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Exotic and Erotic Scales

Hey again. You may be wondering why I am not covering a player this month, but believe me, it’s pretty hard work, and I’m lazy. So, I am taking a short break. Instead, I’ve decided to have a special in-depth feature on two of my favorite (but rather under obscure) scales; namely, the Diminished, and the Whole Tone (Augmented). It is surprising how so few players venture outside the boundaries of their harmonic minor \pentatonic \ whatever favorite scale to embrace the joys of other, rather different sounding interval sequences. This probably is due to its lack of use in conventional rawwwk guitar [sic]. However, further analysis shows that many high-technique players (including the likes of Shawn Lane and Allan Holdsworth) often flirt with such scales, putting them to their fullest use (i.e. not just for cliched licks).

Sound clips are posted on my site (finally), and if you have any comments or queries about the lesson, please feel free to mail me. Next month, we’re getting hyper technical… yes, that ~50 year old shredder that’s better than the lot of us put together, Allan Holdsworth. Be very afraid.

Best
wishes,

~d

Part I – The Diminished Scale

Theory

Why the long faces? Sad to say, most players don’t know about the workings of the diminished scale (or diminished seventh, as it is also known as), yet use it with regularity in harmonic-minor friendly shred tunes a la Yngwie. Basically, it is a 7th chord, formed with flattened 3rd’s, 5th’s and b 7th’s– thus making it, in correct terms, a double flattened seventh. This is also the enharmonic name for a major sixth, theory fans. Here is the pattern:

I
III b
V b
VII bb

So, for C it would be:

C
E b
G b
B bb

This yields an unusual property which even the most simple of players can see. Because, fundamentally, the chord is made up of 3 minor thirds stacked on top of each other (with ultimately the tonic note being doubled an octave higher at the top), this means that yet another minor 3rd awaits the sequence after this octave. In simpler terms, the octave has been split into 4 intervals of equal minor 3rd’s – creating the odd ability for the scale to progress identically forever through its interval progression. The 4 notes in the scale are mirrored perfectly an octave higher without a change in its pattern. Alright so far?

Now. Think about this. If the interval progression is identical with no change, would this mean that it can represent other tonalities, other keys, while not even changing from its original key’s interval pattern? After all, if the pattern is identical, who is to say I can’t start on another note in the sequence? The answer is, surprisingly, yes; each diminished scale holds 4 tonalities, depending on which note you start on, be it your tonic, 3rd, 5th or 7th. Therefore, one is able to play over four complete tonality changes through use of a single diminished scale (the other tonalities do depend on the scales’ other notes, though). This can act as a beautiful and majestic gateway for mid-song transposition from one key to another. For instance, if we were playing C diminished, and if the piece transposed to tonality of Eb minor, we could still stay in the same scale, or use it as a useful link to noodling now in E minor. This change perhaps is the clearest of them all in neo-classicism, and Paul Gilbert is especially fond of this movement, weaving in and out everywhere between the two tonalities. Once you are clear of all this, it’s time to have a go – the few examples below show some ways where the scale can be used in shred licks – I have kept all the examples in one key so you can relate then transpose the lot as you see fit. Don’t feel obliged to stick to a neo-classical context, though. Experiment with it, especially in jazzy pieces.

Example
one

Here are some basic playing ideas you might already know or be familiar with in the context of playing. Notice especially ii) – the arpeggios here are as common as muck in neo-classical music. Knowledge of these forms general.

i)
The E diminished scale. Notice the repeating interval pattern.

ii) Arpeggios, ascending and descending. Try only using your first three fingers for speed’s sake.


i)
|---------------------6-9-12-9-6---------------------
|-----------------5-8------------8-5-----------------
|-------------3-6--------------------6-3-------------
|---------2-5----------------------------5-2---------
|-----1-4------------------------------------4-1-----
|-0-3--------------------------------------------3-0-





ii)
|----2-5-2-----5-8-5------8-11-8------11-14-11-----14-17-14-----17-20-17---
|---4-----4---7-----7---10------10---13------13---16------16---19------19--
|-/5-------5/8-------8/11--------11/14--------14/17--------17/20--------20~
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------





|-20-17-----14-17-14-----11-14-11------8-11-8------5-8-5-----2-5-2------
|-----19---16------16---13------13---10------10---7-----7---4-----4-----
|------20\17--------17\14--------14\11--------11\8-------8\5-------5~~--
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------



Example two

Here are a few interesting ideas that most of you probably haven’t seen in the context of the diminished scale. Just some things to bounce around.

i) An alternate-picked scale run, ascending. Try using only your index and middle fingers.

ii) The same run with mirrored descent.

i)

|---------------------------------------------------------------------------
|---------------------------------------------------------------------16-19-
|------------------------------------------------14-17-14--------14-17------
|---------------------------13-16-13--------13-16--------16-13-16-----------
|------12-15-12--------12-15--------15-12-15--------------------------------
|-11-14--------14-11-14-----------------------------------------------------





|---------------17-20~~-
|16--------16-19--------
|--17-14-17-------------
|-----------------------
|-----------------------
|-----------------------





ii)
|-17-20-17-------------------------------------------------------------------
|---------19-16--------16-19-16----------------------------------------------
|--------------17-14-17--------17-14--------14-17-14-------------------------
|-----------------------------------16-13-16--------16-13--------13-16-13----
|--------------------------------------------------------15-12-15---------15-
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------





|--------------------------
|--------------------------
|--------------------------
|--------------------------
|12--------12-15-12--------
|--14-11-14--------11-14~~-





