Sep 24, 2013
Hey guys! After a hectic couple of months rehearsing and gigging with The Heavy Metal Ninjas, I’m finally back with a lesson to share with you. Today we’ll be exploring some exotic scales that I used in the solo section of my song Salvation.
Salvation – beginnings
Salvation’s inception occurred in the year 2000. The initial idea came to me in the form of heavy rhythm guitars and a distinctive melody over the top (which is now played by synth strings). It’s come a long way since I first recorded it in 2009, and because of that, it is being polished and reworked for the upcoming Break Through Consciousness EP!
The opening phrase of the solo uses a Japanese-style scale called the Hirajoshi – most famously used by Marty Friedman to form unusual, exotic guitar lines. Very different from your usual pentatonic! When I first started listening to Cacophony with Marty Friedman and Jason Becker, I knew I was hooked.
So… if you’ve been scratching your head asking what a Hirajoshi scale is, don’t worry!
Basically, it is the Western derivative of a scale used for the Japanese koto, a traditional stringed instrument similar to a Chinese guzheng. The scale itself only features 5 notes, however the intervals (spacing between the notes) are quite different from what our ears are used to in Western music, which gives it that oriental, exotic sound.
Here are the basic building blocks of this scale:
Hirajoshi Scale in A
To get us started, here is a little idea I came up with while writing the lesson, using the scale defined above. It’s in the style of Marty Friedman, and is inspired by his amazing album Scenes. It’s just an example of what you can do with this scale!
The way to Salvation
Okay, now let’s look at the actual solo itself!
Because of the unusual intervals and number of notes per string in the Hirajoshi scale, I use economy picking. What’s economy picking? Basically, instead of doing your strict “up down up down” picking pattern, even when crossing strings, you can choose to repeat an up or down stroke as you cross strings, which, depending on the phrase, can make it a little easier to play.
Here’s the breakdown of the notes. As always, practice this solo at a slower tempo and gradually increase speed once you feel comfortable with the current speed. Take note of the picking cues I’ve provided – see if these feel comfortable for you, and if not, try and find what works.
Okay – if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed, let’s slow it down and get back to basics.
This first exercise is based on the last part of the solo intro. It uses hammer-ons and pull-off and is in the key of A minor/C Major. It’s something that I feel is good for building left hand finger strength and dexterity.
To step it up a notch, I’ve now made this more challenging by adding skipping patterns. Using repetitive phrasing can sound exciting when applied to the right notes – but be warned, the choice of notes can make the crucial difference between an amazing lick and a mediocre one, so make sure you experiment with note choice and sequencing until you find licks you’re happy with.
Another variation here – based on the intro part of the solo, I used the same 16th note sequence but outlined the notes of an A Major chord. You can really get some interesting sounds using this idea.
Well, that is another lesson done and dusted! Let me know what you think in the comments below. Be sure to check out The Heavy Metal Ninjas crushing new album “Interstellar Abduction”! It’s available via iTunes and Mighty Ape so grab a copy today. The album was written, performed, engineered, mixed and mastered by the virtuoso shredder Richie Allan.