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Tritone Scale – Guitar Patterns, Chords, and Licks

The tritone scale is a symmetrical scale that’s used to solo over dominant 7th chords when you want to bring out a 7alt sound in your solos.

Built by playing two major triads a tritone apart, this scale creates a 7#11,b9 sound when applied to any 7th chords on guitar.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build tritone scales, play them in various positions, add them to your solos, and study three fun tritone scale 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.

Here’s how those notes would lay out for in the key of C:

 

C-Db-E-Gb-G-Bb-C

 

Or as an interval pattern it’s:

 

R-b2-3-#4-5-b7-R

 

Because this scale has a major 3rd and b7, it’s used to solo over 7th chords when you want to bring an altered sound to your lines.

Since this scale has b9 and #11 intervals, you use the tritone scale to bring out a 7(#11,b9) sound in your solos when applying this scale to a chord progression.

 

 

Tritone Scale Chords

 

You can first learn chord shapes built on this scale to hear and see how the tritone scale relates to chord shapes on the fretboard.

To begin, here are four chord shapes with a 6th-string root to learn and add to your rhythm guitar playing.

 

 

tritone-scale-chords-1

 

 

Moving on, here are four tritone scale chords that you can learn with a 5th-string root.

Again, some of these shapes are tough to get under your fingers, so feel free to remove the root note and play rootless versions of these chords if needed.

Once you have any of these shapes down, add them to your comping, chord melody, and chord soloing phrases.

 

tritone-scale-chords-2

 

 

 

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 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 shapes allows you to solo over quick moving chord changes, where two-octave shapes are too bulky to move accurately through the changes.

Here are the first four shapes to check out in the practice room, beginning with your index finger on the first note of each scale.

 

tritone scale 1

 

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

 

tritone scale 2

 

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

 

tritone scale 3

 

Once you have these scale shapes under your fingers, put on a backing track and add these scales to your soloing lines and phrases.

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

 

 

 

Tritone Scale Two Octave Shapes

 

You’ll now learn two-octave shapes, which are useful when soloing over slower tunes, as well as songs where you have a slower harmonic rhythm.

Work these scale shapes with a metronome, in all keys, and solo with these shapes over 7th-chords in your guitar practice routine.

 

tritone scale 4

 

Once you have these two-octave shapes down, add them to your soloing practice and mix them with the one-octave shapes to get the full picture of this scale across the fretboard.

 

 

 

Tritone Scale Licks

 

One of the best ways to learn a new scale is to study licks that uses that scale.

In this section, you’ll learn three tritone scale licks that you can learn, analyse, and apply to your improvised guitar solos.

The first line is played over a two-bar G7 chord.

 

Click to hear tritone scales 1

 

tritone-scale-1

 

Next you’ll apply this scale to the V7 chord, in a ii-V-I progression in the key of G.

 

Click to hear tritone scale 2

 

tritone-scale-2

 

Lastly, here’s the 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-3

 

Once you’ve learned these three licks, try write out 3 to 5 of your own lines as you study this scale further in the woodshed.

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