Double Harmonic Major Scale

Here’s a small sample lesson I put together demonstrating the Double Harmonic Major scale (also known as the Bizantine scale, Arabic scale, Indian scale and other cultural names).

This unusual scale is probably most famously used in Dick Dale’s much-sampled ‘Misirlou’ (he got the melody from a traditional Arabic song himself). However it’s also heard in everything from Rainbow’s ‘Gates of Babylon’ to Miles Davis’ ‘Nardis’, as well as being the soundtrack to every Ancient Egypt documentary ever made!

The scale is difficult to apply in popular music as it’s fully-extended tonic chord is the horrific sounding Maj11 (b9 b13). As the tonic contains so many tension points in itself this scale is usually used over sparse harmonic landscapes, typically drones or one chord vamps.

A great concept for applying Double Harmonic Major is to see it as a Maj7 and a Dominant 7th chord a semitone apart; in the example lick I’m thinking of Emaj7 and F7. This way you can focus on Emaj7 as the tonic, reaching into the F7 to add tension a little (Bar 1), a lot (Bar 2), or to juxtapose them completely (Bar 3). An added bonus with this approach is it helps to tame the cliched ‘snake charmer’ sound this scale tends to invoke!

Check out more lesson samples here: Free Guitar Lessons