How to Simulate Arabic Music On Your Guitar

Arabic Music On Guitar

I always tremendously enjoyed simulating the music of different cultures on my guitar.
There is a certain atmosphere and mystique to the sound of Arabic music that always intrigued me.

Arabic music has a smaller subdivision than our 12 tone music.
What that means is that they have more than 12 sounds within an octave.

Theoretically and technically, that means it should be impossible for us guitar players (or any instrument in the Western world for that matter) to play Arabic music, as we only have 12 frets in an octave.

However: there is a really cool way around this when you have a floating whammy bar on your guitar.
Even if you don’t have a whammy bar, you can still simulate the Arabic microtonal sound.
It is technically a bit more challenging without a whammy bar, but you can get the “Arabic” sound too.

But first off: let’s have a look at one of the scales that is used in Arabic music.

Page 32 Double Harmonic Scale Linear

Page 33 Double Harm Scale In Pos

Page 29 Oriental Scale Linear

Here are the in-position fingerings for that scale.

Page 30 Oriental Scale In Pos

You can also download these scale fingerings as pdfs here:

Page 29 Oriental Scale Linear
Page 30 Oriental Scale In Pos
Page 32 Double Harmonic Scale Linear

Knowing these scales already brings you leaps closer to the sound of Arabic music.
But to really nail the Arabic sound, you also need to play the extra “in-between” microtones that they have in their system, which has more notes than our 12-note system.

Here’s how you do this.

  1. If you have a floating whammy bar
    Right after you pick each note, quickly and briskly push the whammy bridge block down with the side of your hand, and immediately release the pressure again.
    This will quickly push each note a bit sharp very quickly and briefly.
    The pressure on your whammy bar bridge gives you the notes in between the half steps.

  2. If you don’t have a floating whammy bar
    You need to create the effect with your fretting hand.
    Follow each note that you pick by a really small, fast, and short bend and release. It is essential that make your bends very small. You want to bend to the notes in between the half steps. In other words: the notes that don’t have frets.
    Applying this technique: you turn your guitar into an instrument that has more than 12 frets.

Following video shows how to do this:


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