Psychedelic Guitar Scales

Some people think that psychedelic music is something that only really comes about as the result of heavy LSD use, and thus mystify psychedelia as something unreachable to all.

However, this is simply nonsense. Psychedelic music is surreal, distorted, unusual and most of all achievable. You don’t need to be off your head to get weird.

As with all other styles of composition, as a songwriter/music maker, scales are your friends and work as great devices for songwriting. These four surreal and exotic selections of notes below work well for psychedelic vibes.

1) The Mixolydian Mode

This mode, which has been used by the likes of George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix in their psychedelic creations, has a slightly Indian sound to it and works really well to get psychedelic riffs, licks and even full-on freak-out solos.

You can find it if you know your major scale by starting on the 5th note – So – and going up to So, rather than doing from Do – Do.

If you’re working this out from C major, this will be G Mixolydian: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

It can be quite cool – and psychedelic! – to play around with droning notes while you experiment with the Mixolydian. So, if you are going with G, try droning the G string whilst you play the other notes on the B and E strings…

2) The Hirajoshi Scale

This Japanese scale is one you can get really weird with.

It also has a dream-like beauty to it and the riffs seem to write themselves.

There are 3 different versions according to different Japanese musicians, so you can choose which one sounds the best to you out of those offered here​.

3) The Phrygian Mode

Although this mode is more commonly associated with Spanish / Flamenco music than it is psychedelia, it is one of the reasons psychedelic classic ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane is so… classic!

You can experiment with this within your solos, or even try to create crazy psychedelic riffs in it. It sounds different, whichever way you go. And with a bit of delay and maybe a flanger, it’s undeniably psychedelic!

4) The Blues Scale

OK, so you might think that this is a bit of a boring one to include, but think of all the 60s psyche you know and love.

Think about how bluesy it is.

If you get into the groove with the blues scale, and make the most of techniques like repetition and use effects like delay, wah, fuzz and whatever you can get your hands on, you can use the blues scale to create some authentic sounding psychedelia. In the 1960s style.

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