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What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
#3056655 07/31/20 09:36 PM
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So I'm taking an improvised solo on this 4 chord hit (Dmin, Amin, C, G) I seem to be drawn to A minor pentatonic or blues. What scale would you use?


Here's the song if you somehow haven't heard it....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E07s5ZYygMg

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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056673 07/31/20 11:17 PM
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Catchy tune, I had to look him up and I see is a former member of One Direction. I agree play with A minor pentatonic, A minor blues, and A Aeolian (C major scale from the 6th degree). I also tend to outline the chord of the moment when playing pop, aware of chord tones and the chord’s arpeggio.



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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056675 07/31/20 11:36 PM
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Thanks Jazz+ , glad to hear you agree with my scale choice. I just thought it was weird since the first chord of the progression is D minor, but the Dminor scale doesn't fit the whole progression,. To me the melody seems to be a A minor pentatonic.

Funny, the other the day my daughter attended a Wynton Marsalis virtual workshop and he said to try not to improvise using scales, just use your ears and create melodies. Easier said than done?

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056680 08/01/20 12:47 AM
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Why can't the scale change when the chord changes?

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056688 08/01/20 02:16 AM
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To my ear, the song starts on the 2minor, making it in C, but to this day I've never understood the need to find a scale in order to improvise.
Not to pick on this, but is this really what passes for a hit song these days. I though modern day Bro Country was boring, but this takes the cake. Maybe it branched out from those four chords over and over later on. I just couldn't listen that long.

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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056694 08/01/20 04:18 AM
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Super-Ultra-Hyper-Mega-Meta Lydian. Sorry couldn't resist.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056695 08/01/20 04:51 AM
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Sounds like most pop tunes today and can't listen to that bs great for some people but not for me.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
Reezekeys #3056700 08/01/20 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Reezekeys
Why can't the scale change when the chord changes?

What he said. I picked up my guitar and jammed a bit. Dm for the first 2 chords and then C major. Works well for me.
And, I didn't stay long, it flatlines immediately. I assume it stays there in that safe spot?


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056703 08/01/20 06:45 AM
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BL for my busiest and poppiest band suggested this song (pre-COVID) and the rest of us universally nixed it hard. There's plenty of great pop songs out there. This ain't amongst 'em.

Definitely a white-note note-pool over it as a starting point. That G is a clear V. But I'd want to prioritize differently through the changes. Or rather, I'd want never to have to.


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056730 08/01/20 02:17 PM
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"Giant Steps" it not, but it was requested and I am glad to be working now so why not? Besides it's totally playable with just piano or guitar vocal, actually melodic enough to do as a solo piano, and totally playable with a typical live band. Also it's pretty fun to solo over, and did I mention, lots of people like the song?

We did it last night and got a good reaction, so it will stay on our play list for time being.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
Reezekeys #3056732 08/01/20 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Reezekeys
Why can't the scale change when the chord changes?

Sure, that's a very valid way to improvise, but sometimes it's fun to rip a scale over the whole progression.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
bennyray #3056734 08/01/20 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by bennyray
Sounds like most pop tunes today and can't listen to that bs great for some people but not for me.

Lot's of pop music has a very static progressions, corny lyrics or whatever.... So what would you do if you got a gig and the venue requested that you play it? I found out a long time ago you can't always play what you like.... I just try to make the best of it and have fun with it.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056744 08/01/20 03:22 PM
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Although this song mixes best in C, if I were to play a keyboard lead (and I've played keyboards for years in clubs for years as well as being a DJ) I'd play it in Am, but I'd acknowledge that G at the end. It's kinda like the hook in Flashdance... except the whole song is in the same progression as the hook (typical with loop based recording these days).

This song has been around for awhile. I was mixing it in early in the night pre-pandemic. I think it's catching on now because programmers are casting about for a summer song that's not DaBaby's Rockstar (sorry a little inside baseball there) wink

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056769 08/01/20 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by montunoman
Originally Posted by Reezekeys
Why can't the scale change when the chord changes?

Sure, that's a very valid way to improvise, but sometimes it's fun to rip a scale over the whole progression.

If it's fun for you then go for it. I would hope that's one of the reasons we're doing this! For me, "ripping a scale" is not fun. Improvising is creating melodies. Even folks that play oft-heard "licks" from muscle memory are creating melodies, not playing scales.

