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.
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!
AN INTERVAL WITH THIS MUCH HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE DESERVES SO MUCH MORE THAN TO BE CONSIDERED A PENTATONIC PASSING NOTE