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Advice on exotic scales to learn

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cliffburtono, Feb 17, 2016.

  1. cliffburtono


    Oct 17, 2015
    I'm looking to broaden my knowledge on any applicable exotic scales outside the standard major and minor classical scales, but I'm struggling to find the names of these scales I'm attempting to learn.

    The scales I'm looking for sound like the bass lines Steve Digorgio seems to play quite a bit, and can be applied in some metal compositions. An example would be his bass solo in Cosmic Sea () it starts at 02:34.

    The best word I can use to describe the kind I'm looking for is 'exotic', maybe 'arabic', 'egyptian' and 'indian' will give you an idea of the sound I'm trying to get. So far I only know the standard harmonic minor scale and the hungarian minor scale. Any input on things I should look up to get this exotic sound would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    If you just want a big book o' scales then check out the Bass Guitarist Grimoire, it is full of stuff like this.
    Strung_Low and ONYX like this.
  5. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    There's an app called guitar toolkit that has whole mess of different scales with corresponding chords. All the common scales and middle eastern, Asian and a bunch of others.
  6. matdras, Bob_Ross, ONYX and 1 other person like this.
  7. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
  9. cliffburtono


    Oct 17, 2015
    Thank you all for your links and book recommendations on scales. I am however still clueless on what scales to look deeper into based on what I have posted. I know you're just trying to help but I did make a post asking for advice on applying different exotic scales not just a list of all scales known to man, so if anyone actually knows the kind I'm talking about please go ahead and recommend me some you enjoyed learning.
  10. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I don't have enough time to do your own work.
    Let's just take a short clip from 2:33 through 2:49.
    He plays a few chords:
    Am Bb Gm C.
    Those chords have something in common:
    A Bb C D E F G A.

    Let's try to figure out what kind of scale/MODE it is.
    Something from Cliff.

    (P.S. Also, you can check our TB thread to express your opinion about the modes.
    the myth of modes)
  11. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    If the name sounds exotic, it probably is...

    Richie Blackmore based a lot of his solo work on what he called the 'Snake Charmer' scale which may or may not be the same thing as another mode of the Hungarian Minor. So that's probably worth checking out.

    There's only 12 notes and only so many combinations of increasing intervals between octaves.
    The basic scale used in that clip didn't sound that complicated so it'd probably be a good exercise to transcribe it and see the note choices. No, I don't know the name - this is _your_ quest...
    Full disclaimer: I have that book (it's 2, really...) purchased because I liked The Guitar Grimoire. Bass Grimoire, however, I've seen described as "the most complete collection of scales ever compiled into a paperweight" and I think that's probably pretty close to the truth.

    There are a few 'How to play Metal Bass' book out there (I bought one when I was dabbling in a prog band) . If this is your area of focus, check out a couple.
  12. cliffburtono


    Oct 17, 2015
    Hey thanks for replying but let me go ahead and say I'm not asking you to do my work, you have the option to just not reply if you don't have the time. I appreciate the help but if you don't feel the need to or don't know what I'm asking for then don't worry about me and skip to the next discussion.
  13. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thanks for your advice. I'll jump to the next discussion.

    P.S. Have you figured out about those notes/modes?
  14. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    did you google these? You may also throw 'Spanish' and 'Gypsy' in the mix...
    many of these non-standard scales also have non-standardized names so you may find several "Gypsy" scales for example. Sounds like you could use the bass grimiore.

    these scales originate from non western music, and in their native lands the scales have quarter tones outside of western 12 tone music.
    adapted into the European system they tend have lots of half steps next to the primary chord tones: flat 2, flat 6, flat 5 in particular

    But rather than seek out scales, I would suggest a more fun, creative approach:
    Start with one of your "standard"/"classical" scales and then just try altering (generally flattening) one or two notes and see what you like.

    so for example start with maybe a Lydian scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
    and flat a few tones 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7
    probably sounds "exotic" like you are seeking

    since the music is Metalish, may begin with the basic Minor pentatonic scale
    and start adding flat 2, flat 6, flat 5 etc

    keep track of the altered scales you enjoy
    the names will pop up eventually.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
    cliffburtono likes this.
  15. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    whousedtoplay was the one person in this thread who actually understood and answered your question. He helped you figure out the notes and chords that are being used at 2:34 of that song, exactly as you requested, so you can play the exact scale used by Steve Digorgio. Do you know how rare and lucky it is on TalkBass General Instruction to get a response like his, that stays on topic and thoughtfully answers the actual original question with specific musical examples?

