Bass: Major Pentatonic

New musicality video:

When it comes to playing by ear and improvising, the major pentatonic is a perfect place to start.

The major pentatonic scale is one of the most useful and universal, and has the advantage of being easier to learn and use than the full major scale most musicians start with.

In this month’s Instrument Packs at Musical U our four Resident Pros taught easy, practical ways to put the major pentatonic to use on guitar, bass, piano and when singing. Building on our training modules which teach members to recognise the major pentatonic scale and each of its notes by ear, as well as last month’s Resource Packs on Beginning Improvisation, these new tutorials help make the connection to instrument skills and practical use of the pentatonic when playing and creating music.

The Major Pentatonic: Resource Pack Preview

The major pentatonic pops up in basslines across a variety of genres and that makes it a powerful tool for the bassist who wants to improvise, write their own lines, or play basslines by ear. Steve Lawson dives deep into the several different ways you’ll encounter this scale being used – and shows you how to get familiar with them all – through fun and creative playing exercises.


– Where you’ve heard the major pentatonic before on bass.
– The useful connection between the pentatonic and the chords of a key.
– Different ways to play through the notes of the scale to internalise its potential uses.
– Finding the root note in different positions of the scale.
– Using certain notes as “pivot” notes in your riffs and lines.
– MP3 practice tracks to experiment with the major and minor pentatonic in different keys and styles.

As always Steve brings an extensive knowledge of bass history and a creative mindset to learning the practical skills, making this a far more interesting and valuable tutorial on the major pentatonic than the traditional purely-theory-based way of teaching it. Get your Motown groove on!


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Bass: Major Pentatonic

Being a musician is incredibly rewarding, but it can also…

The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About Being a Musician

Being a musician is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be a challenge. Folks who haven’t taken the time to study music or learn to play an instrument don’t quite understand the intricacies that go hand-in-hand with being a musician.
Let’s dissect 6 of the most common misconceptions about being a musician…

�What is the role and importance of time signatures in mu…

How to Hear and Create Time Signatures

�What is the role and importance of time signatures in music? The time signature is one of the most important regulations of a piece of music. It basically describes how the pulse of music works. If you’ve ever wondered how time signatures work, how to figure them out, and how to choose your own when writing songs, this article is going to help you.

Is Ear Training Impossible?

New musicality video:

GRAPH! Ear Training is so frustrating!

Is ear training impossible?

Don’t worry if you’ve struggled with intervals. You’re certainly not alone, and it will be possible for you to learn. Here are some recommended changes to your musical training and you’ll soon be making clear progress towards that goal!

Last week, Musical U received a question from someone who’d been using our ear training exercises and felt frustrated that they weren’t making faster progress. In fact, they’d reached the point of despair, wondering if it was actually even possible for them to learn intervals.

They said: “I’m starting to suspect that I have a brain that simply cannot comprehend the distance between notes, no matter how hard or for how long I try. Have you ever encountered anybody with “music dyslexia?” Is there such a thing?”

Maybe you can relate to this. There are probably areas of your own musical training where you’ve wondered “do I have what it takes to learn this?”

It’s a question I’ve heard a lot over the years, in different forms.
– “Is ear training even possible for me?”
– “Are my ears broken?”
– “Maybe I’m just not musical”

I certainly know that feeling. When I was learning music at school I would ask myself this kind of question often. The self-doubt returned later on when I began doing ear training.

Since then I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to help thousands of email subscribers and hundreds of members inside Musical U with their ear training, so I can tell you with confidence: you are not alone in wondering this!

I can also tell you: Yes, you can do it.

Now I know you’re probably thinking “How do you know? My situation is different. Maybe I actually am musically handicapped.”

Let’s specifically discuss the question of interval ear training – but most of what we’ll be talking about applies more broadly to all areas of musicality training.

Is ear training impossible?


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Is Ear Training Impossible?

What are some of the latest trends in songwriting these d…

Songwriting Now: The Latest Tricks

What are some of the latest trends in songwriting these days? As with any other art form, in music we are constantly refining and inventing new means of expression. We break or simply neglect rules, we let our emotions do the talking, and we search for the next hot thing that once again reminds us of the beauty of discovering a new sound that rattles the walls.

What are the fundamental principles behind rock improvisa…

Rock Improvisation Techniques

What are the fundamental principles behind rock improvisation? What core concepts do you need to know in order to improvise in a rock style? Where should you look to see rock improv in action and learn from the masters? In this tutorial we’ll explain the essential rock improvisation techniques and give examples of classic rock solos you can learn from.

Learn Together, Write Songs Together, Cover Together, and What is Audiation?

Human relationships can be so… messy.

Many of us musicians find comfort in the practice room, the simple relationship with our beautiful, beloved instruments. And with today’s DAWs, loop stations, and more technology, we can truly immerse ourselves in entire sonic worlds of our own creation.

Even so, there is nothing quite so exhilarating and fulfilling as creating music with other people.

Lake Street Dive’s stripped-down covers showcase their ensemble interaction. The Kodály approach to music learning emphasizes making music together. And seasoned pro songwriter Cliff Goldmacher finds his greatest inspiration in collaboration.

But first, let’s have a look at the two most messily human musical instruments: the voice and the brain.

What’s in your head – and how to bring it out.

Imagine a time before you knew how to talk. When you couldn’t reach that cookie on the counter, you pointed and yelled to get someone’s attention. How much easier it became once you were able to form your desire into words!

Now we are very aware and conscious – even when thinking to ourselves – of forming our thoughts into language, whether we outwardly express them or not. So how do we “think music”?

So now imagine that your musical instrument was hardwired to your brain, and could directly “translate” the amazing sounds you are hearing in there into music we could all hear out here.

