learn the scales in this way as a short-cut to get used to the fingering patterns - your mileage may vary. But if you are really into the Dorian mode, then ignore my personal "views".
|2. D, circled x: D Dorian but sharpen the 7th. This is also called a D melodic minor scale. I think of this as A minor with the 3rd note sharpened into a major 3rd (for example, C becomes C#).|
|3. A, circled x, -6: A Dorian but sharpen the 7th and flatten the 6th (harmonic minor). I think of this simply as an A minor scale with the 7th note sharpened (in A minor, G becomes G#).|
|4. A, circled x, +4: A Dorian, but sharpen the 7th and sharpen the 4th (harmonic major). I think of this as an A minor scale with the 4th and 6th notes sharpened (in A minor, D becomes D#, F becomes F#).|
|5. G and “spectacles” - Allan's notation for the G diminished scale (alternating half steps and whole steps), a pretty good scale for playing "out" runs...|
|8. B, x, sloppy loop: B Dorian with added sharp 7 ("jazz minor"). I see this as an Ab minor scale with added flat 2nd note (as above), flatten the 5th.|
|9. A, circled x, sloppy loop: A Dorian with a sharpened 7th (no natural 7), add a sharp 5 (another "jazz minor"). For me, A minor scale with the 7th note sharpened, also add sharpened 6th.|
In the section relating to chordal concepts and chord-melody composition, Allan explains how he can create a chord family by selecting 3 or 4 notes from a particular scale and then move all of the notes in the chord up (or down) simultaneously along the "permitted notes" in the scale pattern. This results in other chords found in that scale (each beginning with a different scale tone and using that voicing). Naturally, the original scale could be used for any song composed using these 8 (or whatever) chords, with the chord tones emphasized for each chord.
Allan explains that he thinks of each chord as representative notes from a particular "family" of notes (a scale). So, when chords go by (during a solo improvisation), he decides which family (scale) would be appropriate for a given chord, and adjusts his note choices accordingly. He also suggests (probably in relation to comping) that a chord can be "enriched" by substituting it with different inversions of itself, or with related chords found in the same key (ie - from a scale which contains the same notes). This is typically demonstrated whenever Allan is playing "rhythm guitar" underneath a bass or keyboard solo.
The video/CD/DVD/book package is nicely assembled, and the book which comes with the package includes many examples, exercises and song transcriptions to illustrate Allan's thoughts. Sadly, Allan never made a second volume, which probably would have gone into his ideas about poly-tonal soloing and harmonic modulation in song composition (not to mention his rhythmic ideas).
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