A Melodic Minor Key With Three Sharps…?

melodic minor Ariane Cap breaking the rules

Let’s talk melodic minor for a second. It is a beautiful scale.

What is it?

It is the natural minor scale (AKA the sixth mode of the major scale, aeolian minor) with the raised sixth and seventh scale degrees. In classical theory it makes a difference whether you ascend or descend… ascending means sharpening the 6th and 7th, but the descending melodic minor scale is the same as the aeolian or natural minor scale.

Why is that done?

Sharpening of the 7th scale degree in a minor scale is a big deal. If you sharpen that 7, you create a strong pull to the root on top: that half step below the root just pushes into the root much more forcefully than the whole step below. Hence, when we descend, we use the whole step, no more sharpening, no more need to pull to the top. This pulling to the top note is called “leading tone”, by the way.

A B C D E F# G# A (G# to A- half step!) ascending, observe the leading tone

A G F E D C B A (A to G – whole step!) descending.

So, leading tone is one reason, but there is another reason!

If you build chords from every scale degree like we like to do to come up with chords for chord progressions (one of many ways to come up with chord progressions) you will notice that with the aeolian or natural minor scale we are getting a minor chord for the V chord: A B C D E F G A – build a triad off the V chord you end up with E G B D which is bland, does not have much drama and has no tritone – which is an interval that really likes to resolve (unless we are playing blues. There we have accepted the roughness of life will never resolve!)

But if we raise the 7 we get G#, hence an E7 chord! E7 has the tritone! It has the leading tone! If I now go from E7 to A min -> It sounds like we are used to it from the major scale, like a real resolution, the G# happily resolving to the A!

In modern music styles we have long abandoned the need to make the distinction between ascending and descending – we use the tonal material of the melodic minor in a variety of ways in modal music, jazz, pop, you name it.

Wait, you said to raise the seven to get the leading tone, so that explains the raising of the 7, but why raise the 6, too, then?

Good question. If you do not raise the 6th scale degree, you get a big gap between the sixth and seventh scale degrees, like this:

A B C D E F G# A.

F to G# is an augmented second. This scale is called the harmonic minor scale. It ascends and descends the same way and is widely used, including in ethnic music. But to smoothen out this gap the sixth was raised also.

When do you use it?

There are lots of uses. You can create modes from both the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales and write melodies and use it for chord progressions. You could say each time you have a minor context and the V chord is a dominant chord, you are in a melodic or harmonic minor field. More on that in another blog post.

Melodic Minor with three sharps?

I got asked a wicked question on quora. Maybe a trick question, but definitely a tricky one. Read my answer, which reveals more on the melodic minor scale.

If you cannot see the text box in your browser, click here.

Read Ariane Cap’s answer to A melodic minor key with three sharps, has what note as a sixth scale degree? on Quora

To B or not to Bb? Or to H?

B and H in German

The International Musical Alphabet…

Are you from a country other than the US, where quavers make you quiver (rather than eighth notes), where Do means C, or sharp means “crosse“? Feeling like you need to relearn pretty much everything from scratch as you foray into the land of YouTube videos, international teachings and real books, where the US system is the “standard”?

I sympathize. My musical (and otherwise) mother tongue is German. Now, in some countries each note name is entirely different from English – Do, Re Mi… as in Doe that female deer… – and in most countries that would then be so called fixed Do, where C=Do, D=Re, as opposed to movable Do, which we use in the States – regardless of key – for singing instruction and very useful ear training drills! No matter your native musical alphabet, if you have to re-learn the note names first in order to get to the music and teaching, it does throw an additional layer of complexity in, at least in the beginning!

German Note Names…

…for natural notes are for the most part the same, but there is one pesky difference – namely that B equals H in German and Bb equals B in German. Huh? Yes. Unfortunately. Sharps and flats also have different names, but those are not too hard to relearn. The German sharps and flats feature the addition of a syllable (“-is” for sharps and “-es” for most flats, with that dang “B” again being one of the exceptions), so for example F-sharp is simply “Fis”. I love that for my note-name-saying drills on the bass, though, as saying one syllable (Cis)is just so much faster than two (C-sharp)! So I end up with a mix of German and English, then, saying the German sharps and flats and the US natural note names. With the exception of course being that dreaded B again!