The process of hearing music in your head is called “audiation”. And you already do have a musical instrument hardwired to your brain – the amazing human voice.

Once you put your attention on audiation, you will be amazed at the powers of this hidden musical master tool.

You don’t have to become a great singer to put your voice to work in helping you both hear music more clearly in your head and translate it onto your instrument. This week our Musical U Resident Pros for bass, guitar, piano, and voice have all put together fantastic resource packs that detail the many uses and benefits for audiation and singing in becoming the musician of your dreams.

Learn more about what audiation and singing can do for you in Audiation and Singing: Resource Pack Preview.

Cover Collaborators

Lake Street Dive covers the Jackson 5Do you remember (or look forward to) when your musical skills grew to the point where you could cover your favorite song? How you played that song over, and over, and over?

Once we’ve arrived at that point, we can be quite happy with a performance that comes closer and closer to the original that so inspired us.

Or we can take an old – and perhaps unlikely – song in a new direction.

Lake Street Dive is well known for their stripped-down acoustic covers, each of which features a tour-de-force of ensemble musicianship that would be the envy of any classical string quartet. Simply put: they love making music together and it shows!

Groove to Lake Street Dive’s soulful sidewalk version of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” – and gain deep insights into the music-making process – in Before and After: Covering The Jackson 5.

There are many different ways that a musician can approach making great cover songs. But, what if you don’t have a band to work with? Joanne Cooper has a six-step process to making cover songs using Band in a Box that can help you get your creative juices going!

So, you had a great idea for a cover song. Made the arrangement and recorded it. Now what? Before unveiling your musical creation to the world, Stern will make sure that you know the legalities involved in releasing another band’s creative property.

One of the tricks that Lake Street Dive used in their cover version of this classic song was to opt for more vocal harmonies instead of call and response vocals. Where did the idea of harmonies come from in music… and how can you use them? Check out this introduction to an often misunderstood topic: counterpoint:

Now that you know a little more about how to write harmonies using these techniques, how can you approach this in your vocals? O & O has these three tips:

Collaborative Music Learning

While the deeper music education paradigm is still geared to one-on-one lessons, the potential for collaborative music learning has still hardly been tapped. Composer Zoltan Kodály believed that music was among the most important – if not the most – important subjects to learn in school classrooms.

He established music-centered schools and curriculum across his native Hungary, and together with teams of dedicated teachers established the collaborative, ear-focused Kodály approach.

For both children and adults, the highly intuitive rhythmic and solfege syllables and other Kodály-inspired musical tools can make a huge difference in their musical motion forward.

Read An Introduction to the Kodály Method to find out what Kodály is and what it can do for you.

The story of how Kodály developed his approach to music education is a fascinating story. To learn more about how this method was created, and why it is a very natural approach to learning music, watch this video from Jaak Sikk:

Being a musician is a continuous, fascinating journey. Jamie Iglesias had his eyes (and ears!) opened to the world of solfege while studying at Berklee. While Kodály relies on the moveable Do system, Jamie found ways to incorporate both fixed Do and moveable Do into his ear training.

Kodály incorporates hand signs for each of the syllables along the moveable Do scale, which makes it easy to visually show what pitch should be sung. Cantus Youth Choirs has a beautiful presentation of these hand signs, and catchy ways to remember them.

Kodály is principally used for early childhood music education, although it can be applied to all age ranges. But, there is something to consider about how children are able to learn music at a very young age, and the impact that this can have on their overall development. The Improving Musician shares important information about when music education begins.

Collaborative Songwriting

It’s one thing to be in love and find ready inspiration for a song. But, as Cliff Goldmacher says, you can’t just fall in love every time you want to write a song.

Now how do you find inspiration after writing more than 1000 songs? For Cliff – a long time Nashville insider pro – the answer is collaboration.

Cliff loves listening to others muse about what they want to express, and shaping those musings into finished songs. His clients include everyone from up-and-coming newbies to vets like Ke$ha and the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. Cliff also produces major label cuts and reaches out to all songwriters with his educational programs. Learn more about his process and how he can help you in yours with Songwriting: Inspiration and Collaboration, with Cliff Goldmacher.

Cliff left a sure track to a law career to pursue his dreams as a musician. While he found a niche as a songwriter in Nashville, there are many different ways to make a living in the music industry. Careers in Music explores the many types of jobs in the complex world of the music business.

The music industry can be an incredibly difficult market to make a living… but there are opportunities for aspiring musicians all over. How do you go about trying to break into the scene? Tom Hess has compiled seven things that musicians do out of order when trying to make their way into the industry.

Many musicians struggle when starting their journey as an aspiring songwriter. They often just don’t know where to begin when trying to write a song. But, fear not! Indie International shares their thoughts on how to learn to write a song.

There are many tools available to the modern musician that can aid in their songwriting. With so many choices, where should you begin? Learn How to Write Songs offers 10 resources for creative songwriting.

Put some “collaborate” on your plate

Are you aching to sit down with another living breathing human being and learn music, make a cover together, create a new song? Perhaps you’re just trying to get your brain, voice, and instrument to work together.

Take inspiration from this week’s Musical U posts. Yes, it can be messy. Yes, you may get hurt. But the potential rewards of creative collaboration – whether it’s between your own head and hands or between members of a band – far outweigh the risk!

The post Learn Together, Write Songs Together, Cover Together, and What is Audiation? appeared first on Musical U.

Exactly the right plan for your 10,000 Hours will depend …

How Musicians Should Spend Their 10,000 Hours

Exactly the right plan for your 10,000 Hours will depend on many factors, including your current background in music, the instrument you play, the genres of music you love, the particular goals you have for your musical life, the learning style you prefer, and so on.

How can you use this tactic in your learning?