Mod­ern The­ory

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Scales are funny things. They’re in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to un­der­stand­ing how mu­sic works, and they func­tion as great fin­ger ex­er­cises too. But at a cer­tain point they can be­come lit­tle cages, if you let them. Some­times you’ll find the per­fect note lurk­ing out­side of the scale you’re us­ing for the rest of the song or solo – this is the kind of think­ing that most likely led to the flat­ted fifth be­ing added to the mi­nor pen­ta­tonic scale, and lead­ing to the cre­ation of the mi­nor blues scale.

Of course, you can only add so many notes to a scale be­fore it sim­ply be­comes the chro­matic scale, which tends to be where my per­sonal ap­proach to solo­ing sits right now. At some point, I started to see the gui­tar as just one long string, and the in­ter­vals I’d mem­o­rised from years of study­ing scales meant I was sud­denly able to go straight for melodies I was hear­ing in my head in re­al­time, rather than ba­si­cally hit­ting dif­fer­ent scale de­grees like I was pre­vi­ously.

It’s com­mon to hear mu­si­cians say, “Learn ev­ery­thing, and then for­get it,” and then for some smar­tass to hit back with a Spinal Tap-es­que, “Well I don’t know it, so isn’t that the same as for­get­ting?” But that’s not it: the point is to learn as much as you can, so that it be­comes in­tu­itive and you can form a mu­si­cal sen­tence as in­stantly as you can form a lin­guis­tic one.

Hav­ing said that, here’s my favourite scale of all time: the Hirajoshi scale. It be­gan life as a tun­ing de­vised by Yat­suhashi Kengy (1614-1685) for the koto. I’m drawn to its tran­quil peace­ful­ness, but if you lean on cer­tain notes within the scale, it can also give you a more melan­cholic tex­ture. You’ll hear it pop­ping up a lot in the work of Ja­son Becker and Marty Fried­man in their clas­sic shred metal duo Ca­coph­ony, where Ja­son seemed es­pe­cially fond of dig­ging into its slightly sur­real na­ture.

It’s a five-note scale, but noth­ing like the mi­nor pen­ta­tonic we all learn. Un­like the mi­nor pen­ta­tonic, which seems pur­pose-built to en­cour­age an in­tu­itive and free-form ap­proach, Hirajoshi is a lit­tle more thinky, and it’s harder to play fast with be­cause it can in­volve some odd in­ter­val­lic leaps.

Here’s how to play Hirajoshi: start with the Phry­gian mode (the third de­gree of the ma­jor scale) and re­move a few notes. The eas­i­est way to ap­proach this scale is to imag­ine it as a pair of pat­terns re­peat­ing across each new pair of strings.

Fig­ure #1A is the Hirajoshi scale in the key of A, start­ing on the fifth fret of the low E string. It goes Root, sec­ond, mi­nor third on the bot­tom string, then fifth, mi­nor sixth on the next one. Now all you have to do is leap to the next oc­tave of the root (in this case, the A note at the sev­enth fret of the D string) and start that pat­tern again (as shown in Fig­ure #1B). Fi­nally, hit that A at the tenth fret of the B string, and you’re in place to repeat the pat­tern again an even higher oc­tave (Fig­ure #1C).

And there you go: an ex­otic- sound­ing scale, but easy to play and re­mem­ber (as shown in Fig­ure #2).

One easy way to find your way around this scale is to pick a pat­tern on two ad­ja­cent strings, then move it up an oc­tave on the next string pair and then the next one. This is a good way to build ten­sion, then re­lease it with a big sus­tained root note or chord.

Fig­ure #4 is an­other way of look­ing at the same scale, but this time it’s laid out in a two-note-per-string man­ner that breaks us out of the temp­ta­tion to fall into repet­i­tive box pat­terns. You’ll go from play­ing two frets apart to four frets apart to one fret apart, with no par­tic­u­larly iden­ti­fi­able pat­tern to latch onto. You re­ally have to think about it, es­pe­cially when you first start learn­ing. It also leads you to­wards some of the more un­usual and dras­tic in­ter­val­lic leaps that are some­what masked when you play the scale in the way out­lined in Fig­ure #2.

A great way to prac­tise this scale is to set up some kind of dron­ing root note loop. That way, you can com­pare each note of the scale against the root and see which ones build ten­sion, which ones re­lease it and which ones are neu­tral.

I use it at the be­gin­ning of the solo in my song “Hyper­re­al­ity”, where it plays against some long sus­tain­ing mi­nor chords be­fore switch­ing to some blue­sier licks, and then fi­nally an ut­terly gross and in­dul­gent shred­fest.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.