Authentic Arabic Scales

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by nicomortem, May 2, 2014.

  1. nicomortem

    nicomortem SS.org Regular

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    Many of us like shredding in Harmonic and Melodic minor scales as well as the Persian scale (0-1-4-5-7-8-11-12) and it always sounds cool to incorporate exotic, Arabic-ish scales in solos. Unfortunately, standard guitars are unable to accurately reproduce many of the scales employed in Arabic and Mid-East music due to its use of Quarter-steps, and especially the 3/4 step interval (1 and a half frets). There are ways to bend your notes, re-tune your strings, etc, to try and emulate these quarter steps, but there is no comparison to actually having quarter-step frets on your guitar, enabling you to play quarter, half, whole, and 3/4 step intervals. I find it to be more practical as well, and I can still play everything I could normally play on the guitar. I also prefer this to the idea of having a fretless guitar, as fretless instruments are not restricted to quarter-steps and the octave can be divided into far more than 24 notes. Plus fretless guitars do not sound or feel the same as fretted guitars.

    This guitar has 24 frets to the octave, 48 total. It takes 4 frets to go up a whole step, and there are literally twice as many notes to choose from when writing. All 12 of the notes normally found on a guitar are here, as well as 12 new ones. A fellow SS.org member showed me a website that lists many middle-eastern scales that employ quarter-tones, and out of them I have been concentrating on one in particular, the Huzam, Rahat El Arwah scale in the Maqam family of scales. I don't really know much about the theory behind this scale and the Maqam system, I have been trying to find my own way to use the notes. I gravitate towards this one scale in particular because, with the exception of the root note, all the notes in the scale are located on the extra, quarter-step frets, meaning that this scale just cannot be played on a normal guitar.

    I wrote this "song" to exemplify this scale, and the approach I applied here can best be approximated to the "modal" way that we approach our western scales. The song uses 4 chords, starting from the root note, then to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th notes in the scale respectively. The soloing over it plays in the octave starting from the root note and ending on the root note, then goes to starting from the 2nd note and ending on the 2nd note, then the 3rd to 3rd, etc, just like playing modes on a regular guitar.

    I got lucky and was able to find some sound clips of actual Middle-Eastern music that uses the very same scale as this song, I was able to borrow a couple of pieces of music to incorporate into this song, with just a slight pitch shift to match the natural "B" of my 7 string (the scale actually starts a quarter step below "B", or the note that lies between Bb and B)

    I put together this diagram of the fretboard showing all the notes and positions for the Huzam, Rahat El Arwah scale on a 7 string quarter-tone guitar, and I used the color Red to highlight the root note of the scale all over the fretboard, in this case "B"

    These kinds of guitars are hard to play. In fact, the first time I picked one up I could barely manage to pull off a C major scale in the 1st position! It definitely takes a bit of practice and getting used to. For me it is well worth it though, and the use of authentic middle-eastern scales is just one of the many new and exciting things I can do with these 12 new notes, it's a real shame that microtonal guitars haven't really taken off....yet!
    [​IMG]
     
    lukdawhoop, noUser01, ixlramp and 7 others like this.
  2. vansinn

    vansinn SS.org Regular

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    Very interesting. I too like eastern scales and modals, plus Indian music, and have been contemplating going the 24 EDO route.

    Would you have pointers to initial studies into this world of music, scales and modals?
     
  3. nicomortem

    nicomortem SS.org Regular

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    The best thing I can do is give you this link to a website that was shared with me by one of the dudes on this forum. I am forever grateful for that post, this website has more info than I could ever need, it also goes into eastern beats and rythems too. Not really Indian, more Middle-East. I also enjoy music from India, and I would be interested in learning if I can incorporate quarter-tones in the Indian scales that I know already, which can be played on a standard 12-tone guitar.

    To understand how this website describes scales, here is the one of the Indian scales that I learned over the years:

    (0 3 4 6 7 9 10 11 12)

    those are the fret numbers you would use to play the scale on one string. For microtonal notes, they use ".5" so for example, the 3rd microtonal fret would be called "1.5"

    This website also explains the theory behind the scales and musical contexts of Middle-Eastern music, and even gives sound clips.
    Here is the link:

    Arabic Maqam World

    The column on the left of the screen under "Maqam Index" is the best place to start, It's alphabetically ordered. The scales I used on this are the 11th and 22nd in the column.
     
  4. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    [​IMG]

    That's some really awesome stuff.
    Both theory wise and guitar wise.
    Thanks so much for this thread!

    Can you share pics/info about the guitar?
     
  5. JoeuJGM

    JoeuJGM Super Catholic

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    Bravo, good sir! :yesway: That has to be one of the most interesting songs I've heard in a while, a lot of elements that you don't hear often in a metal context, I could listen to stuff like this all day. Amazing playing, there needs to be more metal played on microtonal instruments, extremely unique sounding! I'm off to listen to some Middle Eastern music now...
     
  6. fps

    fps Kit

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    Where did you get the guitar? This is great!
     
  7. TaP

    TaP Genin

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    Whoaa... sick! I want to see metal stretching through the farthest corners of the world! Idk I tried to think of something sweet... but I like!

    WHOA!!! REWIND! I did NOT know that was you on the leads til I scrolled back up! Anyone would've guessed you were hitting the rhythm and Aladdin was playing in the back, you're SICK with it! True arabic sound!
     
  8. nicomortem

    nicomortem SS.org Regular

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    Shit, I had uploaded this on the wrong channel, and since have moved it to my Microtonal-only channel, so here it is again, sorry guys.
     
  9. nicomortem

    nicomortem SS.org Regular

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    :yesway:
    Thanks guys. I have another thread in the modifications and building section with some pics of the guitar and one of the tools I used to help modify it, it's just a regular seven string that I converted myself by taking off all the frets, cutting new slots for the quarter-tones and then doing a standard re-fret, level, crown, etc. Here is a link to the thread (on this same forum)
    http://www.sevenstring.org/forum/lu...zations/269632-microtonal-conversion-7-a.html
     
  10. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    Here's a pdf i made and linked nicomortem to a while back, it has the scales from maqamworld.com presented in a clearer way as decimal semitone steps maqam24edo
     
  11. noUser01

    noUser01 Still can't play.

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    This is awesome man, I may have to pick your brain about this sometime. Great stuff, keep it up!
     

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