world gone shred

Not all pentatonic scales are created equal.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Advanced
Lesson Overview:
• Develop an understanding of the Hirajōshi scale and its modes.
• Learn how to apply traditional Japanese sounds to Western tonalities.
• Create compelling lines based on variations of the pentatonic scale.

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

Japanese pentatonic scales are an improvisational home base for many musicians—certainly guitarists, whether they know it or not. Some of the scales, such as Ryo, are simply the major pentatonic scale, and it’s hard to say whether it’s first use was in Japan or much earlier in African and European folk songs. Other scales, however, have a distinct Japanese flavor to them. We’re going to investigate five of these scales, which are really just modes of the same scale, and see how they can be used both melodically and harmonically in such different genres as metal, blues, and even jazz fusion.

The main scale we’ll check out is called Hirajōshi. There are five forms, or inversions, of this scale, each with its own distinct tonality. It is important to know that these scales are actually derived from tunings of the koto, a 13-string instrument from Japan. The formula for the scale is 1–2–b3–5–b6. In the key of A, for example, that’s A–B–C–E–F. You could think of it as a natural minor scale without the 4 and b7. Ex. 1 shows a three-octave fingering for the scale.

Read More Show less

You could WIN a Greenhouse Effects Deity in This week's All-new giveaway! Ends December 15, 2021.

Read More Show less

Sam Fender shares a moment with his saxophonist and childhood friend, Johnny "Blue Hat" Davis, at London's O2 Brixton Academy in September 2021.

Photo by Linda Brindley

The British songwriter traversed the bleak thoroughfares of his past while writing his autobiographical sophomore album, Seventeen Going Under—a tale of growing up down-and-out, set to an epic chorus of Jazzmasters and soaring sax.

British songwriter Sam Fender hails from North Shields, England, an industrial coastal port town near the North Sea, about eight miles northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne. Fender grew up in this small village, which he calls "a drinking town with a fishing problem." He lived there with his mother on a council estate, a type of British public housing. This is the mise-en-scène for Sam Fender's coming-of-age autobiographical new album, Seventeen Going Under. On the album's cover, a photograph shows Sam sitting on a brick stoop.

Read More Show less