Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

How to do a melody in correct key? Melodic Scales?


I am learning to solo with the banjo, and I'm working on Banjo Ben's video Unclouded Day 1-3.  I have a question, in the beginning when one is learning just the melody, of any song.  How do you make sure you are, by ear, picking the melody in the correct key, for instance "G" or "D" ?  Do you start the first melody note from the key that the song is in? 

I am also teaching myself melodic major scales. Should I learn these scales? How does that specifcially help my solo playing? Thank you


Best would be to know the chord progression of the song and play the melody that fits to that progression. So then play the song, sing the melody and find the notes.

The melody notes will all (at least most of the time) be part of the scale of the key but the melody isn’t necessarily going to start on the tonic (or first note) of the scale. Again, as I said in my other post to your other question, improvising involves knowing a lot of different things (in this case, a little basic theory), at least for those of us who are not particularly gifted.

Again, just learning scales are not the key to learning how to improvise. If you were going to learn any scale, especially if you want to play country and folk styles, learn the pentatonic scale. Again, playing these six notes over and over again will not make a solo (or at least, not a very interesting one) but if you noodle around with the scale, you may start to hear some things that you like.

I came across this this morning and it may or may not be of interest to you.

This is very advanced stuff, I can’t play any of it but it does give me ideas about the types of sounds I would like to be hearing in my head.

Of particular interest is the video on Bflat pentatonic shapes. Here he is sort of noodling around the B flat pentatonic scale but you can hear how much you can do with just those six (or so) notes.