How to get the most from it

It’s just a tweaked Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic but that one ex­tra note makes it one of the most pow­er­ful of all scales. Phil Capone shows how to get the most from it with riffs, so­los and back­ing tracks.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Tb3-4- b5-5- b7) he Blues scale (R- is a six-note scale. It can also be viewed as the mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic with an added flat­tened 5th in­ter­val, cre­at­ing a pass­ing note be­tween the per­fect 4th and 5th of the scale. While the flat­tened 5th works ex­tremely well in this con­text, it can also be used as a melody note and hit squarely on the beat with no apolo­gies. The pur­pose of this fea­ture is to chal­lenge your cur­rent per­cep­tion of the flat 5 and ex­plore the po­ten­tial of the flat­tened 5th in all of its po­ten­tial roles: as a pass­ing note, a melody note or a chro­matic ap­proach note. The var­i­ous styles and har­monic sce­nar­ios that you will hear the flat­tened fifth pre­sented in are tes­ta­ment to its im­por­tance and ver­sa­til­ity; ig­nore it at your peril!

The flat­tened 5th cre­ates the dis­so­nant in­ter­val of a tri­tone (three whole steps) against the root, and un­like any other in­ter­val, it re­mains the same when in­verted. Dur­ing the mid­dle ages it was be­lieved that play­ing it would sum­mon the Devil (Di­abo­lus in mu­sica). Hence the blues, with its pro­lif­er­a­tion of har­monic and melodic flat­tened 5ths, was re­ferred to as ‘the Devil’s mu­sic’. Over time the huge in­flu­ence of the blues in pop­u­lar mu­sic has de­sen­si­tised lis­ten­ers’ ears and led to a gen­eral ac­cep­tance of the flat­tened 5th. Nonethe­less it re­mains a toxic and pow­er­ful in­ter­val that needs to be han­dled (and more im­por­tantly phrased) with care.

Ever since Black Sab­bath shocked the record-buy­ing public with their epony­mous­lyti­tled de­but al­bum, the flat­tened 5th has been a sta­ple in­gre­di­ent of heavy rock. But it had emerged in pop­u­lar mu­sic long be­fore that mile­stone al­bum was re­leased. Since the birth of the blues and jazz, in fact, where the in­ter­val has al­ways been used as a melody note. The flat­tened 5th slowly seeped into main­stream cul­ture but re­ally started be­com­ing fash­ion­able dur­ing the late 50s. Leonard Bern­stein used it in his in­cred­i­ble score for West Side Story, specif­i­cally in Maria, where the cho­rus melody is based on a lin­ger­ing flat­tened fifth. Guitarist and com­poser An­to­nio Car­los Jo­bim was also fond of fea­tur­ing flat­tened 5ths in his bossa nova master­pieces.

And as the 60s be­gan The Bea­tles, The Rolling Stones and other Bri­tish blues boom mu­si­cians con­tin­ued to chal­lenge the then cur­rent ac­cep­tance of the flat­tened 5th and the Blues scale (Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s solo in I Saw Her Stand­ing There ac­tu­ally starts on the flat 5!). Two other iconic tunes, The Peter Gunn Theme and The Pink Pan­ther Theme, both com­posed by Henri Mancini, made full use of it, too, cel­e­brat­ing the hippest in­ter­val of the decade. In rock, Cream’s Sun­shine Of Your Love and Hen­drix’s Pur­ple Haze were awash with the sound of the flat 5, while Wes Mont­gomery and Ge­orge Ben­son’s cool record­ings demon­strated how the Blues scale could be freely mixed with bop lines in jazz.

An in­ter­val with this much his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance de­serves so much more than to be merely con­sid­ered as a Pen­ta­tonic pass­ing note, so grab your gui­tar and let’s give Beelze­bub a run for his money!


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