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Improvising with Exotic Scales - Part 2


Hello there, in my first article I tried to introduce you to some exotic scales as well as give you an approach on how to "make up" your own exotic sounding scales (you can always cheat and buy a book with a million scales but what's the fun in that right? :) ) and in the end I promised I would give some advice on how to apply them to real music so here I am once again bringing you the second part of the "Improvising with Exotic Scales" series and this time I'll show you some approaches that will help you get the most out of these scales. So let's get started.

Even though you can get some pretty wicked sounds when you fiddle around with these scales while jamming on a pedal riff or some 2 chord trash/speed progression, there also thousands of possibilities when you create music around these scales. Take as an example the Hirajoshi scale (pretty much Eric V's trademark and Marty Friedman uses it quite a bit too) with a 1 2 3b 5 6b structural formula (it kind of sounds like physics doesn't it? :) ). It's the most known Japanese scale among guitarists, here are two easy patterns:

Here's the PowerTab file of the above.

You can figure out other patterns or even get crazy and do 3 NPS if you want. And as an exercise try using a drone playing statically each one of the tones (notes, degrees, whatever ;)) in the scale while you play one of these progressions (kind of what I did with the harmonic minor scale in the previous article) to help you get the feel of each one of the modes on this scale.


This scale is also really cool harmonically speaking; let's try making triads out of this one. We have these notes available:


Some of the triads we could build on each root could be:

A C E (Amin) A B E (Asus2) A C F (Am#5)

B E F (Bb5sus4) B C F (B no 3rd b5 b9)

C E A (CMaj6) C E F (Cadd11) C E B (C Maj7)

E A B (E sus4) E B C (E <no 3rd>add6)

F A C (F Maj) F A B (FMaj #11) F B C (F no 3rd #11)

If you extend the chords and start using 4 note or even larger chords, the choices grow. Now as an exercise go back and try doing this to the other scales I gave you in the previous article (that should keep you busy for a while) again experiment and if something sounds nice keep it, if not trash it. For instance, I just love the sound of the F Maj#11 chord (F A C E B), it sounds very Spanish or Mediterranean to me. The easiest way to fret that one would be as an F Major chord except you don't do the bar, in other words, you leave the 1st and 2nd string open (Steve Vai uses this one in his infamous work "For the Love of God").

I'll show you some voicings for these chords and again these are not the only possible ones, I really want to encourage you to look for your own patterns and fingerings since that will dramatically increase your knowledge of the instrument, not to mention that fingerings feel a lot more natural when you have come up with them. Here there are some to get you started:

Here's the PowerTab file of the above.

Note that even if you're not planning on writing your own music in the near future, knowing the chords that "come" from the scale (or the scales that come from the chords for that matter depending on what approach you're using) can help you better understand your options when improvising and take you away from the "Ok, here's a dominant chord I'll play X Mixolydian here" kind of thought and helps you use a more melodic approach.

Also, since there are a lot of dissonant intervals inside many of the chords derived of these scales, you'll get out of your traditional harmonization techniques (like parallel 3rds) and get a little taste of how great some of these dissonances can be, especially when using pentatonic scales you will sometimes "be forced" to use different intervals aside from parallel 5ths 4ths or 3rds. Some of these intervals may sound plain ugly to you, but you might even find them useful. (like playing minor 2nds with the keyboard to create a horror scene :) )

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