Sounds Of The Altered Scale, Learn the Chords, Scale, Triads and Arpeggios Built From Altered
The Professor
Apr 26 2013, 06:11 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
The Altered Scale

In this series of articles we will be taking a look at the different sounds that you can build from any mode in the Melodic Minor scale, in particular the chords, scale, triad and arpeggio that go with each mode in the Melodic Minor scale system.

In today’s lesson, let’s take a look at the chords, scale, triad and arpeggio that are built from the 7th mode of Melodic Minor, the Altered Scale.

Besides learning a fingering or two for this important scale, it is good to know the other melodic and harmonic devices that are built from the Altered Scale so that you can apply these to your practice routine, as well as build your theory chops so that you recognize when to use the Altered Scale in your soloing and song writing.

Here is a quick look at each device from the Altered Scale, with further details provided below to read further.

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Altered Scale Triad and Chords

To begin, there are two main chords that are built from any Altered Scale, the Diminished Triad and the m7b5 chord.

The Diminished Triad is built from the Root, b3rd and b5th note of the Altered Scale, and the 7alt chord is built by using the Root, 3rd, b7th, #9 and b6 of the same mode.

Each of these items can be played as a whole, to produce the triad/chord, or they can be plucked one note at a time to produce arpeggiated versions, both of which you saw in the tab/notation example above.

When playing the arpeggio we often add in the upper extensions to the Altered chord, producing a 7th chord with a b9, #9, b5 and #5 in the mix. You don’t have to use all of these altered tones in your soloing or arpeggio practice, but they are all available to work on and use in your improvised lines.

So, in the key of B, the diminished triad would be:

B D F or R b3 b5 of the Altered Scale

And the 7alt chord in B would be:

B D# A C G or R 3 b7 b9 and b6 of the Altered Scale

Finally, the Altered Scale arpeggio in B would be:

B D# F A C D G or R 3 b5 b7 b9 #9 b6

This knowledge will help you learn to transpose these notes around the neck and into different keys as you learn to build different triads and four-note Altered Scale-based chords in all 12 keys.

Theory Exercise

Write out the note for each Diminished Triad and 7alt chord (5 or 7 note versions) in all 12 keys.

Post your answers below and I will correct them and give you feedback if you are having any trouble writing out the notes of these triads and chords.

Altered Scale

The Altered Scale is built from the following interval structure:


In this pattern, whole equals a whole step (2 frets on the guitar) and half equals a half-step (1 fret on the guitar).

So, if you apply that formula to the key of B, as in the example above, you get the following notes.

B (H) C (H) D (H) Eb (W) F (W) G (W) A (W) B

Or, you will also see this scale written in numbers as such:

1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7 1

The Locrian Mode, and the Altered Scale, are both modes of the Major and Melodic Minor scale systems, and they are also very closely related.

This means that you can think of the Altered Scale, in theory or on the guitar, as a Locrian Mode with a flattened 2nd note.

So, you can take any Locrian Mode fingering that you know, lower the 4th note by 1 fret (half-step) and you have yourself a Altered Scale fingering.

Theory Exercise

Write out the notes of the Altered Scale, in all 12 keys.

Post your answers below and I will check them out and post feedback, as well as answer any questions you may have on this scale construction.

Learning the structures behind each mode that you are learning on the guitar can help shore up your theory knowledge, as well as make it easier for you to apply these modes to your solos and song writing as you learn to relate them to chords, triads and arpeggios.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.

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