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Musical Pig Latin

December 13, 2012

I’ve always preached that the do, re, mi scale is just an exercise and not very interesting.  But what if we just tried turning it into Pig Latin?  In other words, play a little game to break up the order of the scale in a pattern just to make it more interesting.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that the major scale has been used in some songs very successfully.  The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” comes to mind.  Its just straight up the scale and it fits in the song very nicely. Hel lo Good bye hel lo Good bye, is the same as: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.

But we’re not the Beatles, so just for fun, lets see what happens if we take the plain old major scale and turn it into Igpa Atlinla.  We’ll talk in terms of numbers first, and then later, we’ll lay it out on your guitar for the keys of G and C.  First we start up the scale playing 1, 2, 3.  Simple enough.  Then we go back to “1” and play it again.  Next we play 2, 3, 4.  Then we go back and play “2.”  Then we play our next set of three scale steps, which will be 3, 4, 5.

Ok now you can start to see the idea of this pattern starting to take shape.  We’re just playing three notes up the scale, going back to the first note, then we advance to the second note of the scale and play three consecutive notes, then we go back to the start of that three notes, then we take the next three, and so on up the scale.  We can do several octaves if we have enough guitar left or we can cap it off at one octave.  Its great for your fingers, its an interesting puzzle, and most of all, you can use it as a hot lick in any song and in any key.

Now aren’t I a clever guy for thinking this up?  Well, er, uh.  Actually this little pattern idea was one of the most popular Bluegrass licks in the 1970’s.  It was used by banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar players and I dare say it was the 70’s “NewGrass” equivalent of the Lester Flatt G-Run.

So if you’re in your first year or two of guitar, or if your accumulated guitar experience is roughly the same, this little exercise will be an ideal next step in your progress.  One last little hint…alternate your pick direction, down, up down, up.  Musical Igpa Atlinla will get your chops together!

If you enjoy this workout and would like to take it further, maybe we’ll expand on it a little in a future blog.  In the meantime, you might be able to venture out on your own by trying it in other keys, trying it in decending order, and trying it up the neck in closed position.


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