Welcome to this 2nd instalment of exotic scales & modes. Today we’re heading to the far east to unearth some inspiration. This is a sound from the depths of ancient Japan. This Hirajoshi Scale is a 5 note scale which makes it a pentatonic scale. Penta meaning 5 in Greek.
These Japanese style pentatonic scales are easy to learn because they feel so similar to the traditional pentatonics and dominant pentatonics. This scale will open up new ideas therefore imbuing your playing with an exotic new sound. If you know your pentatonic scales then learning this Hirajoshi scale will be an exciting addition to your modal arsenal. Additionally if you know your 3nps Major Scale Modes then you can derive these scales from those as well.
Reference Key of G: Notes G A Bb D Eb
Let’s look at an example of the Hirajoshi scale in the key of G. Remember that for each mode the first note of the mode will become the root. Because Hirajoshi only has 5 notes it is therefore considered a pentatonic scale.
Origins of The Hirajoshi Scale
With its origins hailing from ancient Japanese shamisen music, the Hirajoshi scale was derived from these sounds for accurately tuning the Koto. A Shamisen is a 3 stringed traditional Japanese instrument. The Koto is a Japanese instrument typically with 13 strings. You will find that this scale has many different names depending on what region of Japan in which it originates. However it’s the same musical scale.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Modes: Referencing The Major Scale Modes
If you know your major scale modes then you will likely notice that you can derive these ancient Japanese sounds directly from these modes. This will open up many possibilities for your lead playing because you’ll seamlessly be able to jump between sounds and tonalities.
Examples of This Scale in Action:
One of the best examples we’ve heard of this scale is in a song called Shinobi Reverse from Streets of Rage 3. It takes full advantage of the intervals in this scale therefore bringing out the oriental sound. This song was written by the amazing Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima.
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