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Melody in A minor

Let’s practice using the fixes I suggested in the last post. We’ll do this by making a progression in A minor, and by using some of the scales I talked about in earlier posts.


Everything you’ve done with these scales should begin to give you a flexible sense of melody. Playing them over the blues gives you one sense of melody. Playing them over a progression in A minor will give you a different sense of melody.


Chords in A minor

Make a progression in A minor.  Here are the chords you can use to do that.


Amin             Bdim             Cmaj             Dmin            Emin             Fmaj             Gmaj


If you’ve read one of my earlier posts, you’ll know that these are the same chords as C major.


In A minor you can use Emaj instead of Emin, and G#dim instead of Gmaj.


Taking a look at my posts on songwriting (see main menu) will help you put a progression together if you need help. And remember to use the fixes I talked about in the last post.


Playing the scales

Use minor pentatonic, dorian, and the blues scale. Major pentatonic won’t work on a minor progression.


After using the blues progression, soloing over a regular progression will be a bit of a revelation. Notice how your playing changes. The blues progression tends to make you play blues clichés. A progression in a minor key (or a major key) encourages a different melodic approach.


Play around with this. Pay attention to the kind of melody each of the three scales make you want to play. This will give you a sense of what you like.



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Creativity, attitude, trouble-shooting

At this point, you’ve been making stuff for a while. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you just want to quit.


Consider the following and the process might be easier.


Cancer and creativity

Everyone’s creative. It’s obvious in some people, not so much in others, but everyone’s got it. Kind of like cancer. We all have cancer cells in our bodies, but they only grow under certain conditions.


Of course, the conditions for cancer are different than the conditions for creativity. Cancer grows if you take stuff in that’s bad for you. Creativity grows if you take in stuff that’s good for you.


If you have the right attitude, creativity helps you discover more of yourself.


Bad attitude

Try making something and see how you feel. What if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted? Do you throw it against the wall, stomp around the room, agonize over what a pathetic failure you are?


Do you try something else, but never that type of project again?


Maybe you just quit. Maybe you say, “I’m just not talented.” Ugh.


Good attitude

Or maybe you look at what you’ve done, and you ask yourself, “How could I make this better?” This helps you look at what you’ve done objectively. If you can do that, you’ll see things in it that you hadn’t seen before.


You start to see that the things you make aren’t you. They’re just things, and things can be changed, thrown away, whatever. You learn to keep going when you fail.


Don’t get me wrong. This is hard. You have to look at stuff you care about when it’s not working for you. That’s not easy to do. And it’s not always easy to know what to do about it.


Sometimes you just need to throw it away and make something else. But the more you make stuff, the less that happens. It becomes easier to see what’s wrong and easier to fix it.


Fixing it

If you have something that’s not working, there’s usually an identifiable spot where it starts to suck. Play through what you’ve got. Listen really carefully, and stop as soon as you hear that spot.

Now clearly identify the problem. What might be wrong?

  1. Maybe the chord before it needs to be played for another bar.
  2. Maybe the chord in question needs to be placed on a different beat. Try playing it on every beat. Which is best?
  3. Maybe the strumming pattern needs to change. Try a slightly different rhythm.
  4. Maybe the whole thing should be in a completely different style.
  5. Maybe the whole thing needs to be faster/slower.
  6. If it’s a riff or a solo you’re writing, try using long notes if you have a lot of short notes. Or vice-versa.
  7. If it’s a riff or a solo, can you sing the rhythm or the notes? Always start by trying to sing the thing you’re trying to write. You’ll get to the right answer more quickly.


The answer isn’t always as straight forward as these suggestions. But give them a try, and they might lead to other ideas.

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