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Insanity 101: The Bridge to Esoterica

Months ago, a fellow (whose name I can’t recall) posted to the IG forums requesting information about the whole-tone scale and other “exotic” scales, as well as advise on how to apply new scales to soloing and composition. A recent letter from an IG reader (Chad from Iowa) reminded me of whole-tone scales…and that the name of the site is “INSANE guitar”, and that I should tread a bit closer to the edge. Thanx for the reminder, Chad. Let me know how you like this one!

We’ll start with a common progression in A minor – let’s say: Am (8) – Am (8) – F (8) – F (4), G (4) – repeat. Improvise freely over the first two chords of this progression using A natural minor (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). When you get to the “F” chord, however, switch to the whole-tone scale until the progression returns to “Am”.

Listen!

While the whole-tone scale is not somethng music theorists would necessarily consider “exotic’ or “esoteric”, it sure can sound pretty alien if employed

Like this:

Listen!

Or this:

Listen!

In addition to finding opportune moments in a progression to switch scales, you’ll also find that modulations are a great way to open doors to adding some eccentric whole-tone spice. Using the same progression as above, improvise freely in A minor as you flow through the progression twice. At the end of the second pass, however, don’t return to Am – switch keys instead by jumping to F#m (using just a standard 1-5 diad). This is another great opportunity to leap into the whole-tone scale. Try the following run over this section.

Listen!

We’ll stop here for now, but next time we’ll expound further on the use of this odd little scale. I hope that was “insane” enough for ya’ll! Drop me a line via e-mail or the IG forums (and don’t forget to sign the guestbook, folks!) for all critiques and suggestions for future articles.

A bit off-note: As many of you know, I’ll be doing a series of guitar clinics and workshops in the next few months, but the date has been moved back to accommodate my recording schedule for “Hunger”. I’ll post up-dates here and at my web-site. If you’re interested in one in your area, drop me a line and we can discuss it.

See ya next time!

David M. McLean is the proprietor of Skinny Devil Music Labs, former guitarist of the avant-garde fusion-metal band Aurora-Sen, guitar instructor, and columnist for TinFoil Music Magazine (where he conducts interviews in the on-going series “Guitar Gods”). His new solo album, “HUNGER”, will be released later this year.

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