The Outside Sound

This lesson is just a general explanation of the scales people like Buckethead use for the odd sound that they have.

Ultimate Guitar
All right. In this lesson, I'm going to teach an easy way to achieve an outside sound. The outside sound is anything that seems almost like there is no melody behind it, but it's actually technical and pretty hard to get a good grasp on (not to mention it freaks people out when played correctly). The outside sound will sound familiar to those of you that know bands/guitarists like Buckethead, An Endless Sporadic, etc. Let's get started!

All right. I'll start off with a kind of simple three note per string chromatic whole tone scale. Whole tone means every other note of a scale for those who don't know. So in this example, it's every other note of a chromatic scale.

Example 1

It's pretty much a standard 1-3-5 fingering position shifted over 1 fret and up 1 string.

There are some pretty cool things you can do by just slightly varying this pattern. Example 1a is a good example of this.

Example 1a

This next pattern may sound slightly familiar. It's just a standard diminished scale. It has a wicked sound if played correctly.

Example 2

This scale is commonly used by a lot of classical piano players and neoclassical guitar players. It, like the whole tone, can be varied for different sounds.

Example 2a

This is basically ascending in sets of threes. It should be played like each set of three is a triplet.

Another variation mixes the whole tone with the diminished and has a very distinctive sound.

Example 2b

That example sounds very good played over a 3/4 time signature.

Outside Chords

In this lesson, I will also teach a few things about outside chords.

A good example of this is just a simple whole tone 4th chord.

Example 1

IT has a very dissonant sound and to those that aren't used to the outside sound, the chord will sound "wrong". However, it actually sounds very good if played correctly and in the right context of a song.

Something interesting about this chord is that it can be slid up to the 12th fret and still sounds the same.

Example 1a

The same thing can be done in any position by simply playing the chord and sliding it up 6 frets.

There are also some interesting chords that can be taken from the diminished scale.

This chord is like Example 1. It's very dissonant, but not necessarily "wrong".

Example 1

This chord can actually be found in the song Schism by the band Tool. It's the first chord played, just up higher in pitch.

Here are some cool tricks you can do messing with the outside sound.

1. If you have an effects pedal that has a pitch shifter, set the second signal six half steps up and try playing some diminished runs. All the notes should harmonize.

2. Experiment with 2 handed tapping. You can get some very interesting sounds from the whole tone scale if you do this. Also, if you're using the first tip, play the first two notes of the diminished scale, then tap a very high note on the diminished scale with the left hand. Do this several times in quick succession and it should sound great.

3. Use wah, delay, and distortion. This is a very simple way to get amazing sound from the whole tone scale. Almost anything you do with about a half second delay, wah and distortion will sound great with the whole tone or diminished scale.

Listed below are some good bands, musicians to listen to to get a good feel for an outside sound.

Symphony X, OHM, An Endless Sporadic, Buckethead, Shawn Lane

Those are just a few of several good people and bands to listen to for outside sound.

That concludes this lesson. Thank you for reading and I hope this information will help you or inspire you. Also, many thanks for all the good feedback on my last lesson.

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    funkyducky wrote: Whole tone means every other note of a scale no it doesn't - it just means every other note, with 'scale' added on the end that could be misleading (eg. major scale is tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone) but apart from that, and the chord names, interesting lesson. maybe brush up on your theory?
    Thanks. Srry bout that. Guess I'm the one who didn't know!
    Gr8 lessons, tho i dont play bass, there is some good info here that i can put to use. Cheers!
    Beginner Bass
    Good lesson. Didn't actually realize it was a bass lesson until I read the comments. It might help a bit if you gave the official names, dim5 and aug5 chords. Good lesson on dissonance.
    Whole tone means every other note of a scale
    no it doesn't - it just means every other note, with 'scale' added on the end that could be misleading (eg. major scale is tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone) but apart from that, and the chord names, interesting lesson. maybe brush up on your theory?
    outside playing has nothing to do with position playing and everything to do with theory. for example, you can get an incredibly inside sound out of the diminished scale (when used over diminished or the correct dominant seventh chord). the key to outside playing is to emphasize notes outside of the changes. its extremely simple to grasp the concept but hard to apply it well. another good method is side stepping', playing a note or a lick a se itone to high or low and then repeating/resolving it properly.
    I think it would be less confusing if for your first example of chords you called them diminished 5ths or augmented 4ths. I didnt pick up on the whole tone 4th thing but other than that nice article
    This is a pretty bad method of getting an "outside" sound. It really just shows you dissonance (by the way those intervals-not chords-fall in with the diminished and minor 6th chords), when a better way to go about it would be to approach musical construction from an unconventional angle.
    Dream Floyd
    mrnbkn wrote: this can be used on a guitar too !
    yeah but it's in the bass lessons section
    just fyi rage against the machine uses the outside chord (7) (6) too in Bullet in the Head. great song too.