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Exotic Guitar Scales – Do they make a difference to your sound?

I don’t know about you but I am not particularly a scale fiend.  Don’t get me wrong I know my major and minor scales as well as the pentatonic scales but that is about as exotic as it gets.  However, there are a set of scales, often known as the exotic guitar scales, which can take your soloing into an entirely different realm.  So should you learn these exotic guitar scales and what are they.

Exotic guitar scales are those scales that sit outside of the normal major and minor scales that we all know so well and are typical of a music style from a particular country from around the world.  Think of Arabian themes or Gypsy music and the exotic guitar scales allow you to open up those styles of music.

Below we go through some of the main exotic guitar scales and we present the scale diagram in the key of A.

So if you are keen to give exotic guitar scales a go then lets get started.  First up is the Persian scale.




As the name suggests the Persian scale conjures up ideas of Middle Eastern music.  The Persian scale is characterized by the liberal use of half steps, augmented seconds and frequent use of chromatic runs.  The example below is the Persian scale in A.

Exotic guitar scales

The Arabian Scale is an 8 note or octatonic scale which is the same as the diminished scale.

Exotic guitar scales

The Byzantine scale is a double harmonic major scale whose gaps sound exotic to western listeners.

Exotic guitar scales

For the Oriental sound the next exotic scale should work really well.

exotic guitar scales

However, if you are looking for a more Japanese sound the Japanese scale has a pretty cool sound.

exotic guitar scales

The Indian scale is a more complicated beast.  The Asavari scale or Raga Asavari is perhaps more than a scale and can perhaps be better described as a tonal framework for creating Indian style sounds.  The Indian scale is played differently in the ascending and descending form so I have presented both.




exotic guitar scales

exotic guitar scales

 

 

The Gypsy scale is the minor Hungarian Gypsy scale.  If you are looking for Django Reinhardt style inspiration then this is the scale for you.

exotic guitar scales

The Romanian scale is the 4th mode of the harmonic minor scale and has a rich exotic sound.

exotic guitar scales

The Jewish scale is a dominant scale and is an inversion of the harmonic minor scale.

exotic guitar scales

Well that is a brief run through some exotic scales which you can use as inspiration in your guitar soloing.  The potential is only limited by your imagination.




But if you are searching for some inspiration then check out the video below from Tyler Larson.  In the video he plays 1 lick in 7 different scales and the difference between each of the scales is quite impressive to hear.

Tyler also covers the use of exotic guitar scales in a great course through Udemy entitled 5 exotic guitar scales and how to use them.  In the course you learn how to:

  • Play 5 scales across the fretboard in any key.
  • Relate each scale to the corresponding chords.
  • Understand how to use the scales in any musical situation and how to improvise effectively.

The course is a great introduction to exotic guitar scales and will help you improve your guitar playing.  What’s even better is that the course is now only £50 which is excellent value for the content.  If you are interested to learn exotic guitar scales this is a course that is well worth checking out.

 

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