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What scale should I use ?....

Posted by Brizadley6417 
What scale should I use ?....
March 06, 2017 12:31PM
I have been jamming with some new friends, and they have asked me to
write a guitar solo over a very strange chord progression and I can't figure
out what scale to use over it..
The progression goes "am" "cm" then "a flat minor".
At first I thought duh,( A harmonic minor) but it just doesn't sound right .
I know" c minor" and" a flat minor" don't belong in the key of a minor,
While the progression actually has a very creepy spooky uniqueness about
it ,the whole thing is just confusing to me ..
Anything helps ... thank you

- rob
Re: What scale should I use ?....
March 06, 2017 03:34PM
The problem is that this is an almost completely ambiguous progression. I've been trying for awhile to find a scale that fits it in nearly all cases, but it just isn't possible. There are too many notes in the progression that are only one semitone apart. I find that C minor fits best. The B natural in the Ab minor chord just registers as being part of C harmonic minor, and the beginning chord manages to mostly sound okay as long as you try to avoid Eb, Ab, and Bb on it. I played the progression on a loop in my DAW while having another track randomly pick notes from the C minor scale to play, and it sounded pretty jazzy and chill at a low tempo, and only made a few bad sounds over the course of about 4 minutes. Since you aren't a computer choosing at random, you will probably do even better.

Ideally, though, you will exploit the ambiguity of this progression to move between keys interestingly. I would personally change up the chords from time to time, but maybe your friends aren't keen on that. This is not a very flexible progression even when including complex jazz harmony. I have yet to find a way to harmonize it into a single key even with the use of five or six note chords.
Re: What scale should I use ?....
March 06, 2017 04:38PM
Being a guitarist I don't enjoy those flat keys that much. So I renamed the notes of you chords using sharps instead.

Am = A - C - E (no problem here)
Cm= C - D# - G (Eb becomes D#)
Abm= G# - B - D# (Ab becomes G#, Cb becomes B and again, Eb becomes D#)

If we reorganize those notes starting on E and add and F in place of the missing note, we end up with this scale:

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

It even has a name: the double harmonic scale (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_harmonic_scale).

Fiddle around with it and you should be able to create an interesting solo with an arabic flavor.
Re: What scale should I use ?....
April 06, 2017 09:53AM
Although this is somewhat of an older thread, I have another suggestion for playing over the Am - Cm - Abm progression.

The challenge I see in this progression is that it lacks a definitive tonal center. It has no over-arching key that fits for all three chords. Thus, you have an important decision to make. What key shall it be in? For guidance, I would turn to the melody - assuming there is one written. For each of these minor chords, you need to decide which one will become the tonal center. My recommendation is to choose only one of the chords. That way the listener's ear will have a location in the song that creates a sense of peace and rest. Though you could have no tonal center, if that is the desire.

To create a tonal center - or key - for this progression, you will need to declare which chord will act as a vi chord, and allow the remaining minor chords to act as ii chords. This is done by purposefully choosing the 6th note for each chord. This is where you might refer back to the melody to see what notes it uses.

For example, since Am is the first chord, let's place that as the tonal center. To declare this in your soloing, include an F note - this is the minor 6th (or flat 13th) of A. Couple this with the 9th of A, which is a B. This will solidly declare to the listener that Am is the tonal center because you have forced it to act as a vi chord by choosing the F and B notes.

To reinforce this decision, over the Cm and Abm chords, play a major 6th (and 9th). The major 6th of Cm is A (and 9th is D). The major 6th of Abm is F (and the 9th of Ab is Bb).

By doing this, you tell the listener that Cm and Abm are ii chords and unresolved. They will hang in space pleasantly. The Am will root the progression by playing the F over it (as a passing tone). Since the F works double duty over the Am and Abm spaces, creating Am as the tonal center, it is your go-to soloing note. Also, an F over the Cm is an 11, which is prevalent in jazzy minor chords.

So, convert your Am into a Am7(b13). Make the Cm into a Cm11, and make the Abm into an Abminor6. Your progession becomes thus: Am7(b13) - Cm11 - Abm6.

Alternatively, you can remove all sense of key center by playing the Am also as a ii chord - playing an F# instead of an F over it.

But I would defer to the melody to help guide these decisions. In other words, start by playing the melody in your solo and detour from there.
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