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How to Play the Tritone Scale For Guitar

Not a commonly used jazz guitar scale, but one that can add a new and fresh sound to your jazz soloing lines and phrases, the Tritone Scale is a fun six-note scale to explore in the practice room.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build Tritone Scales, how to play them in various positions on the guitar, how to add them to your soloing ideas, and study three fun Tritone jazz guitar licks.


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What is a Tritone Scale


Tritone Scales are built by playing two Major Triads a Tritone apart, which would be C and F#(Gb) in the key of C Tritone.

Here is how those notes would lay out for a C Tritone Scale:




Or as an interval pattern this would be:




Because this scale has a major 3rd and b7 it is used to solo over 7th chords.

As well, since this scale has b9 and b5 intervals, you can use the Tritone Scale to bring out a 7(b9,b5) sound in your soloing lines when applying this scale to a chord progression.



Tritone Scale One Octave


Now that you know how to build Tritone Scales, you’re ready to apply this scale to the fretboard.

To begin, here are one-octave Tritone scale shapes that you can learn in the given key, C, as well as take to all 12 keys in your practice routine.

Learning one-octave scale shapes will allow you to apply the Tritone Scale to quick moving chord changes, where larger, two-octave shapes are too bulky to move accurately through the changes.

Here are four Tritone Scale shapes beginning with your index finger.


tritone scale 1


Moving on, here are four Tritone Scale shapes starting with your middle finger on the first note of each scale, with the exception of the last shape, which starts on your index finger.


tritone scale 2


Lastly, here are four Tritone Scale shapes that begin with your pinky finger.


tritone scale 3


Once you have any/all of these Tritone scale shapes under your fingers, put on a backing track and try adding these scales to your soloing lines and phrases.

You can begin with a static 7th chord backing, then move on to ii-V-I tracks, and finally other jazz standard chord progressions.



Tritone Scale Two Octave Shapes


You will now move on to learning two-octave Tritone Scale shapes, which are useful when soloing over slower tunes, as well as tunes where you have a slower harmonic rhythm and can expand your lines across the fretboard.


tritone scale 4


Once you have these two-octave Tritone Scale shapes under your fingers, try adding them to your soloing practice over backing tracks, as well as mixing them together with the one-octave shapes in order to get the full picture of how to play the this across the fretboard.



3 Tritone Scale Licks


One of the best ways to learn a new scale is to study common vocabulary that uses that scale in its construction.

In this final section of the lesson, you will learn three common Tritone Scale licks that you can learn, analyse, and apply to your improvised jazz guitar solos.

The first line is played over a two-bar G7 chord, a common application of the Tritone Scale.


Click to hear tritone scales 1


tritone scale 5


Next you will apply the G Tritone Scale to the V7 chord, in a ii-V-I progression in the key of G.


Click to hear tritone scale 2


tritone scale 6


Lastly, here is the G Tritone Scale applied to both chords during the first four bars of a Jazz Blues in G Progression.


Click to hear tritone scales 3


tritone scale 7


Once you have learned these three Tritone Scale licks, try writing out 3 to 5 of your own lines as you study Tritone application further in the woodshed.


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