    The question you should be asking yourself is, how can you put yourself in the category of musicians like whousedtoplay, who can listen to a song like "Cosmic Sea" and hear what scale is being used? What skill does whousedtoplay have, that you don't have, and how would you go about getting that skill?
  16. I did not get on this string - until now. My ear is tin, and only one of them can recognize words so I can not help you with what notes have been played, however, old Ludwig and I kinda know what will produce the sound we are looking for. With that in mind ----- I offer the following:

    • The major scale R-2-3-4-5-6-7 is said to produce a happy up beat sound. I guess you could use happy and up beat to describe what the major scale sounds like. Most old Country songs where "someone done someone wrong" will use the Major scale; old Country is all major. Interesting. With my Country and Praise music the Major scale is used most of the time. Where would you use the major scale? What mood would the major scale produce? Ask yourself that question and if you want that sound, well the major scale could give it to you.
    • The Major Pentatonic scale R-2-3-5-6 is said to produce an Eastern sound, and just by it's self I do hear Asian.
    • The Minor pentatonic scale R-b3-4-5-b7 I do not remember what it is supposed to sound like. I'm sure someone will post a name - something beyond sad, I hope.
    • The Natural minor R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 is said to produce a sad sound. I do not hear sad, I do hear a minor sound. You name what minor sounds like - LOL. The point I am getting to is if you want a minor sound the Natural minor scale would be a good starting point.
    • Melodic minor R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 I seldom use. However if I wanted a minor generic sound just having that b3 would probably get it.
    • Lydian R-2-3-#4-5-6-7 is so much like the major scale that I seldom use it, now put a b7 with it and you have Lydian dominant and that does have a sound I like. Lead electric guitars love it.
    • Mixolydian R-2-3-4-5-6-b7 is said to give a Latin sound. Yes I do hear Latin. With Lydian not moving far from the Major scale, Mixolydian is the first of the major modes to have a sound of it's own.
    • Aeolian R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 is the same as the natural minor and yes I hear the minor sound.
    • Dorian R-2-b3-4-5-6-b7 is the minor I use if I want minor. Why? I just like the sound. A nice minor sound and I understand it is used in a lot of jazz.
    • Phrygian R-2b-b3-4-5-b6-b7 is said to give a Middle Eastern sound, and yes I do hear that Middle Eastern sound.
    • Locrian R-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7 is said to give a dark and tense sound, and yes I do hear this sound.

    That makes up the basic scales/modes we all use. If you want that minor sound flat the 3, 6 & 7. If you want to help Lydian with it's sound add the b7 and hear that dominant seven sound. Want to get dark go diminished with a flatted 2 & 5.

    Make your own scales by adding or eliminating notes. I use the major scale as my basic building block and adjust it for the sound I like.

    That's what I would do, still does not help you with what was done, just what can be done. And speaking of what can be done; the chord being played under your scale or mode can help produce the sound you are looking for, or, in some cases get in the way.

    Have fun.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
    pacojas and cliffburtono like this.
  17. How about Indian scales? Here are a few 'thaats' which are similar to the concept of modes in Western music, though different from 'ragas' - I've listed these relative to the major scale:
    • Bhairav - Major scale with a b2 and b6
    • Marwa - Major scale with a b2 and #4
    • Purvi - Major scale with a b2, #4 and b6
    • Todi - Major scale with a b2, b3, #4 and b6
    What I generally do when experimenting with these is to try to simply build chords out of various scale degrees, in the way that you derive chords from a simple major scale. The intervals are all over the place when compared to the usual framework of 'western' music and the chords are generally made up of gorgeous, mystical dissonance.
    cliffburtono and Spin Doctor like this.
  18. cliffburtono


    Oct 17, 2015
    thanks for taking the time to answer my question on this thread I appreciate your input
  19. One that never fails is the Double Harmonic scale:
    Intervals : 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 7 8
    From C : C Db E F G Ab B C
  20. matdras

    matdras Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2011
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    I am quite fond of Damian Erskine's book, The Improviser's Path. He has some wonderful ascending and descending arpeggiated patterns for major, melodic minor, and harmonic minor scales, not to mention some really cool exercises for symmetrical diminished scales.
    cliffburtono likes this.

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