I am trying to expand my musical repertoire / knowledge.

I have a very basic understanding of major scales and the related modes but that is really where my knowledge starts to end, I am hoping someone more knowledgeable can help me understand why these two scales play nicely together (in my opinion of course).

I am playing an A major bassline. I then play a lead line in C#major/minor and this lights my ears up! (highly subjective of course)

I don't understand why this works, could anyone take the time to explain? There are some shared notes, these sound lovely to end on, the whole sound has a kind of exotic feel, I can't put it into words honestly, my musical vocabulary isn't that good, but I am willing to learn.

If needed I have an absolutely ego smashingly bad recording of me playing over a very rough bassline thrown together in 2 minutes I can add.

I figured an example would really help! This is where I heard the sound, it's awful - you will not like it - dont say I didnt warn you!! I've tried to link it at 0:59 in the video as the jokes end, and, they blaze into this A major bassline with the sax doing some kind of c# major minor thing!

Forgive me it's the first time I've heard this combination of scales / sounds and it's blown my little head wide open, am desperate for info on why this works.

  • Please explain what you mean with 'C#major/minor'. There are only three notes not present out of twelve when I play C#major/minor. – Tim Sep 24 '20 at 16:42
  • I mean I'm not so brilliant at this stuff and this is as close as I can describe it. I want to get a better understanding of what they were doing! – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 6:21
  • O.k., Do you mean you can play all the notes from C# major, and all the notes from the C#minor scales (all 3), over A major? – Tim Sep 25 '20 at 6:44
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    That's what it sounds like to my ear yes. I play guitar as my main instrument, the bassline appears to be A major or maybe something else hmm mixolydian maybe. I was able to get a pretty close sound to the sax by playing a c# major lead but there's so many off notes or colour notes that it's more than just major yes. – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 6:55
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    @Dale, just an update: I checked Sam Gendel's fingerings on the video, and it looks like B♭-C-D-F-G to me. He plays an alto, which is a transposing instrument in E♭, so the concert pitches would be C#-E♭-F-G#-B♭. This corresponds with the Ichikosucho scale that I have provided in my answer (in the key of C#). – Pyromonk Sep 25 '20 at 22:51

The example you provide is not awful, I love their works. ClownCore is a lot more pleasant to my ears than Louis Cole's regular project.

That aside... Superimposing the 2 scales in question:

  • A natural major: A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G#
  • C# natural minor: C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A - B

As you can see, the scales differ by 1 note only. The harmonic interval between the scales if you play them simultaneously is either 3 semitones (minor third) or 4 semitones (major third). Both of these intervals are imperfect consonances.

If you combine the 2 scales and are really curious as to what the result is called, it's the "Ichikosucho" scale. Last time I used it for an improvised saxophone line, it was over a power chord progression played on guitar tuned in drop D, for a metal project I'm working on with a friend.

In simple terms, it works great for "heavy" music, since it's power-chord-based, and since ClownCore play grindcore, which is a "heavy" genre, it works well there too. You are probably very familiar with the sound from listening to metal, and if you like metal, that's what it reminds you of.

P.S. My answer's based on your assumption being correct. I haven't actually tried to analyse the fingerings they use on saxophone and keyboard, and I haven't tried transcribing this work by ear either.

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    This is what I'm after thank you very much, glad you like their stuff, I am personally a fan of Lois Cole and that crowd.. the two Sam's, Rai, Genevieve etc. Not everyone's cup of tea so I figured a warning wouldn't hurt anyone! Thanks again I now have something to look into. – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 6:23
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    That's a very interesting scale, thanks pal. Something to play with over the weekend. – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 6:26
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    I just want to add that I tried this question on Reddit and the result was not good, I got highbrowed to death it was a horrible experience, really appreciate this thanks again. I will give it a day or two in case anyone else answers and if not I shall accept this as the answer! – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 6:28
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    @Dale, wow, that's a rather annoying experience that you had on Reddit. I really hope I was able to help in some way. I didn't mention C# natural major in my answer, because I don't think it works particularly well with A natural major. I'm an old metalhead, so it's harder for me to listen to new wave/pop/funk stuff than it is to grindcore. They're certainly great musicians, and I always appreciate hearing my main instrument (saxophone) in "extreme" music :) – Pyromonk Sep 25 '20 at 9:43
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    I am an old metal head too, well nearly 40, huge fan of metallica slayer pantera and that era, trying everything I can to expand - not for any particular reason than I'd like to know more :) really appreciated the time taken cheers pal! – Dale Sep 25 '20 at 15:32

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