Spanish Major


Recall that we defined a scale as:
a group of notes within an octave (and any octaves of those notes) usually played one at a time.

We can describe (define) a scale in any of these ways:
- by letters (representing specific pitches)
- by numbers (representing specific intervals)
- by step pattern (describing intervals from note to note)

We now define a mode (of a scale) as a scale within a family of scales that are related by their step patterns (and therefore also by their specific pitches).

Recall that The harmonic minor scale has the following step pattern: W-1/2-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2, intervals 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7, and with root on C, the notes C-D-bE-F-G-bA-B-C.

We can derive the modes of a scale by using its step pattern. We do this by moving the first step of a step pattern to the end, and repeating until we return to the first scale we started with.

We now derive the modes of the harmonic minor scale (harmonic minor scale = W-1/2-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2).

W-1/2-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2 = harmonic minor scale
1/2-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-W = Locrian nat.6
W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-W-1/2 = Ionian #5
W-1/2-m3-1/2-W-1/2-W = Dorian #4 (overtone minor)
1/2-m3-1/2-W-1/2-W-W = Spanish Major
m3-1/2-W-1/2-W-W-1/2 = Lydian #9
1/2-W-1/2-W-W-1/2-m3 = Altered Dominant bb7

Now taking these step patterns and (with the help of a transposition chart if necessary) turning them into an intervallic notation (numbers), we have:

harmonic minor scale = 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7
Locrian nat.6 = 1,b2,b3,4,b5,6,b7
Ionian #5 = 1,2,3,4,#5,6,7
Dorian #4 (overtone minor) = 1,2,b3,#4,5,6,b7
Spanish Major = 1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7
Lydian #9 = 1,#2,3,#4,5,6,7
Altered Dominant bb7 = 1,b2,b3,b4,b5,b6,bb7

Consider starting the harmonic minor scale on A, we can define the modes this way:
A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A = A-Harmonic minor
B-C-D-E-F-G#-A-B = B-Locrian nat.6
C-D-E-F-G#-A-B-C = C-Ionian#5
D-E-F-G#-A-B-C-D = D-Dorian #4
E-F-G#-A-B-C-D-E = E-Spanish Major
F-G#-A-B-C-D-E-F = F-Lydian #9
G#-A-B-C-D-E-F-G = G#-Altered Dominant bb7

So we note that the Spanish Major is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale, and that its step pattern is 1/2-m3-1/2-W-1/2-W-W, and contains the intervals (Spanish Major) = 1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7.

We define a major scale as a scale containing the notes
(intervals) 1,3,5.
(In other words, using the notes in the scale we can construct a major chord off the root note)

Looking at the numbers, we can deduce that the Spanish major is a major scale (not THE major scale everyone talks about - that would be the ionian mode, but a major scale none-the-less). that is, it contains the notes 1,3,5.

We also note that it is very similar to the phrygian mode. The Spanish Major scale has the intervals 1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7; and the phrygian mode has the intervals 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7. So we could view the spanish major scale as the phrygian mode with a major third (a major third in place of a minor third). We can use this idea as a stepping stone to learning the scale. If you already know the phrygian mode, then you could play those patterns , replacing the b3 with the 3. This idea of thinking of one scale as being another scale with altered notes (e.g. ionianb7, lydianb7, etc.) or with missing notes (e.g. pentatonic major, etc.) occurs from time to time, and may give some perspective/context/comfort in learning new scales.

So lets look at some patterns (moveable shapes) with which we can play the Spanish Major scale.

|-1|b2|--|--|-3|-4|--|-5|b6|--|b7|--|-1|
|-5|b6|--|b7|--|-1|b2|--|--|-3|-4|--|-5|
|--|-3|-4|--|-5|b6|--|b7|--|-1|b2|--|--|
|b7|--|-1|b2|--|--|-3|-4|--|-5|b6|--|b7|
|-4|--|-5|b6|--|b7|--|-1|b2|--|--|-3|-4|
|-1|b2|--|--|-3|-4|--|-5|b6|--|b7|--|-1|

Spanish Major "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|

Spanish Major "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|---|---|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|

Spanish Major "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|---|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|---|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
|---|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|

Spanish Major"C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|

Spanish Major "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|b2-|---|---|---|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|

two adjacent strings:
Seperated by a P4

|---|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|-1-|b2-|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|---|

seperated by a M3

|---|---|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|-1-|b2-|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|---|---|

Recall, that we can harmonize chords from scales by stacking thirds.

We can create "spanish major" progressions. Doing so will give us a framework to analyze songs, and find good opportunities to employ the spanish major scale. it's also good practice for songwriting, etc.

