"Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

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"Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby The Wheelman » Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:20 pm

Hello. I've been exploring modal playing. Jerry performed "Tangled Up in Blue" in the key of A. I'm interested in what scale/mode to play over the G chord -- the song's flattened seventh chord. I've read that the tonic mixolydian, the D major scale in this case, should work over the G, but I can't make it sound good. The C# in particular sounds wrong. Maybe I should use a major pentatonic over the G chord. The other chords in the song are diatonic and can be played with the A major scale, but I'd love to hear any ideas about spicing those up as well.

Link to the Jerry Garcia Band performing "Tangled Up in Blue":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxEsBAPleRY

Link to the chords:
http://rukind.com/gdpedia/titles/show/425

Thanks for reading my first post. I hope I made my questions clear about a subject I barely comprehend.
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Re: "Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby Lephty » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:16 am

Actually you're on the right track using A mixolydian (which ultimately comes from the D major scale) for that portion of the chord progression. And that C# should *kind of* work over the G chord, but more in passing than something you'd want to hang on for very long. Instead of thinking of a different scale for each chord, I would recommend getting a good grip on where the A and G chord tones sit within the mixolydian scale (the CAGED system, if you are at all familiar, can help you identify those). So technically all of the notes in A mixolydian are "right" notes, but if you pay attention to where the chord tones sit, you'll find that your phrases work better if you try to target the chord tones, hanging on those more, using the rest of the scale to get you to those chord tones and to color the sound of the chords a little bit.

And yes once you get to the E chord in the 2nd half of the progression, A major becomes the scale of choice, instead of A mixolydian. Note that the only difference here is the 7th--the G natural in the mixolydian mode becomes the G# in the major scale (aka ionian mode). Here again, all of the notes are technically "right" notes, but you'll find that your lines work better if you're aware of where the chord tones of each chord are, and you try to target those chord tones at the appropriate moment.

Hope that helps...sometimes it's kind of hard to discuss this stuff in writing.
http://www.highcountryguitar.com recently re-vamped and updated.
Ideal practice tools for improvisation...backing tracks, lessons on modes, CAGED, etc.
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Re: "Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby The Wheelman » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:40 am

Thanks for your knowledgeable reply, Lephty.
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Re: "Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby mojohowitz » Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:44 am

This appears to be an old, "dead" thread. Ha! Fwiw, I take three approaches.

First, I toggle between an A major pentatonic and an D major pentatonic in the verses. The result hits many of the A mixolydian notes but does not make confine me to the mixolydian mode. The result is a lot of juicy blue notes that reside in both A and D major pentatonic like the chromatic runs from 2,2#,3 and 4,4#,5.

Second, I play the straight up A mixolydian or D major. Its always a struggle for me to break out of the muscle memory and hit the notes I hear and not the ones my fingers are used to playing.

Lastly, in the chorus (E, F#m, A, D) my hands seem to naturally want to play the A major pentatonic as an F#m pentatonic instead and play blues runs instead of more major sounding country runs in A.
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Re: "Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby rugger » Thu Dec 29, 2016 11:05 am

All good "correct" answers.

What changed my playing was seeing chord shapes (arpeggios, triads) within the scales and knowing where the scale degrees fall within those shapes, primarily the 1, 3, 5 & 7.

Here's a fun, and I think musical, exercise to help build this concept: Let's use A major at the 5th position as an example. To review, A major harmonized is--A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim

Play each arpeggio up (1,3,5,7) and then the A major scale down to the next scale degree and repeat. Stay in the fifth position the entire time (6th string root).

For example: (A maj arpeggio up) A, C#, E, G# (A maj scale down) F#, E, D, C# (Bm arp. up) B, D, F#, A (A maj scale down) G#, F#, E, D (C#m arp. up) C#, E, F#, B (A maj. scale down) A, G#, F#, E (D maj. arp up) etc. up to A again. Then work it out descending. Then go to the 12th position and work out 5th string root positions. Lots of fun!

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Re: "Tangled Up in Blue" modes / scales

Postby gratefulredhead » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:26 pm

rugger wrote:All good "correct" answers.

What changed my playing was seeing chord shapes (arpeggios, triads) within the scales and knowing where the scale degrees fall within those shapes, primarily the 1, 3, 5 & 7.

Here's a fun, and I think musical, exercise to help build this concept: Let's use A major at the 5th position as an example. To review, A major harmonized is--A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim

Play each arpeggio up (1,3,5,7) and then the A major scale down to the next scale degree and repeat. Stay in the fifth position the entire time (6th string root).

For example: (A maj arpeggio up) A, C#, E, G# (A maj scale down) F#, E, D, C# (Bm arp. up) B, D, F#, A (A maj scale down) G#, F#, E, D (C#m arp. up) C#, E, F#, B (A maj. scale down) A, G#, F#, E (D maj. arp up) etc. up to A again. Then work it out descending. Then go to the 12th position and work out 5th string root positions. Lots of fun!

john in san diego


All good examples of how to approach this! If I may make one correction without offense, in the harmonized A major scale the VII chord is actually a G#half dim, or G#m7b5, not a diminished. The difference lies in the 7th. In a full dim the 7th is flatted twice, whereas in the half dim it's a minor 7.
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