For the song you're asking about, I have to amend my previous post about changing scales when the chord changes. Those four chords, Dmin, Amin, C, and G can all use the C major scale. Couldn't be easier - stick to the white keys and rip all you want!

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056770 08/01/20 04:33 PM
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I just realized: this would be the perfect song for that all-white-key piano!


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056773 08/01/20 04:52 PM
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Max Martin has had more number one hits than any other producer in the last 20 years. Somebody took an average all his hits and found these specs

Key of G (most popular)
113 BPM (most popular)

||: I | V | vi- | IV :|| most popular chord progression, or a variation of

Simple lyrics (2nd to 5th-grade level)

Most common form:
(between 30-60 seconds to arrive at the Chorus)
Intro 4 bars
Verse 8 bars
Pre Chorus 8 bars
Chorus 16 bars
Bridge 8 bars

MINOR KEY SONGS
||: i- iv- | bVII bIII | bVI iv- | v- i- :|| or a variation ofl

Last edited by Jazz+; 08/01/20 04:53 PM.


Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056893 08/02/20 05:55 PM
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Here's a radical idea: a song with more than one four-bar/four-chord loop. Even Africa (which features the dreaded ii-IV-I-V in the chorus) has a harmonically rich verse sequence.

I've heard that Styles track a few times now, doesn't do it for me. Pitch-correction is probably 50% of the reason. Chorus lacks a powerful hook: watermelonsugar (wait) high, watermelonsugar (wait) high, watermelonsugar (wait) high, watermelonsurgarhigh doesn't grab me.

And I find the whole "ooh, can you work out what the track is about? Isn't Harry grown-up and edgy?" schtick tedious.

Cheers, Mike


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3056948 08/03/20 02:58 AM
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Just make sure you dedicate your solo to touching


David
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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
stoken6 #3056959 08/03/20 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by stoken6
Even Africa (which features the dreaded ii-IV-I-V in the chorus) has a harmonically rich verse sequence.

vi-IV-I-V


"
Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057022 08/03/20 07:10 PM
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MoI true dat.

Cheers, Mike.


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057024 08/03/20 07:21 PM
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How do you feel about
||: I | V | vi- | IV :||
versus
||: vi | IV | I | V:||



Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057039 08/03/20 09:13 PM
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All variations (start points) of that chord cycle are overused and hackneyed.

Cheers, Mike.


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057049 08/03/20 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Nathan
........but to this day I've never understood the need to find a scale in order to improvise..

I consider what scale, mode or tonal center does this have or would function with. But after that , I generally look for, and try to base a solo on melody at least somewhat within those parameters.

Originally Posted by montunoman
the other the day my daughter attended a Wynton Marsalis virtual workshop and he said to try not to improvise using scales, just use your ears and create melodies. Easier said than done?

Well, it is an advanced approach and probably the hardest musical concept to master. People, even at Wynton's level, work their whole lives just to play a good melody.

I will add that the more command you have of your harmonic vocabulary and instrument , that that indeed does contribute to having "better ears". The best players and composers always have great ears.

Look for shapes or groupings of notes within the scale/mode or tonal center you're playing in. When you break it down to a smaller grouping like that, it becomes a less daunting task to create melodies. And notes don't always have to belong strictly to the particular scale or mode, they can go outside (not meaning out, like Ornette Coleman) and intertwine within the tonal center.

Listen to Miles Davis, especially on the old Prestige sides - he was a Master of melody. He had to re-invent his style as he didn't have the chops to keep up with Bird, Bud , Dizzy, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown etc., so he created his own genius minimalist style. As did Chet Baker and Paul Desmond, both Masters of tone and melody.

I didn't listen to the song. After seeing the comments by respected people, I'll pass. But the concept still holds for any tune, in any genre.

Last edited by Dave Ferris; 08/03/20 11:31 PM. Reason: added thoughts
Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
Dave Ferris #3057055 08/03/20 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Ferris
Well, it is an advanced approach and probably the hardest musical concept to master. People, even at Wynton's level, work their whole lives just to play a good melody.

I also think people, even at Marsalis's level, can tend to romanticize their process and playing to ignore all the blood and guts that went into getting there. I consider it highly unlikely that Marsalis is just tossing out notes willy-nilly without some concept of where he is harmonically and modally.

