Developing Melodic Scale Sequences, Part II : Pattern Variations

Pattern Variations

In Developing Melodic Sequences, Part I, I explained some of the basic concepts regarding sequencing any type of scale into numeric patterns. Click here to read that post FIRST and make sure that you fully understand those concepts before jumping into this post.

ANY type of scale or mode (Major, Minor, Pentatonic, Chromatic, etc.) can be sequenced and ANY number of notes from that scale can be grouped within the sequence. In my last post I explained a simple sequence based on four-note groupings, ascending and descending through the C Major Scale.

Another common sequence pattern organizes the scale into groupings of THREE. Using the same ideas as in the previous post, the ascending pattern for this would be: (1,2,3) (2,3,4) (3,4,5) (4,5,6) (5,6,7) (6,7,8) (7,8,9) (8) or “up three, down one”. The descending pattern (down three, up one) is: (8,7,6) (7,6,5) (6,5,4) (5,4,3) (4,3,2) (3,2,1) (2,1,-7) (1). See Example A below, which uses the A Minor Scale in the V Position.

Ascending Sequence of “Threes” using A Minor Scale in V pos.
Descending Sequence of “Threes” using A Minor Scale in V pos.

Example B applies this same idea to the five-note A Minor Pentatonic Scale, again in V position. The ascending sequence is: (1,2,3) (2,3,4) (3,4,5) (4,5,6) (5). Descending: (5,4,3) (4,3,2) (3,2,1) (2,1,-7) (1).

Ascending Sequence of “Threes”, A Minor Pentatonic Scale in V pos.
Descending Sequence of “Threes”, A Minor Pentatonic Scale in V pos.

Reversal of Fortune

Next, for a different sequence “shape”,the movement of both the ascending and descending sequences of threes and fours can be given a direction change. Try these patterns using groups of three: (1,-7,-6) (2,1,-7) (3,2,1) (4,3,2) (5,4,3) (6,5,4) (7,6,5) (8) and (8,9,10) (7,8,9) (6,7,8) (5,6,7) (4,5,6) (3,4,5) (2,3,4) (1).

You should also try this idea with fours, ascending: (1,-7,-6,-5) (2,1,-7,-6) (3,2,1,-7) (4,3,2,1) (5,4,3,2) (6,5,4,3) (7,6,5,4) (8). Also descending: (8,9,10,11) (7,8,9,10) (6,7,8,9) (5,6,7,8) (4,5,6,7) (3,4,5,6) (2,3,4,5) (1). See Examples C and D, which use the I Position C Major Scale, below.

Direction change applied to sequence of threes, C Major Scale, I pos.
Direction change applied to descending sequence of threes, C Major Scale, I pos.
Direction change applied to ascending sequence of fours, C Major Scale in I pos.
Direction change applied to descending sequence of fours, C Major Scale in I pos.

Interval Jumping

Playing a scale “in thirds”, where each note of a scale is followed by the note a third above it, is very common. Here’s the ascending pattern: (1,3) (2,4) (3,5) (4,6) (5,7) (6,8) (7,9) (8). Descending: (8,6) (7,5) (6,4) (5,3) (4,2) (3,1) (2,-7) (1). See Examples E and F, which use the G Major Scale in the II position, below.

Running the G Major Scale in “Thirds”. G Major Scale, II pos.
Direction change applied to sequence of threes, C Major Scale, I pos.
Direction change applied to descending sequence of threes, C Major Scale, I pos.

Now, let’s sequence an ascending sequence of fours, in thirds: (1,2,3,4) (3,4,5,6)|(2,3,4,5) (4,5,6,7)| (3,4,5,6) (5,6,7,8)|(4,5,6,7) (6,7,8,9)|(5,6,7,8) (7,8,9,10)|(6,7,8,9) (8,9,10,11)|(7,8,9,10) (9,10,11,12)|(8).

Here is the descending version: (8,7,6,5) (6,5,4,3)|(7,6,5,4)(5,4,3,2)|(6,5,4,3) (4,3,2,1)|(5,4,3,2) (3,2,1,-7)|(4,3,2,1) (2,1,-7,-6)|(3,2,1,-7)(1,-7,-6,-5)|(2,1,-7,-6) (-7,-6,-5,-4)|(1).

Both of the above ideas are shown below in Example G, which uses the E Major Scale in the IX Position.

Sequence of Fours further Sequenced in Thirds. E Major Scale, XII pos.
Descending Sequence of Fours further Sequenced in Thirds. E Major Scale, XII pos.

Finally, for homework, I’ll leave you with the beginning of a sequence that is not finished. Your assignment is to determine the pattern it uses, complete the sequence and be able to play it. See Example H, below.

Mystery Sequence, D Major, II pos.

The upcoming final post of this trilogy will discuss how sequences can be hidden or disguised within a melody by applying rhythmic variations to the groupings. This final aspect adds another element of musicality to the sequences we’ve used thus far. I will also include a summary of the patterns I have used in all three posts.

Let that be a lesson to you. 😉

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 © 2014 Matthew Woodward