Stumbling into the Spanish 8-Tone Scale
Updated: Nov 5, 2022
In the late '80s I was working in "Mahogany," which was a band led by Kevin Mahogany. Kevin was one of the most amazing singers I've ever worked with and the different versions of his band (I played in two iterations) were a couple of the best bands I've ever been in.
Kevin achieved worldwide fame shortly after our last band in Kansas City. He took a demo tape to New York and scored a 3-record deal with Enja Records. His recordings with Enja established him as a world-renowned jazz singer. Newsweek magazine called him, "the standout jazz vocalist of his generation."
After his contract with Enja was up he signed with Warner Brothers.
Kevin passed away in 2017. Sadly, our last conversation was about putting together a Mahogany reunion tour. T'was not to be.
Anyway, the bass player in the band, Bob Blount, was one of the most monstrous musicians with which I've associated. I worked with Bob a lot over the years; Mahogany was just one of the situations we shared. We also had adjacent teaching studios for a long time. We did a lot of original material and Bob's tunes were always really hard. I once asked him,
"Why is every one of your songs so difficult?"
"Every tune I write represents the sum total of my harmonic knowledge."
Alrighty then! The bottom line is I had great respect for Bob as a bass player, composer and just his all-round musicianship.
One day at a Mahogany rehearsal we were working on a tune, I can't remember what it was, but it had an up samba feel and was what I call a "Malaguena progression" - C, Db, Eb, Db - all major chords.
During my solo, I stumbled around for a second and, totally by chance/intuition hit upon a symmetrical pattern on the fretboard that worked. The tempo was too fast for me to analyze what I was doing; I just went with it and blazed through the solo. I kept it short to compensate for the lack of different positions.
Afterwards Bob said, "You are the only guitar player I've worked with who uses the Spanish 8-Tone scale!"
I just wisely nodded like I knew what the hell he was talking about!
In order to avoid the humiliation I would be subject to if Bob found out I had no idea what he was talking about, at the first opportunity I analyzed what I had done;
Wow, it has a minor 3rd and a major 3rd! Weird. Then I extended the scale across the fretboard. The same pattern worked whether the root was on the 6th or the 5th string;
There are other fingerings, of course, but this one fingering (whether from 5th or 6th string root) is what I use most of the time.
Notice that the only difference between the 6th-string pattern and the 5th-string pattern is the location of the bottom root note. That's handy!
You might want to drill these patterns around the Key Circle.
If you don't know what I mean by, "around the Key Circle," you need to stop right here and download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series. This series of lessons teaches the Circle of Keys as an organizational mechanism by which you ensure that whatever you learn is drilled in every key. It also gives you a method to find any note, anywhere, without memorizing note names on every string. That is a beautiful thing!
You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right here for free with no further obligation or commitment:
Here's a demo of how I use the Spanish 8-Tone Scale:
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