Super Locrian Mode – The Altered Scale
If there is one scale I get asked about more than any other, it’s The Altered Scale. It seems to really puzzle a lot of guitarists and many have told me that they find it difficult to employ in their soloing, especially in a jazz or fusion guitar setting. Let’s take a look then at what this series of notes is all about and also how we can apply them.
The Altered scale is also referred to as the Super Locrian mode or even sometimes as the Diminished Whole tone scale…are you completely confused already?..I know I was at first.
Actually, all these complicated sounding names refer to the same series of notes and it’s actually a mode derived from the Melodic Minor scale. Let’s firstly have a look at the notes that make up this scale:
As you can see from the music above, the scale (played here from a root note of G) yields the sound of a dominant 7th chord with four alterations (hence the name altered) These altered notes are the b9, #9, b5 and #5. It is also worth noting that for soloing purposes, the b5 can also be thought of as a #11 and the #5 as a b13. A pretty useful series of notes then if you need to improvise over a chord that has these alterations. If you know your Melodic Minors you will also see that this scale has the same pitches as Ab Melodic Minor. It is in fact the VII mode of that parent scale.
OK..now we need to learn a few fingerings for all this and here are some popular ones for you to learn. Take one at a time and learn it thoroughly so that you can play it ascending and descending without any errors. All these patterns are from a G root note.
Once you have become fluent with the individual notes (and their fingerboard locations) you can then apply the scale to your soloing. My first suggestion however is to practice switching between the G Altered and a regular C Major scale, which will prepare you for our next exercise. I usually do this in a predetermined area of the fingerboard and begin by ascending the C Major scale for example and then descending the G Altered. This way you become adept at making the transition between the two scales in the same way that you would in a solo.
You can now apply your new found scale skills to this progression:
You will see there are two slightly different altered dominant chords featured in this progression and in an upcoming lesson I’m going to explore another scale we can use for the second one, but for the time being just use the altered scale for both (n.b. I know there may be a potential clash on one note – the 13th – in the second altered dominant chord..but let’s not worry about that for the moment)
Finally, here is a backing track for the above progression. Have fun with it and get to know this amazingly useful scale.