I was listening for the 100th time Nguyen Le’s “Songs Of Freedom”, a brilliant record in wich the french-vietnamese guitar player explores classic rock standards re-harmonized with brilliant and inventive arrangements. I was paying particular attention to the intro of “Eleanor Rigby”, a melancholic guitar phrasing that sounds very “chinese/oriental” to my ears.
I wanted to understand the trick Le used, so I transcribed the line and much to my surprise I found out that he is merely playing a pentatonic minor scale without the minor third.
Leaving out the third makes the scale sound different, because the intervals are:F Bb perfect 4th; F C perfect 5th; F Eb minor 7th
Bb C major 2nd; Bb Eb perfect 4th; Bb F perfect 5th
C Eb minor 3rd; C F perfect 4th; C Bb minor 7th Eb F major 2nd; Eb C major 6th; Eb Bb perfect 5th;
There are 3 perfect 4ths, 3 perfect 5ths, 2 minor 7ths, 2 major 2nds, 1 minor 3rd and 1 major 6th. There are 6 perfect intervals (4ths and 5ths), and 6 other intervals, thus 4ths and 5ths represent exactly the half amount of all the intervals.
The regular pentatonic minor scale with the Ab would have implied an extra minor 3rd (F Ab), a major 3rd (Ab C), a major 6th (Ab F), a major 2nd (Ab Bb), a minor 6th (C Ab), a perfect 5th (Ab Eb) and a perfect 4th (Eb Ab) and a minor 7th (Bb Ab).
Thus the balance of the intervals is this:
4 perfect 4ths, 4 perfect 5ths, 3 minor 7ths, 3 major 2nds, 2 minor 3rds, 1 major 3rd, 2 major 6th and a minor 6th.
There are 8 4ths and 5ths, and 12 other intervals, perfect intervals being a mere 40%.
The greater importance of 5ths and 4ths in the new scale is evident, and this explains the more “oriental” sound of it.
Let’s have a look to the fingerings:
A nice trick to play every once and then to get “The last emperor feeling”. Superb contemporary guitar indeed!