Recalling from above that Spanish major contains the same notes (pitches) as the harmonic minor scale, it also contains the same chords (starting with the 5th chord of the harmonic minor scale). So we have the following triads for the Spanish Major scale:
triads: I-bII-iiio-iv-vo-bVI+bvii
7th chords: I7-bIImaj7-iiio7-ivmaj7-v7b5-bVImaj7#5-bvii7
9th chords: I7b9-bIImaj7#9-iiio7b9-ivmaj9-v7b9b5-bVImaj9#5-bvii9
11th chords: I11b9-bIImaj7#9#11-iiio7b11b9-ivmaj11-v11b9b5-bVImaj11#5-bvii9#11
13th chords: I11b13b9-bIImaj13#11#9-iiio7b13b11b9-ivmaj11b13-v13b9b-bVImaj13#5-bvii13#11

So we could take any of the chords in the above paragraph and create a Spanish major progression out of it. We really should include some type of I chord (I, I7, I7sus4, I7b9, etc.) and it should be the predominant chord in our progression, with a feeling of resolution when we come back to it.

The most common phrygian progression is I-bII. Again we can create Spanish major progressions out of any of the above chords (which should include and resolve to the I).

Take a minute to compare and contrast the chords from the Spanish Major, and phrygian modes.
Spanish Major = I-bII-iiio-iv-vo-bVI+bvii
Phrygian = i-bII-bIII-iv-vo-bVI-bvii

They share the following chords (triads) in common: bII,iv,vo,bvii.
Creating a progression using only these chords would be slightly ambiguous, and could be interpreted as either Spanish Major or Phrygian. In fact, such a progression would be a good one to record (or have a friend play) and solo over to uderstand the subtle differences between Spanish Major and Phrygian (try switching from I-Spanish Major to i-Phrygian and back, etc. over such a progression and see what different moods are created).

If on the other hand, you want to create a progression that has a more Spanish Major character, you should include at least one of the other 3 chords (I,iiio,bVI+) not found in phrygian.

Where/when does one usually decide to use Spanish Major?
- some would use it over the III7 chord in the major scale/key context (play III-Spanish Major over III7)
- some jazz players use spanish major over any 7b9 chord that pops up (ex. play C-Spanish Major over C7b9, etc.)
- over several chords that fit within a Spanish Major context (see above chords for Spanish Major). ex. over E-F (I-bII) you could play E-Spanish Major.
- over a related modal progression or chord, use the relative Spanish Major scale
(ex. over a harmonic minor progression i.e. i-V7, play the V-Spanish Major)
e.g.
Say i have a imaj7 chord (say Gm/maj7), I would normally play I-harmonic minor over that. But I could also play a V-Spanish major (D-Spanish major)? It works, and gives different emphasis to the same collection of notes (thus evoking slightly different moods from the same notes). In order to use such an approach, you need to understand not only what chords are built off the root of a scale, but in other positions as well.

One might consider changing between Spanish Major, and Phrygian, over a progression such as the (fairly common) progression:
I-bII-bIII-bII-I
E-F-G-F-E

One way to play these chords would be:
E=02210o, F=133211, G=355433

Another possibility would be slightly different chords using open notes:
E=022100, Fmaj7#11 = 033200, G6/E=055400

You could use Spanish Major to solo over I, and bII. You could use Phrygian to solo over bII, and bIII. You should try playing just one scale over all these chords and seeing how it sounds different from switching scales per chord.

As easy as it would be to think of Spanish Major in a key context (i.e. that it's the harmonic minor scale with emphasis on a different note). I would make a plea that you take the time to get to know the Spanish Major scale for its own sake.

Likewise there are times when you want to use Spanish Major or phrygian. Make sure you become familiar with the subtleties between the two. It takes time to breed familiarity with any scale/chord/rhythm/progression/effect/genre.

We can increase our familiarity by singing every note as we practice our scales/soloing. In previous lessons on scales i've given some basic pointers on starting to solo. Those things transfer here too. Just replace the scale in question with the Spanish Major scale (see lessons from May 24th, june 7th, july 5th, and august 2nd).

In Summary:
* The Spanish Major mode is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale. The Spanish Major mode is most often heard in classical, flamenco, latin musics, and metal.
* In the key of C, it would be the notes: E-F-G#-A-B-C-D-E (with strongest emphasis on the E note).
* Its step pattern is 1/2-m3-1/2-W-1/2-W-W.
* We can represent its intervals as 1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7.
* We can see it is a major scale (contains the notes 1,3,5).
* Some also lists the Spanish major scale as the Mixolydian b9 b13 scale, dominant 7 {b9,b13} scale ,the spanish scale, the jewish scale. It has also been called Major Phrygian, Jewish, Spanish, Spanish Gypsy, Spanish Phrygian, Mixolydian b9 b13, Harmonic Phrygian, and Phrygian Major. Some people just use "5th mode of the harmonic minor scale".
* We have the following triads for the Spanish Major scale:
triads: I-bII-iiio-iv-vo-bVI+bvii
7th chords: I7-bIImaj7-iiio7-ivmaj7-v7b5-bVImaj7#5-bvii7
9th chords: I7b9-bIImaj7#9-iiio7b9-ivmaj9-v7b9b5-bVImaj9#5-bvii9
11th chords: I11b9-bIImaj7#9#11-iiio7b11b9-ivmaj11-v11b9b5-bVImaj11#5-bvii9#11
13th chords: I11b13b9-bIImaj13#11#9-iiio7b13b11b9-ivmaj11b13-v13b9b-bVImaj13#5-bvii13#11

Next lesson is on the Blues Scale.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Last updated October 24, 2002
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