death metal guitar - edited and improved

i've been playing along to decapitated's anthemic 'spheres of madness':

here's a selection of guitar from the song, from ultimate guitar dot com:

(Tuning: Standard D (DGCFAD))

-=Chorus 1:15=-
Guitar 1

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .

Guitar 2

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .

now, you might notice that the song consists almost entirely of the diminished scale, much of it played in harmony. sorry if i've lost you - i'm talking about a scale that goes tone, semi-tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, semi-tone. it's very regular and easy to harmonise with - usually you'd play the minor third above. this is in opposition to our song 'the kinky friedman crime club' which uses an harmonies on an augmented scale.

ok, enough jargon; my point is that guitars aren't built with this scale in mind. i find playing this song that i'm alternating between my index and little fingers far too much, and only using my other two (good) fingers as filler. with a scale as regular as this, surely there must be a better way of tuning or building a guitar than the standard tuning, which is really designed to play the traditional scale - hence it's open strings being in fourths (an interval of five semitones, allowing for some finger-work between string changes).
oh whatever.

edit: ok so i lost the plot there.
harmony - what i mean is, because the diminished key repeats itself every three semitones, you can transpose a melody up that amount without chaning it and it will harmonise. with the major scale, you see, of 'tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone', a harmony has to change it's structure slightly to stay in key. that's what i meant.

diminished scale - there are two diminished scales, both with the same intervals but starting on different notes, i.e. the other one is semi-tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, semi-tone, tone. this one is more metal in some ways because it has the initial semitone interval. the ultimate metal scale is semitone, tone+semitone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, tone - basically a scale of C major, where G is sharp, and starting on E. this is also used quite a lot in salsa and eastern-european folk. see 'no scrubs' for the classic D minor/A minor/E major/ A minor progression, similar to kinky friedman.

fingering - it's easier be precise when fretting fingered notes than open notes, or notes that are all on the same fret but on different strings. there needs to be a balance between changing fret and changing string; staying on the same string involves too much moving the hand position up and down the fre-board. therefore you should beable to see that there's a payoff between having the strings tuned closely - which involves too much moving across the strings (which is also bad because you only have so many) - and tuning them too far apart, which involves too much movement up and down the fret-board. the usual tuning is a designed for the usual major key, plus also a compromise towards having to play chords on it.

given the above, i propose the diminished tuning - D-Ab-D-Ab-Ab-D. that is, each string is 6 semitones above the last, with the b and g strings both tuned to g#.
a brief experiment with this today has been pretty successful; the above riff is much easier to play; there's still some stretching but it's great for playing metal, and the semitones are more subtle and in the right place and everything. it's fun, try it.

1 comment:

laurence said...

yeah, halfway though i was just thinking "why don't you just tune different?". or is that missing the point?

maybe you could i dunno. put the strings on the other way round or something

you know me, i don't understand all that. btw, i have a new guitar, it's a proper mammoth cannon