Musical harmony has come a long way in the last 150 years, so far in fact that it could be easy to fall into a rut of repetition, never breaking any new ground. Bebop itself was born out of frustration and experimentation, the youth of the day pushing the boundaries and seeing what happened. Today we're going to look at some post bop experimentation that you might find in the lines of saxophonists like Michael Brecker and Jerry Bergonzi. The focus will be the synthetic scale known as the tritone scale, so come and have a look if you want to insert a little of the devil into your playing.
Michael was particularly synonymous with the experimentation of synthetic scales so check out his work with The Brecker Brothers, Steps Ahead and his solo albums (try his self titled album for something really special).
We're deep in the world of funk fusion now, so lets start this by listening to some Brecker Brothers (with Mike Stern on guitar). Michaels solo starts at 1:18 and he's really flying here, a great blend of pentatonics and fluid outside lines. If only we could be that fluid on the guitar! There is a valuable lesson to be learnt here though, drawing influence from other instruments is a great way to help develop your own voice on the guitar.
Today we're going to start out with the Tritone scale, which (like the bebop dominant scale) is actually more of an arpeggio approach. The concept is simple, if you take a major triad and one a b5th (tritone) higher you get the aptly named tritone scale.
A major - A C# E
Eb major - Eb G Bb
A tritone scale - A(r) Bb(b2) C#(3) Eb(b5) E(5) G(b7)
You could view this as an edited down version of the half whole diminished scale, but I like to think of it as a scale in it's own right. You dont think of the pentatonic scale as a minor scale minus a couple of notes.
If you take a look at the diagram above you can see the Amaj chord (red dots) and the Ebmaj chord (blue dots) in the same place on the neck, and below I have written out an exercise that just alternates between an Amaj triad and an Ebmaj triad. Listen to the audio and take note of how jarring this concept can be.
You can also interpret this scale in it's three note per string form, this is great if you want to play the scale quickly in a legato fashion. You could also take this in a typical shred direction and mix in all of your three note per string picking patterns ala Paul Gilbert.
You may have already guessed from the intervalic structure of this scale, it fits over a dominant 7th chord and all of the alterations would make it perfect for a functioning dominant chord (one that resolves up a 4th/down a 5th). When we looked at the diminished scale we used it in the 4th bar to create tension when moving to the IV chord - this is a great place to try using the scale aside from the static vamp we'll be using it over.
Try playing the triads above moving up and down the neck as a way of creating the sound of this scale, but it's also a great workout for triad visualization. This is just the first step in experimentation when you're looking at a synthetic scale, so try looking for other chords and arpeggios contained within this scale. I would recommend looking at Gary Campbell's book "Expansions" for more synthetic scales, and methods for practising them.
Our lick this time fits nicely in the CAGED shape, play it slowly and focus on the fact that we're resolving to the b7th (D). As this is a symmetrical scale that repeats in tritones you could play this lick 6 frets higher and get a different sounding lick (this time resolving to the 3rd). It's important to note that I'm playing this over a static A7 vamp, if you were to use this lick in a resolving context you would want to make sure your ending note complements the D chord you're going to (resolve to F# instead of G).
Above is the lick played slowly as written, and up 6 frets for colour.
Here is the lick played at tempo and in context.
Lastly we have a backing track fro you to try these ideas out over, let me know how you get on.
See you soon, and please add the following