Char­lie Grif­fiths dis­cusses the ‘devil’s in­ter­val’ and how to make mu­si­cal use of the flat five in five dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal set­tings.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Tb5 he in­ter­val is some­times called a ‘di­min­ished 5th’ or a ‘tri­tone’ as it is three whole tones above the root note. Another way of think­ing of it is ‘six semi­tones’. His­tor­i­cally it has been known as di­a­bo­lus in mu­sica, or the ‘devil’s mu­sic’ due to its dis­so­nant qual­ity. Fa­mous b5 uses of the can be found in Black Sab­bath’s self ti­tled tune, The Simp­sons theme and Hen­drix’s Pur­ple Haze.

In this les­son we will look at var­i­ous ways b5 of in­clud­ing the in dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal sit­u­a­tions. The Blues scale is usu­ally the b5, first place in which we en­counter the so for Ex­am­ple 1, we have a blue­grass lick played in the open po­si­tion of E Blues. In this scale the tri­tone sits in be­tween the 4th and 5th in­ter­vals to cre­ate a se­quence of three chro­matic notes

Ex­am­ple 2 is based in the Ly­dian mode and shows that the tri­tone shape can sound bright and epic in the right con­text; as used by play­ers like Joe Sa­tri­ani and Steve Vai as well as bands like Dream Theater and Queen­srÿche. The Ly­dian mode con­tains a b5

sound by a dif­fer­ent name. The in­ter­vals are 1-2-3-#4-5-6-7. As there is an ex­ist­ing per­fect 5th in the scale it’s con­sid­ered proper to call the tri­tone a #4 rather than a

mod­ern metal ban ds such as mastodon an d opeth em­ploy dim 5th chords to creat e ‘evil ’ dis­so­nant sounds


even though both names are de­scrib­ing ex­actly the same note.

Tak­ing in­flu­ence from the metal fore­fa­thers Black Sab­bath, mod­ern metal bands such as Opeth or Mastodon em­ploy the di­min­ished 5th chord to cre­ate a dis­so­nant ‘evil’ sound. The typ­i­cal chord shape is played with first, sec­ond and third b5 fin­gers us­ing the root, and oc­tave as seen in Ex3. Here we can see that the tri­tone is ex­actly the half­way point of an oc­tave. This three-string shape, although dis­so­nant, is clean and fo­cused enough to still sound clear through a dis­torted amp. b5

Next we look at adding the to a

A7b5 dom­i­nant chord, re­sult­ing in an sound, or A7#11 if you pre­fer to think of the arpeg­gio in the con­text of the Ly­dian b7). Dom­i­nant mode (1-2-3-#4-5-6- This mode can be heard ex­ten­sively in Danny Elf­man’s film scores and is also favoured by jazz-fu­sion play­ers like Scott Hen­der­son. This is a cool way of adding a quirk­i­ness and ‘out­side’ ten­sion over static dom­i­nant chord jams and Ex­am­ple 4 demon­strates a typ­i­cal Hen­der­son-like lick in this style.

Our fifth and fi­nal ex­am­ple evokes Al­lan Holdsworth’s use of the Di­min­ished Whole-Half-Tone scale, or ‘oc­ta­tonic scale’. b5 This scale con­tains in­ter­vals through­out giv­ing it an un­re­solved, float­ing qual­ity that Al­lan found per­fect for his amaz­ing and oth­er­worldly flow­ing lines.

Prac­tise each ex­am­ple slowly and fo­cus on tim­ing and ac­cu­racy be­fore speed­ing up and play­ing along with the back­ing tracks.

NEXT MONTH Char­lie looks at us­ing the tri­tone again but this time as a dou­ble-stop

The open­ing two notes of Pur­ple Haze are a tri­tone b5th or apart

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