Tritone Terror

by Ben Higgins

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  • Hello and welcome to Tritone Terror!

    What is a Tritone ? Well, without going too deep into theory, a Tritone (Tri=three) is a musical interval comprising of 3 whole tones. Starting from the root note of a scale or chord, the the note that would give the 'sound' of the Tritone is also referred to as the augmented 4th or the diminished 5th (also called the flattened 5th).

    A Tritone may get its name from being a combination of 3 whole tones but even if you just play the flattened 5th over the root chord, it is still commonly called a Tritone.

    Due to the interval being notoriously difficult to sing and also due to its sinister sound, it was endowed with the nickname 'Diabolus in Musica' - The Devil in Music. However this was more due to it being awkward to compose with rather than any demonic connotations, although the image certainly matched the sound!

    I've used a backing track with just 2 chords. Em and A#6/-5 (-5 means flattened 5th). The second chord is built from A#, which is a Tritone in relation to E. However, it's quite interesting that the rhythm guitar only plays the note of A#, so how did I get that chord name ? Well, the keyboard plays two chords.. Em and Edim. The combination of the the Edim chord (E, G, A#) and the A# on the guitar and the bass mean that the root note is really the A#, hence the chord name.

    For the solo, I decided to mainly use the E Pentatonic Minor and add the occasional flattened 5th. You could, however, use the Edim or A#dim scale over the A#6/-5 chord as they share the same notes. (also known as the whole tone-half tone scale)

    The Tritone is immensely popular in most genres of music these days, finding a welcome home in jazz, blues and more obviously metal. Players like George Lynch and Alex Skolnick make very effective use of this interval in their solos so check them out !

    Besides directing your attention to this particular interval, this lesson will work on your sliding, bends and alternate picking.



    Gear : Marshall JVM 410H, OD1 channel, Red setting.

    Tempo : 110bpm

    Key : Em

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