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