Student of Guitar

Metalcore Scales: A Thorough Guide (2022 Edition)

Table of Contents

If you’re looking for metalcore scales, you’ve come to the right post!

Before We Begin…

In order to make things both simpler and educational, I’ll do two things.

Firstly, all tabs are in the 5th position, in the E standard tuning, with A as the root note.

Secondly, I’ll present all the scales numerically.

The numbers on their own show a natural major scale.

Sharps and flats modify it and create a scale that we need.

Natural Minor

This is where you should start.

It’s the basic one, although it’s one of the most common, not just in metal but in plenty of other styles today as well.

The scale builds a minor triad and a minor 7th chord.

However, its minor 6th interval leaves it feeling super melancholic, in combination with its other intervals.

It’s really easy to implement and it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to write stuff within it.

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Harmonic Minor

However, harmonic minor takes things to a new level.

Technically, it’s just one note difference compared to the natural minor scale.

Nonetheless, this single-note change makes it feel so much different.

Whether it’s riffs or solos, harmonic minor adds a lot of tension.

This is because it’s a minor scale with its 7th degree higher by one semitone.

As a result, there’s a 3-semitone space between its 6th and 7th degrees.

And this gives it that super-tense feel.

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Phrygian

Phrygian is the third mode of the natural major scale.

So if you take the C major scale, you go from E to E.

Although not as tense, it can still help you get some heavy-sounding stuff going on.

There’s one simple way to look at this scale.

It’s like a natural minor, but its second degree is one semitone lower.

This way, you get that minor second interval that makes things sound somewhat “eastern-ish.”

In my experience, it works well with a pedal note or root note playing in the background.

Some riffs or passages on the higher strings will sound really good.

There’s this mix of melancholy and some mild tension.

This is due to its minor 6th and minor 2nd intervals, as well as the fact that Phrygian builds a minor chord.

You can often use it instead of natural minor.

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Phrygian Dominant

Now, the Phrygian dominant scale is one of the most common ones in metal today.

It’s very common in metalcore as well, helping musicians write super-intense riffs or lead parts.

The scale is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor.

This means that it brings the same tension, although I’d argue that it feels even more intense.

There’s the minor 2nd interval, followed by the major 3rd.

This is the aforementioned 3-semitone space between two neighboring notes at the beginning of the scale.

What’s unusual is that the scale builds a dominant chord.

But at the same time, it has minor 6th and minor 2nd intervals that add some “sadness” and tension at the same time.

You’ll definitely have fun with this one.

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Diminished Scale

The diminished scale is a scale that builds a diminished chord.

If you’re not familiar, this is a chord that consists only of minor 3rd intervals piled up on top of one another.

This means that the scale is super-tense and sounds incredibly sinister if you apply it properly.

The diminished scale just alternates between minor 2nd and major 2nd intervals.

There are, however, two things to bear in mind.

Firstly, the scale has two versions, one that starts with a minor 2nd and the other one that starts with a major 2nd interval.

Secondly, it’s weird to play it over usual chord progressions.

But you can write riffs in it or just play it over some “static” chord progressions or drone notes.

It may be a bit weird to get used to at first, but I’m sure that you’ll find a way how to implement it.

After all, plenty of metal or metalcore guitarists tend to overuse it.

These are its two versions:

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Double Harmonic or Byzantine

In case you’re feeling like you want a super-unusual scale, I’d recommend the double harmonic.

This one is also known as the “Byzantine” scale, putting together some super-tense elements.

Looking at its structure, it’s neither minor nor major.

But it’s also not as simple as the diminished scale.

It builds a major chord, but it also has a minor 2nd interval, as well as two 3-semitone spaces in it.

One way to look at it is if you just raise the 7th degree of a Phrygian dominant for one semitone.

This way, you get a major 7th instead of a minor 7th interval.

Although super-weird and probably time-consuming to get used to, it’s a great way to explore music in different ways.

In case you’re keen on metalcore with some prog elements, this scale will serve you well.

Just make sure to be patient and take your time with it.

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Remember: Don’t Limit Yourself to These Scales

This may seem like a controversial question for such an article, but…

Is there even such a thing as a “metalcore scale”?

While we can list a few scales that would help you sound more metalcore, there’s more to it than that.

And, at the end of the day, you shouldn’t ever limit yourself to one scale or a specific set of scales.

To make good music, you need to bear two things in mind.

First, allow yourself to experiment and break the norms when writing new music.

And secondly, have a lot of patience.

A good piece of music doesn’t just happen overnight.

It takes years of experience in writing a bunch of songs, so don’t get depressed if you think your song sucks.

These rules apply to all genres, including metalcore.  

Metalcore Scales: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through metalcore scales and which might help you in this unique genre!

And if you want to read more about unique scales and theory on this blog, then check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

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