Example three

So you’re a hot shredder, then? Tackle these medium difficulty licks then – there’s something for everyone. The biggest problem one could find in these possibly is the gargantuan stretches required for those interval leaps – I have very small hands, but if Vinnie Moore can make do with small ones, so can I.

i) Basic string skipping, no special mentions here.

ii) Tap-skipping. Eloquent and smoothness are the requirements.

iii) Legato ascent. Those stretches can hurt, so be careful and warm up.


i)
|--------11h14h17h14h11--11---------------11h14h11--11---------
|--------------------------------------------------------------
|11h14h17--------------17--17p14p11h14h17---------17-17p14p11~-
|--------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------





|--------11h14h17t20p17p14p11------------------11h14h17t20p14p11--------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|11h14h17--------------------t20p17p14p11h14h17-----------------t20p17p14p11~-
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------





ii)


|---------------------------------------------------------------14h17h20-
|---------------------------------------13h16h19--------13h16h19---------
|---------------11h14h17--------11h14h17--------11h14h17-----------------
|-------10h13h16--------10h13h16-----------------------------------------
|9h12h15-----------------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------------------------

Enough diminished scale for you? Lets move onto…

Part II – The Whole Tone (Augmented) Scale

Theory

Another largely overlooked scale is the whole tone or augmented scale. Having even less of a place in ‘rock guitar’ music due to its lack of popularity (and practicality), it has rarely been used by most guitar players. However, give it some time like with the diminished, and you may have another weapon in your musical arsenal. Considered a ‘synthetic’ scale, it is made up of not 7… not 4… but 6 notes… which are, correctly assumed from the scale’s title, whole notes. In other words, the octave is divided into 6 equal complete Tone intervals, much a way as the diminished worked its magic with minor 3rds. There are no semitones, and thus when listening to the scale it is impossible to establish a single tonal centre. This leads to exactly the same repeating functions as the diminished scale, whereby one can transpose from key to key quickly through its fluent use and understanding. Ultimately, both scales offer a compositional device that diatonic harmony does not provide – use it in conjunction with diatonic harmony, and you’ll be laughing. Here is the pattern:

I
II
III
IV
V
VI
I

So for C it would be:

D
E
F#
G#
A#
C

Easy, no? The most remarkable thing about the scale is that only 2 variations are needed to cover the scale in all its keys – one starting on C (as and another from C#, a semitone above it to compensate for keys that fall between the formers interval pattern. Then, it is simply a matter of starting on the right tonic note, and you’re off. Please note that I use C as an example key as it naturally contains no sharps or flats to confuse and confound.

Example
one

Here are some ideas to start you off.

i) The whole tone scale, in G (tonic note is G).

ii) Whole tone arpeggios. The same scale, yet tonalities of firstly G, then A.

i)
|—————————–9-11-13/15\13-11-9—————————–
|———————-8-10-12——————12-10-8———————-
|—————-6-8-10——————————–10-8-6—————-
|———–5-7-9——————————————–9-7-5———–
|——4-6-8——————————————————8-6-4——
|-3-5-7—————————————————————-7-5-3-

ii)
|———–11h15p11————————13h18p13————-
|———12——–12——————–14——–14———–
|——-12————12—————-14————14———
|—–13—————-13————15—————-15——-
|—14——————–14——–16——————–16—–
|-15————————15~~–17————————17~~-

Example
two

More whole tone goodness, these licks may change your idea on the augmented scale.

i) G whole tone, legato ascent.

ii) Top-end wildling, pay attention to the change in tonalities. Over the back, slash distorted C5, D5 and E5 chords for greater effect.

i)


|---------------------------------------------------------------9h11h13-
|-------------------------------------------8h10h12------8h10h12--------
|--------------------------6h8h10-----6h8h10-------6h8h10---------------
|-----------5h7h9-----5h7h9------5h7h9----------------------------------
|------4h6h8-----4h6h8--------------------------------------------------
|-3h5h7-----------------------------------------------------------------





ii)


 x4                 x4                 x4
|------------------|------------------|------------------|
|-13h15h17p15p13---|-15h17h19p17p15---|-17h19h21p19p17---|
|---------------17-|---------------19-|---------------21-|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|


Example three

However, the most fun a dude can have with the augmented scale is in high-speed legato. Pay attention to the repeated notes giving a fluid sound.

i) Not too difficult, just go for it. Just hammer on all the time, sliding without sounding here and there.

i)
|---------------------------------------12h14h16/-14h16h18/-
|--------------------13h15h17/-15h17h19---------------------
|-13h15h17/-15h17h19----------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------





|16h18h20/-18h20h22~~--
|----------------------
|----------------------
|----------------------
|----------------------
|----------------------




That’s it, hope you’re a little more enlightened by it all, and I’ll see you next month with some more madness in the style of ‘Fatboy’.

daz14@metallica.com
www.dazmalekpour.homestead.com
www.mp3.com\dazmalekpour\
www.insaneguitar.com

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