In The Woodshed
This month, Rockschool’s Charlie Griffiths looks at the tritone or ‘Devil’s Interval’ as a doublestop, aka diad, aka chord fragment. Let’s go dark!
the notes in a trit one doubl e-stop can be seen as eit her a frag ment of a dimini shed chord or of a dominant chord
Last month we introduced the tritone interval and used it in a variety of musical settings both melodically and harmonically. The tritone is an interval spanning three whole tones, or you could think of this as two notes six semitones apart. If you already know a root-5th powerchord, you can start with that, then drop the higher note down one semitone. When played simultaneously, these two note create a dissonant and dramatic sound which can have a lot of applications in various genres.
This month we will focus on using the tritone double-stop as a chord fragment. These two notes can be seen as a fragment of either a diminished chord, or as part of dominant chord. The first example is inspired by Robert Fripp’s King Crimson style and uses the E tritone double-stop over an E bass note, so in this case we hear this chord as an E diminished sound using the intervals 1-
(E and notes). The jazzy Example 2 shows that by playing the tritone a tone below the root we can create a dominant 7th sound, using intervals 1-3-
We have five examples from ‘70s prog, to jazz, to funk, to metal-core. These various genres require various tone shaping elements so these should be considered in order to get the best results from each specific tritone sound.
Examples 3 and 5 use a distorted tone, in this case best achieved by using the bridge pickup for a nice present, cutting attack. Set your amp for a nice high-gain sound with lots of mids and enough low end to add punch, but not too much that it becomes flabby. You may want to go easy on the treble for Example 3 so those high double-stops don’t sound too piercing; experiment with getting the balance right between the low and high chords.
For the remaining examples a clean sound is best. You should try different pickup options. Does the part sound best with bridge, neck or an in-between setting? You can also try adjusting your volume and tone controls to help shape the sound. That jazzy Example 2 might sound smoother with the tone rolled down, but the funky Example 4 could benefit from lower guitar volume so the chords don’t sound too harsh and brittle.
Play each example slowly and concentrate on making the notes crisp and clean, taking time to repeat tricky manoeuvres until they enter your muscle memory. Practise with a metronome and speed up gradually until you can comfortably play along with the backing tracks we’ve provided. Lastly, since tritones are dissonant anyway, as double-stops they can sound very ugly if not perfectly in tune.
NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at all the voicings and extensions of the 7#9 ‘ Hendrix chord’
Robert Fripp’s King Crimson style inspired Example 1