Oh, and for double sharps you get to have twice the fun: add the syllable “-is” or “-es” twice. C double-sharp? Cisis. G double flat? Geses. Again, German, which is usually twice as long and cumbersome than English in all aspects, beats the English by a syllable!

If you had to re-learn the musical alphabet to dive into Real Books and tutorials, how has your experience been? Please, share your musical alphabet in the comments! Extra points if you even have a different tonal system…. quarter tones, perhaps? The fascinating world of music!

Here is the German situation.

Read Ariane Cap’s answer to Is the “H” note or melody the same as B and Bb? on Quora

How do I Make a Great Bass Line as a Bass Player?

Great Bass line Ariane Cap

Play in a band and asked to contribute a great bass line to a song?

Happy jamming and want to take it a step further?

Writing a song from the bottom up?

Being Able to Create a Great Bass Line From Scratch is a Useful, Rewarding and Learnable Skill!

While some great bass lines are song defining and iconic (Another One Bites the Dust for example) what makes a bass line great is a lot about context – one juicy whole note at the right time can make or break a song, while in a different spot an exciting and busy fill can be just the thing that is needed. My partner is a composer (and a bassist, too) and he has much opened my eyes to the importance of always thinking about the emotional impact of any piece of music and what role the bass plays to contribute to the song.

If you are skilled in theory and rhythm, and are knowledgable in how to use dynamics, phrasing, articulation, range of the instrument, density of notes versus space and more, your bass lines will earn the label “great” indeed. Note: My course teaches music theory, technique, fret board harmony and lots on great bass line creation.

Theory, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, sound, range of the instrument etc… all these can be studied and learned.

Analyze your favorite songs asking yourself some important questions using your knowledge and you should be golden.

In this article I talk bullet points how to make a bass line great. If you do not see the box below, please click this link

Read Ariane Cap’s answer to How do I make a great bassline as bass player? on Quora

Low on Motivation? The Power of Tiny Habits

Ariane Cap BJ Fogg Motivation Tiny Habits

A Tough Place to be

It can strike without warning or creep up slowly over time- this feeling of being in a lull with our instrument pursuits: burnt out, joyless, completely without motivation to pick up the beloved bass. It makes no sense, because you know that you are a bassist at heart, you know playing is what you really love to do! So what to do when playing feels like effort?
Let me preface this by saying that I have certainly been there myself at times. And had you told me just a few years ago that there is actually a simple, fast and effective scientifically backed method to get out of such places fast I would have laughed at you. Why? Because I was so sure it was all my fault. That I was just not trying hard enough. That my will power was lagging and that was that.
I could go on at lengths about the “why” this was happening for me, my history all the way back to childhood, about the many years I spent studying psychology and various techniques and methods that did help, but only to a certain degree and just not enough to make the big dent that I know now is actually possible!

 An Amazingly Easy but Powerful Method: Tiny Habits

I will cut to the chase right here because I know you want to get out of your lull fast:
I found what I needed in the form of a very simple and accessible technique called “Tiny Habits”.
Tiny Habits is a method that can help you create new behaviors in your life. It was developed by Stanford Professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D.

The idea behind “Tiny Habits” is simple yet profound:

  • If something is very hard to do, it takes a lot of motivation to do it.
  • If something is easy to do, it takes much less motivation to do it.

What can be some of the “hard things” in bass world?

  • Finding time is hard!
  • Getting started seems to be the hardest thing!
  • Playing bass on the level you aspire to is hard, no doubts about it.
  • Practicing in a meaningful way sometimes means facing short comings (also hard).
  • Internal voices (whether your own or those others gave you on your way) can be super hard on you!
  • Figuring out what to practice is hard (easier to procrastinate looking for the magic bullet)
  • Distractions: very hard not to look who just tagged you in a picture on Facebook!
  • Discipline. Time. Patience: hard!

