Rand-McNally and You

Hello again! It's been a while since I've submitted a column, and I guess you could blame it on Summer Fever. (I originally thought it was Saturday Night Fever, but when it lasted a couple of months, I re-thought my position).

Anyway, during my time away, I had to review quite a few bands for my company's record label. Quite a bit of good music was submitted, but I found s certain common trait in most of the guitarists' playing.

In music school, we called it "lost without the map." It's a term that refers to that little insecurity we feel when we don't know where to go next. I spent many a night with a student making him or her play in unfamiliar areas of the neck to remedy this.

"Oh geez, Paul. Another lesson about scale positions?"

Yep. Get used to it. Until you feel perfectly comfortable everywhere on the neck in every mode and scale, you're bound to spend some time lost without your roadmap and too proud to ask for directions.

One of the more sweet-spot scales is the Dorian Mode. This mode frequently gets overlooked since it is so similar to the minor scale. However, it has one very important tonality: a natural (or major) sixth. This wakes up that old blues edge without straying too far from its minor base. Let's take a look at it in totality.

The Rand-McNally Dorian Roadmap

The Dorian mode relies on these scale tones: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. Compared to the minor pentatonic scale, which is: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7, all matches up perfectly. But let's look at the major pentatonic scale as well, since most blues players interchange the two: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6.

Also there's the Aeolian, or minor scale, which uses: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.

Hmmmmmmm... I see a commonality.

If you mix the major and minor pentatonic scales, you get: 1, 2, b3, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7. And, once again, in case you were sleeping, the Dorian: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. The Aeolian, or minor scale shows a similarity as well: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7. So we're dealing with a very bluesy scale, which is ALSO capable of a moody minor temperament. "Ok, already. Enough with the technical mumbo-jumbo. How do I make it work?"

Well, being that this is a "roadmap", consider that part the key. It tells you where all of the landmarks (or rest stops) are. But you want to get where you're going. You want to find the fastest way to get there. Not to mention, you don't want your wife to sit in the passenger seat and say, "Are you sure you know where you're going?" Ok, then. Let me show you the roads. I break scales down into five positions to give you total control over their sounds. Every position is just as important as another, and the same care should be exercised while practicing each one. As always, your practice alternatives in order to keep your time more interesting are:

  • Alternate picking
  • Slurs (hammers and pulls)
  • Grouping (playing three, four, or more consecutive scale notes, then
    returning to the next note and repeating)
  • Jamming to an early Van Halen album with your headphones on with this in
    front of you so when your mom comes in you can lie and tell her you're practicing your
    scales like your guitar instructor asked you do.

Now, once again, the root notes (i.e. the note that is the same as the key you're in) are marked in light gray for easy identification. In this case, since we'll be in C Dorian, these notes will all be C notes.



Starting with the low G, moving up to the high Bb, back down to G, and up to the root (C):

Don't forget to shift to the second position for your G string!



Starting with the low A, moving up to the high C, back down to A, and up to the root (C):

The notes on the B string should be played with your second and fourth fingers.



Starting with the low Bb, moving up to the high D, back down to Bb, and up to the root (C):

Once again, second and fourth fingers on the B string!



Starting with the low C, moving up to the high F, and back down to the root (C):

3 notes per string! YeeeeeeeeeHaaaaaaaa!



Starting with the low Eb, moving up to the high G, back down to Eb, and up to the root (C):

That B string can be a pain here. Still 2nd and 4th fingers!

"Thanks, Paul. Now I've spent 4 days practicing mindless exercises. How about a little application?"

Sure. But I must warn you. I don't give good directions. Ask anyone who's tried to follow my directions to get to my house. And considering this is a roadmap, why don't I just give you the landmarks. That way, you can plot your own course and experience what suits you. Here are some chord sequences that you can play these scales over to experiment with their tonality:

  • ||Cm7 / / / || F / G9 / ||
  • ||Csus2 / Fadd2 / ||
  • ||Cm / / / ||Eb / / / ||F / / / ||Bb / / / ||

For you interested in how it sounds over a I IV V blues progression:

  • ||Cm7 / / / ||F / / / ||Cm7 / / / ||F / / / ||Cm7 / F / ||G
    / / / ||

And for you power chord lovers:

  • ||C5 / / / ||Eb5/ / / ||F5 / Bb5 / ||G5 / Bb5 / ||

And here are the chord charts for those progressions:

cm.jpg (1869 bytes)Cm (3rd fret)

Cm7 (3rd fret)

Csus2 (3rd fret)

Eb (1st fret)

F (1st fret)

Fadd2(1st fret)

G (1st fret)

G9 (1st fret)

Bb(1st fret)

I excluded the chord charts for the power chords. They should explain themselves.

Try to use all of the five positions, and hopefully you'll start to know your way around the fretboard much in the same way that you know how to drive to the closest gas station (but know how to take the longest way there and swear to your father that the traffic was horrendous). Also let me make a final note so that my lawyer doesn't blow a blood vessel:

Rand-McNally is in no way affiliated with anything I have said on this page. They have not sponsored, or do I believe they intend on sponsoring anything that has to do with me, or my company. There. Now my lawyer will be able to sleep tonight!

Paul Kuntz is a working studio musician and has been a professional instructor for past ten years. Paul graduated from the Musician's Institute in 1990, and is author of the guitar instructional book "Chords Scales, Theory and Shellfish"..

He also is a studio engineer and producer for unsigned artists.

Paul Kuntz