Plus, not to be all GenX about it, but the emphasis on melody and "singable" solos ignores a whole bunch of other tools we have as pianists, including homorhythmic chordal movement and statements that are fundamentally percussive, rather than pitched. We are a percussion instrument after all. Just as guitarists might chuck as part of their phrasing, we might decide to make almost exclusively rhythmic statements that sure, probably need to be mindful of harmony, but really function as something specifically non-singable.


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057062 08/04/20 01:07 AM
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I agree with Dave (no surprise there). Scales tell you the note choices that match the harmony, but they are there for you to make melodies, motifs and phrases from. Avoid the temptation to just run the scale. Create a small figure and try to develop it a little. And yes, chromatic approach tones, passing tones etc. are all fine.

As another example, on an A minor chord there isn't just one scale that works, and that's it. you can play modal/scalar, pentatonic, throw in a blues lick etc. and that will all fit.Don't be shackled by any one approach.

Jerry

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
MathOfInsects #3057086 08/04/20 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by MathOfInsects
Originally Posted by Dave Ferris
Well, it is an advanced approach and probably the hardest musical concept to master. People, even at Wynton's level, work their whole lives just to play a good melody.

I also think people, even at Marsalis's level, can tend to romanticize their process and playing to ignore all the blood and guts that went into getting there. I consider it highly unlikely that Marsalis is just tossing out notes willy-nilly without some concept of where he is harmonically and modally.

Plus, not to be all GenX about it, but the emphasis on melody and "singable" solos ignores a whole bunch of other tools we have as pianists, including homorhythmic chordal movement and statements that are fundamentally percussive, rather than pitched. We are a percussion instrument after all. Just as guitarists might chuck as part of their phrasing, we might decide to make almost exclusively rhythmic statements that sure, probably need to be mindful of harmony, but really function as something specifically non-singable.

Oh yeah, Wynton, as most know, is highly studied- both Classical & Jazz. He's put in the work as a youngster and continues to do so. But he combines that "school" thing with the "street".He probably doesn't want to make the whole process sound too complex or daunting to young kids, otherwise they'd quit after the workshop ! laugh

Agree about chords and rhythm as another important tool in the box. It's not just single note, legato lines, especially in rock styles. As pianists/keyboardists, we sure have a lot of bases to cover !

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057092 08/04/20 10:20 AM
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Once we learn the fundamentals -- how to play the various scales without effort or conscious thought and how each note sounds against different chords -- it's time to forget all that and try to say something meaningful. The process is very similar to how we learned to communicate verbally. Conscious thought on scales while improvising would be similar to conscious thought on verbs and nouns when conversing (which is a form of improvisation).

Another important tool we have is texture (some might call it orchestration). Some folks I admire for their use of texture are Chick Corea, Fred Hersch, Tony Banks, and Billy Payne.

Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057108 08/04/20 02:01 PM
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Interesting thread. Never heard that song before, but first impression is that it's appeal has much more to do with rhythm than harmony. Anyone in your audience who knows the song is probably on that wavelength and is probably going to dig a solo that's rhythmically compelling, one that adds to the danceability rather than detracts from it. Consistent with that, I'd stay close to chord tones as boring as that may be. For some reason Sly Stone's organ "solos" come to mind. Typically he's just amping up the groove.

Sociological context is important. Who's listening? Sit down concert? Dance party? Or are you providing ambient music?

I would hope if I was playing this it would be where people were dancing, because otherwise there's no good reason (aside from getting paid).


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057111 08/04/20 02:20 PM
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My family's sleeping so I stopped eating breakfast and messed around with it for a minute. The only scale that works over all 4 chords is CMaj, which is of course too boring for words. Black keys matter! I like going full diminished for the d, C and d full dim/G to create some tension. Again, if your audience is ok with that. Keeping the am clean makes it feel like the tonal center.


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Re: What Scale would you use for Watermelon Sugar?
montunoman #3057112 08/04/20 02:25 PM
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For those who have not listened to Watermelon Sugar, you're not missing anything. This is not a strong song - even by today's standards (IMO). It's been around for awhile (my DJ pool added it last November) and my guess is that it's getting traction now because of it's summer themed lyrics.

As a DJ, if I played it at all it was in the warm-up set in the first hour as people were coming into the club.

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