October 2016
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Future Rock: Symmetrical Scale Silliness


While the previous example was a more obvious-sounding diminished run, Ex. 4 explores the scale in a more intervallic fashion and creates a less predictable, more contoured line. So, how do we create melodically interesting ideas using this scale? Well, I like to break down scales into more simple components. The G half-whole diminished scale can be broken down into four major triads—G, Bb, Db, and E. Notice how the triads are a minor third apart. This concept makes the material much easier to work with and the familiar sound of the triads is a nice bonus. Analyze this line and find the triads within it. It’s like a scavenger hunt, only nerdier!

It’s also good to know that Ex. 3 and Ex. 4 can be played over Bdim7, Ddim7, Fdim7, and Abdim7. When we do this, the scale flips around to the whole-half diminished scale, which is created by alternating whole-steps and half-steps. The general rule of thumb: When playing over a dominant, use the diminished scale that starts with a half-step, and when playing over a diminished chord, use the scale that starts with a whole-step.

In Ex. 5 we explore the mysterious augmented scale that’s used by such great improvisers as Oliver Nelson and Michael Brecker. Alternating minor thirds with half-steps creates this unusual and intriguing sound. An A augmented scale would be A-C-C#-E-F-G#. Another way to think of it is an augmented triad with a half-step approach to each chord tone. The most common chord to use this over would be a major7#5, but you can explore using it over dominant chords as well (just start the scale a half-step above the root).

In this example, we’re using an A augmented scale over an Ab7 that resolves to Dbmaj7. Again, I want to boil this down to some triads, so I was thinking of three major triads: A, C#, and F. This lick is literally just that! As you play it, be sure to dampen the strings with your tapping hand to avoid any extraneous noise.