Alright, today we’re going to look at “Arabic Scales” or “Arabic Maqam” These little scales are as exotic as they come. I’ve seen alot of people on Youtube and such talking about how to play ‘Arabic scales’ and that they don’t really understand them. Well to be honest, real arabic scales are difficult to master due to a little thing we call “Quarter tones” or “In-between notes” Yup, Arabic scales contain notes that exist outside of our regular 12 note per octave system.  Don’t shy away from this, I know that alot of people I’ve seen tend to hear microtonal and automatically get someone explaining very advanced concepts dealing with math and physics and overtone series and all that crap. That may be alright for a physicist of someone building an instrument or tuning but as guitar players we just want to play music, not learn all that useless math jargon.   So generally, learning to play, solo and improvise with Arabic and other middle-eastern scales well is similar to any other guitar scale.  Learn the scale, the intervals and above all, use the EARS THAT GOD GAVE YOU! Regardless of quarter tones, it’s the same, learn how to quarter tone sounds in context with the other notes of the scale and you’re getting somewhere quickly.

So inorder to understand these scales you will need to learn 3 basic skills:

  1. Melodic Pre-bending – Big word but it’s not that difficult to understand
  2. Knowing what the intervals sound like – Most important aspect, knowing what sounds bad ect…
  3. Location – Easiest, it’s simply knowing where the scale patterns exist on the fretboard.

It’s not really all that hard, mostly just a matter of practice and alot of listening.  To make it easier to understand, I’ll kind of skim through the necessary theory and get right down to the musical context.

Through out this series, I will refer to these symbols:

+   Half-Sharp or Demi-sharp

–    Half-Flat or Demi-Flat

PB – Pre-bent note

Keep in mind that these symbols are basically what they say, half a sharp and half a flat. In the next lesson we’ll talk about what these mean in guitar playing.  So Keep reading! 🙂   On to Melodic Prebending!


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