Three Weird-Ass Scales

I’m going to backtrack from the title right away. Whether these scales sound weird to you depends entirely on your cultural perspective. But they are rarely heard on the ukulele.

There are plenty of good reasons to learn unfamiliar sounding scales:

- Rut busting: Ever find yourself playing the same set of notes over and over again?
- Lame Pastiches: This is how they’re most often used. And that’s what I’ve done for the demo examples in this post. But that’s certainly not the best way of using the scales.
- Integrating into your own style: Much more satisfying is take ideas and sounds and integrate them into your own playing.

So, for starters, here are three lesser-uked scales for you to try out.

Double Harmonic – “Arabic Scale”

How it Sounds

 
Arabic Scale

You Might Recognise it From: Miserlou

In C

C – Db – E – F – G – Ab – B – C

In General

1 – b2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – b6 – 7

How to Play It

DoubleHarmonic

An Example

ArabicScale

 
Arabic Scale Example

Deeper Listening: Khyam Allami

Phrygian Dominant – “Flamenco Scale”

How it Sounds

 
Flamenco Scale

You Might Recognise it From: Metallica’s Wherever I May Roam

In C

C – Db – E – F – G – Ab – Bb – C

In General

1 – b2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – b6 – b7

How to Play It

PhrygianDominant

An Example

FlamencoScale

 
FlamencoScaleExample

Deeper Listening: Paco De Lucia

Lydian Dominant – The Simpsons Scale

How it Sounds

 
LydianDominant

You Might Recognise it From: The Simpsons Theme Tune

In C

C – D – E – F# – G – A – Bb – C

In General

1 – 2 – 3 – #4 – 5 – 6 – b7

How to Play It

Lydian Dominant

An Example

SimpsonsScale

 
Simpsons Scale Example

Deeper Listening: Danny Elfman and Tim Burton Music Box

Creative Commons License
This work by Ukulele Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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15 Comments

  1. ukuhippo March 27th, 2013 7:22 pm

    Just made a huge impression on my better half by trying to look like Antonio Banderas while playing your Phrygian Dominant example.

    Paco’s ‘Entre Dos Aguas’ is one of my favourite tunes btw.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oyhlad64-s

    Here’s some show-off err….showing it off on the uke:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOt6JGuxnJ0

    Anyways, rut busted.

  2. Woodshed March 28th, 2013 8:40 am

    ukuhippo: Excellent work on the playing!

  3. carreg wastad March 28th, 2013 12:52 pm

    thanks – you seem to read my mind…

    I was trying to figure out the muppets tune a few months ago and struggling

    and a few weeks ago I was looking for arabic scales and rediscovered miserilou. itook my bike and uke touring in morocco and wanted some ‘eastern’ style tunes to play

    dads army was the best- i didn’t even know myself that i was thinking about it

    can I do shameless requests?

    thanks again

  4. Woodshed March 29th, 2013 7:39 am

    carreg: You’re welcome. I’m glad I could psychically fulfil your requests!

  5. Hasnep April 1st, 2013 4:18 pm

    These are great! I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these!

  6. Woodshed April 2nd, 2013 7:32 am

    Hasnep: I might well do more.

  7. tjvonp April 8th, 2013 4:32 am

    Since I saw this post last week, I’ve been playing phrygian dominant non-stop! Love it!

    Anybody who’s having fun with these should try out playing 0-1 on the G string instead of 3-4 on the E string. I like this variation, because it lets you repeat 0-1 three times. Of course, playing the scale that way won’t translate to low-G’s or guitar, so if you play those a lot…just ignore me.

  8. Woodshed April 8th, 2013 10:07 am

    tjvonp: That is a cool variation. Allows for the chords too.

  9. seamus4string April 12th, 2013 12:31 am

    So Woodshed, in wanting to experiment with these scales I find listening in context helps. Can you recommend any contemporary jazz ukers out there? I seem to only be able to find Lyle Ritz on I-Tunes for anything recent.

  10. Woodshed April 12th, 2013 9:39 am

    seamus: I wouldn’t restrict yourself to just listening to ukulele players.

  11. seamus4string April 12th, 2013 11:44 am

    Believe me Woodshed, I am a disciple of Miles Davis. I was finding myself moving in that direction and looking for some ear candy as well.

  12. Matt August 8th, 2013 12:26 am

    These are great!
    The lydian dominant sounds like it might be used in Bowies The Man Who Sold The World?
    Anyhoo kudos to ukehunt, been playing around six months and following the lessons and a guy who’s been playing a lot longer than me said I shamed him! (I do play an unhealthy amount tho’!)

  13. Woodshed August 9th, 2013 9:52 pm

    Matt: Glad you liked it!

  14. Kailan January 12th, 2014 5:21 pm

    Hi, I really like the example of the Phrygian dominant you did, do you happen to know of any more flamenco pieces that use the Phrygian Dominant? Is there a specific Paco de Lucio piece that uses this scale? I Can’t seem to find one, but maybe I just can’t tell when it is.
    Thanks for the great article!

  15. Woodshed January 13th, 2014 9:33 pm

    Kailan: If you’re interested in flamenco I’d suggest studying what they actually play. This post is more how to fake sounding like things.

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