Okay, so forget about trying to overcome this through motivation alone. It takes effort of epic proportions to overcome all this and as research has shown, willpower gets used up, it is like a muscle that can get worn out after a while and lead to burnout!

So, what to do? Look at the second idea:

  • If something is easy to do, it takes much less motivation (and less will power) to do it.

So how can we make this intimidating list of “hard” easier?

Here are suggestions for each item:

  • Hard to find time? Commit to just a few focused minutes. (Five? A ten minute video?)
  • Hard to get started? Have your bass out of its case on a stand, your notebook open, timer at the ready.
  • High level aspirations? Pick a milestone that is within reach (Major triad through the cycle at quarter notes tempo 80? Chorus of a song? One pentatonic shape?)
  • Fear of failure? Tell yourself you can do this right before you start. Prop yourself up: “Today’s practice session is going to be highly effective”. (Fake it if it doesn’t come easy)
  • Hard time deciding what to practice? Take a lesson, do my course, read a book. You have it in your pipeline of to dos – pick one and stick with it.
  • Distractions? Turn off all gadgets for the duration of your practice time.

Okay, so maybe just reading this you are beginning to feel the grip of despair loosen a little. Good, but not good enough. Tiny Habits is a thought out method and there is a step by step process to follow. It is actually (tiny habit style!) very easy to do.

We need:

  • A trigger: (when I come home from work; after dinner; each time I switch on a light; every time I close the restroom door…)
  • A behavior: (play or say one scale; watch a five minute video; read one page in a book; finger one pentatonic shape using my PORA method)
  • A celebration: the best- and most important – part: celebrate!  High five! Check Facebook; make a chess move in an online game or do one word for “Words with Friends”

This works best when you formulate the trigger and behavior as a sentence, write it down and commit to it. If you want witnesses (automated ones or “real live ones”) you can sign up for free coaching at tinyhabtis.com

Sentences that work great for the bass world are:

  1. After I plug in my bass, I say to myself: today I am going to enjoy my practice session.
  2. Every time I close the rest room door, I recite one scale in my mind and imagine playing it on the fret board.
  3. After I clear the dinner table, I play one pentatonic shape/watch a 5 minute video.

I picked three for a reason (proven by BJ to be the most effective number).

And now the best part – don’t skip this! (I skipped that part the first time around and my progress was not as great, so it is really important to follow the steps precisely) – okay, it is… the celebration!

“High five!” “I did it!” “I rock” (literally!)
I deserve a cookie!
Now I get to check Facebook for a few… (what about that photo tag…)

Ignore the doubting and nagging voices, especially those that tell you that “5 minutes don’t count” or that playing one cycle of scales in some key is useless because there are so many more keys… If there is such a thing as a magic bullet, it is what starts happening as you follow this recipe for a few days. And you don’t have to be perfect either, just give it your best shot. Monitor by check marking your three items off each night: okay I did #1, dd #3, but forgot about #2. Commit to do them all again tomorrow. That’s it!

The change I experienced was subtle yet profound: a shift in attitude, away from the automatic internal negativity that had bogged me down without me really noticing it – to feeling empowered that I actually had control over those automatic thoughts and could turn them to much lighter, more productive and useful patterns. Which really feels like I am now actually doing that “hard thing” and I feel not only empowered, but em-will-powered!

And yes, in case you wonder, before you know it, you have probably practiced way longer than those few minutes. That is not the real point, though, as the real point is finding this key to unlocking my motivation through the back door by starting small. Best way is to experience it. Follow the steps best you can; details of the trigger and the exact language are very important, so keep tweaking until you get it right, resources for help (free) are below.

I heard BJ say in a seminar:

Not repetition creates habit, but rather good feelings create habit.

