Learn to improvise. 2005-2006. Lesson 03: think a scale in chords.

The one who translated this course into French, told me the word 'key' was a problem. Apart from that I don't like the different meanings for the word 'key': the part of a piano and the translation of the Dutch 'toonaard'. Even in Dutch the definition is vague. On the one hand there is a discussion if the word 'toonsoort' is better than 'toonaard' as the latter is a Germanism. I had to invent the 'initial key' to make basic things clear. For sake of translation I will avoid the word 'key' and only use the word 'scale'.

The point is a scale can be considered not only as a chain of notes, but also as a group of 3 chords (root, dominant chord and subdominant chord). The latter approach is more practical as the structure is better to understand and one knows which chord holds at a certain moment.

E.g. the atmosphere of note e is different during chord C from chord G7. It is remarkable the accepted music theory doesn't discriminate strongly between the two approaches chords or notes. One speaks of scales whatever the aspect, e.g. the Spanish gypsy scale: a b-flat c# d e f g. It is a greater help for improvising on this scale to consider it as the group of the chords: A, Dm and Gm.

That's why I would like to discriminate between a 'scale of notes' and a 'scale of chords'. To make translation easier I propose to call the scale of notes just 'scale' and the approach with chords 'scale in chords or 'scale mood' or also simply 'scale' in case obvious the mood is meant.

The other way round in Dutch we could use words which are easier to translate: in stead of 'toonaard' we could use 'laddersfeer' or also 'ladder' or 'toonladder' in case it is clear the atmosphere of the group of three chords is meant.

Thinking a scale as the combination of 3 chords in stead of a line of 7 notes is very important for improvisation. In both cases one sees the same notes, but in the first case one has an extra structure.

HOMEWORK: Think every scale as a group of three chords.
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