EXOTIC BLUES Play­ing the Al­tered scale

In this ex­clu­sive fea­ture John Wheatcroft shows how to broaden your har­monic hori­zons and add ten­sion, spice and ex­cite­ment to your blues by us­ing the Al­tered scale.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

John Wheatcroft shows you how to broaden your har­monic hori­zons and add ten­sion, spice and ex­cite­ment to your blues by us­ing the Al­tered scale. Get your think­ing caps on!

Got your think­ing caps on? Good – we’ve got a lot to get through! I prom­ise that there will be some sexy licks to learn at the end but let’s start with the the­ory bit – stick with it, as this will help you later on.

It’s pos­si­ble to view the jazz Melodic Mi­nor scale as a Ma­jor scale with a low­ered

(R-2-b3-4-5-6-7). 3rd This has a knock-on ef­fect on all the sub­se­quent modes of the Ma­jor scale, so that this mod­i­fied note moves through and im­pacts upon the scale one note in turn. So this means the sec­ond mode is like

(R-b2-b3-4-5-6-b7) a Do­rian with a low­ered 2nd and by the same logic the sev­enth mode would

(R-b2-b3-b4-be like Locrian with a low­ered 4th b5-b6-b7).

If this sounds like a for­eign lan­guage then you should re­cap the ba­sic Ma­jor scale modes as a mat­ter of some ur­gency.

Back to Locrian with a flat­tened 4th; no­tice ev­ery­thing is flat­tened in this scale, so from a

C-Db-Eb-Fb-Gb-Ab-Bb. C root it would look like this:

If we fol­low con­ven­tional chord con­struc­tion, tak­ing the root, 3rd 5th and so on, with this scale we’d end up with a C b bb di­min­ished triad (C-E -G ) and a C half-di­min­ished b b 7th chord (C-E -G -B ). All well and good, un­til we lis­ten to the sound that C to Fb

cre­ates. All the the­ory in the world can­not hide the fact that our flat­tened 4th sounds un­de­ni­ably fa­mil­iar and rather like some­thing else. Why not play those notes now? Sounds like a ma­jor 3rd, right?

Well, sound trumps the­ory on ev­ery level, so what we now have is a scale with both ma­jor and mi­nor thirds, son­i­cally if not the­o­ret­i­cally. Like ev­ery good Hol­ly­wood movie, light tri­umphs over dark and the Ma­jor pushes the Mi­nor out of po­si­tion, so the open­ing steps of this scale now sounds more

Root-b2-#2-3. like this: If we’re open­ing the door to en­har­monic re­spelling then we can do the same with the next notes in se­quence: the b5 b6

can stay but our could in turn be seen as b7 #5, leav­ing the as we’d find it. This new way of see­ing this scale, the ‘Su­per-Locrian’ now

Root-b2-#2-3-b5-#5-b7 looks more like this: (C-Db-D#-E-Gb-G#-Bb).

Now might be a good time for some tea!

Suit­ably re­freshed? Let’s con­tinue. One of the strong­est moves in mu­sic is the V7 to I res­o­lu­tion, known in the trade as a ‘per­fect cadence’. By def­i­ni­tion, a dom­i­nant 7th chord needs to have a ma­jor 3rd and a flat­tened 7th to be con­sid­ered wor­thy of this ti­tle, but we can en­hance the sense of ten­sion and re­lease by rais­ing or low­er­ing the 5th de­gree and rais­ing or low­er­ing the 9th. This works mu­si­cally be­cause th­ese new notes at­tach them­selves to par­tic­u­lar tar­get tones in the in­tended res­o­lu­tion chord. So, G7 (G-B-D-F) can be­come G7#5 (G-B-D#-F). The D# note re­solves per­fectly to the E note found em­bed­ded in the struc­ture of our des­ti­na­tion C ma­jor7 chord (C-E-G-B). This is just one ex­am­ple as we’ll see – and th­ese con­nec­tions can be found in melody lines, chord voic­ings and so­los. So a Dom­i­nant 7th with raised or low­ered 5th and raised or low­ered 9th comes un­der the head­ing of ‘Al­tered’. If we string the

R-b2-#2-3-b5-#5-b7. notes to­gether we get Recog­nise it from ear­lier? Yes, this is the same ‘Su­per-Locrian’ scale we got from Melodic mi­nor, also known con­ve­niently as the ‘Al­tered scale’. Hope­fully that didn’t hurt too badly (and if it did seem scar­ily com­plex, sim­ply read it again, and maybe again un­til it starts to sink in).

As promised here are those sexy chords and licks I men­tioned ear­lier, guar­an­teed to turn heads at your next blues jam. You’ll be a huge step closer to the exotic so­phis­ti­ca­tion of Larry, Robben and a host of other blues play­ers with that il­lu­sive jazzy edge.

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