That was an eye opener for me. Rather than leave with the feeling that yet again I had not put nuff hours in, or that I still can’t do it at tempo 200, I emerged feeling proud of myself: “I did it. I’d said I was going to and I did it. Whacka whacka!”

Watch the magic unfold and a dark cloud lift. Very soon you likely feel much more in control over your actions. This is not just for bass by the way; this might just be useful in other areas of your life as well: Put on your gym clothes as soon as you get up? Drink a glass of water after you sat down for dinner? After you brushed your teeth you floss one tooth? After your feet hit the carpet in the morning you say: it is going to be a great day?

Do it. Just give it a try. And don’t forget the celebration -> epic results!

I became so intrigued with the method that I went ahead and got certified as a Tiny Habits Coach. I wanted to learn as much about this scientifically researched method as possible and optimize my own practicing and teaching.

I created my course “Music Theory for the Bass Player” with the Tiny Habits method in mind – videos are short and easy to follow along with. Lots of short motivational videos throughout to remind you of many of the tenets of the TH method: making it easy to start pick up the bass, link it to a definite trigger, keep a positive ‘tude, do short frequent practice bursts, don’t forget the high fives and much more.

Below are a few more resources – helpful along the lines of this article – and an interview Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford did with me a few months ago. Enjoy!


Tiny Habits

Join a 5-day free coaching session as often as you like here (<- do this, it is free, no sales; over 40.000 people have done it)

Ari’s 4 step PORA (Practicing using Principles of Rotating Attention) Method – with video and info guide

Efficient Practice Hacks: Taking Breaks

Using the Power of Feedback Loops

How Does Your Course Help People be Accountable?

Powerful Questions to ask Yourself

Make it Emotional

Converting to fretless?

ariane cap fretless bass guitar

How difficult is it to convert from fretted to fretless bass playing?

While I don’t recommend to convert fully – both fretless and fretted have their uses – read in my article below what I recommend to keep in mind. The transition is so much easier if you have a solid one-finger-per-fret regimen under your fingers on the fretted bass. And intonation of course is the biggest challenge – check some tips for that in the article.

And experiment with all the options the fretless gives you and the fretted doesn’t – shaping the tones, vibrato, slides, pinch harmonic slides – a whole world of sound that the fretless offers.

My first fretless was an Alembic Elan. It was fretted, really, but when I got my first Marleaux I had a hard time parting with that Alembic, so I had the frets removed – basically as an excuse to keep it. It was a neck through bass, so it sounded really beautiful. What is nice about removing frets from a fretted instrument you know well, is that you already know the ins and outs of that instrument. I had the fret groves filled with a dark brown wood dust – against the black fretboard I could see the lines up close. The dots were where I was used to them being (between the “frets”, so I had no problem adjusting Many fretless basses that have no lines have dots exactly where the fret would be, so it takes a bit of getting used to.

Enjoy more tips on converting

And by the way, the bass in the picture above is a Fibenare bass. I am very lucky when it comes to amazing luthiers having built incredible instruments for me. But it is easy to get hung up on brands. While a great instrument is certainly an amazing thing, a lot of it is in the fingers.

Read Ariane Cap’s answer to How difficult is it to convert from fretted to fretless bass playing? on Quora

Arianecap.com: Website Redesigned

arianecap.com website

Websites Galore: arianecap.com

I am very happy you are here, on my blog! My blog (arisbassblog.com) is dedicated to bass education, courses, learning, my blog.

arianecap.com is my artist site and I have completely redesigned it with the help of my awesome web wiz Amber Kim.

For new releases, artist news, bio, audio, video, pictures, please have a visit there.

I have also added an educational section on the arianecap website. Especially the info-guides are listed in a way that makes them very easy to access. Check out the Learn menu and select the seminars and teaching tab. I will be rotating favorite teaching (as well as performance) videos there on a regular basis. I have feature articles, reviews, interviews, and more. Enjoy!

There is a separate mailing list on arianecap.com that you can subscribe to for artist news. Artist news are rare, irregular updates, whereas the blog has lots of new content each week – sent in one weekly email.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think!