Test your skills with some blazing licks incorporating the symmetrical diminished scale.

Chops: Advanced
Theory: Advanced
Lesson Overview:
• Create melodies using a symmetrical diminished scale.
• Burn off your frets with licks of evil.
• Brush up on your sweeping and tapping chops.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

In last month's turgid episode, I performed a little experiment and left you with an assignment. That assignment was to listen to the included sound clip of "Dance Party in the U.S.A.,” transcribe it (tab was fine) and then record a video of yourself performing it. After which I was to give you an opportunity to shine with some small measure of internet exposure and limited fame by posting your incredible performance on my own Facebook page (currently laden with over 1100 ready-viewers) and personal website.

The month previous to last, a few of you dropped by here with some valuable criticism that you'd like some more challenging things to do and that perhaps I should (gasp!) write less and just regurgitate and feed you the licks of doom like the mother bird of metal that I am. You inspired me, in turn, to take up the challenge and create a challenge for you! I was excited. I was enticed that I could bring you all something that may be slightly too difficult for your little sisters to play! I was ecstatic that we could finally just skip the useless talking and get right to the heart of it so we could play the licks of doom together!

Sadly, no one took up the challenge. I assume that some of you were probably too busy doing super awesome things and didn't have the time or energy. And for some others, I suppose ease of spouting anonymous criticism far outweighs the difficulties of actually facing one's own limitations.

So, perhaps we all have learned something here already.

The good news is for the objective majority of us that are working constructively on learning something here I thank you for putting up with my eccentricities and I happily bring you the transcription to last month's challenge!


So, just a brief aside about the tune, I used a lot of the symmetrical diminished scale throughout. The main rhythm is from the scale, the melody is, some supportive chords are, etc. I like this scale. It sounds like pure evil crystallized into a fine powder of musical debauchery and then ritualistically smeared on the freshly shorn naughty parts of an evil sharp-teethed midget clown.

If we take a note–let’s say D–and move away from it by a half step and then a whole step and continue this pattern up the neck we have one version of a symmetrical diminished scale, also known as a half/whole diminished scale.

This diabolical little gnome of a scale inspires the intro lick (Fig. 1). It’s “inspired” by the scale because it's not actually the scale. It has a lot of the notes of the scale, but what I did was take three notes of it and create a symmetrical pattern on two strings. Then we move up in tritones as we cross each two-string set. I thought it sounded kinda cool (shrug). This lick is played with strict alternate picking.

Next up, we have the little mini solo in Fig. 2. It can be divided into three licks. The first is a Bm7b5 arpeggio. This is pretty much played straight up and back with some sweep picking and hammers and pulls. Notice that we have a slide on the 3rd string and are using a one finger tap-slide on the 1st string. Good times.

A similar sweepy tappy arpeggio shape is next. It's basically a D7 arpeggio that starts on a b6 and ends with a natural 7. I know, it’s weird for a D7 to have those notes and if there's a natural 7th at some point, doesn't that indeed make it NOT a D7?! Hey, what can I say. That's what the voices told me to do, at the time.

We finish this little doom soirée off with chromatic scale tapping and sliding frenzy. Tap. Slide. Do it. Do it now. In jazz, for example, the chromatic scale can be applied in very creative, interesting, and harmonically deep ways. This lick has absolutely none if that. It is inspired by the death sound in Pac Man. It's dumb. But it makes me giggle like a schoolgirl (*not liable for paying for your therapy for that last statement). Any crossing of strings on this one is done with a “hammer on from nowhere,” meaning, you'll simply hammer with your first finger onto the adjacent string without any assistance from the pick.

Finally, we have the first section of the main melody in Fig. 3. This is directly from the sym dim scale. It is performed with alternate picking. The phrasing is kinda weird and was inspired by some Shakti and traditional North and South Indian music I like to listen to when I'm getting’ my freak on–and by “freak” I mean guitar, of course.

So, hope you all have fun working this out. Really wish we could have had some participants in our challenge. But, perhaps, now that you have the notes, you'll finally give it a go, anyway. And In the immortal words of Ozzy Ozbourne, “I love you all.” Er, perhaps not individually. But collectively. And completely platonically. Clothed. With guitars on.

Terry Syrek has been teaching guitar for over 25 years and is a senior faculty member of the National Guitar Workshop. He is the author of Shred Is Not Dead and continues to punish all comers with a combination of blistering speed, over-the-top distortion, and boyish charm. For more information, visit terrysyrek.com.

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