Allan Holdsworth’s 10 Most Usable Scales

Allan’s “Instructional” video covers these scales and can be seen here:

Scale 1: diatonic scale – if you are not familiar with this scale – all 7 modes – then you shouldn’t be reading his Post yet really, as it is the reference scale for all others, so if you don’t know the how’s and why’s of this, check out the video I did for basic chord theory on Page 1 and YouTube:

For Post visual completeness, the major scale (in A) looks like this:

It sounds like this:


I am going to miss out a “programmed melody” in scales 1, 3 and 5 in Allan’s list in the FLS Piano Roll format that I plan to do for this Post – the same as the Post I did recently on the A harmonic minor and diminished scales played together alternately.

Scale 3 – Harmonic minor (in A)

Starting on the 7th mode, it sounds like this:


Scale 5 – diminished

Notice the diminished is a 9 note scale but can be made to loop over 2 bars by not repeating the octave as on the standard 8 note scales.

Starting on the G sharp – ½ step, whole step etc. – it sounds like:


OK, that’s those that were covered previously in the older Post out the way – I will do a melody and a harmony a 3rd above for the rest of these scales as best I can, as in the prior Post. I hope I get the harmony right in all cases- check them yourself to understand the intervals – don’t take my word for it or the MP3 – it is an exercise you should try yourself with your own ideas to make you think about the intervals in each mode of the scale, using ONLY the notes in that scale!

A way to help get the notes right is to use the scale notes so that they show as “ghost” notes in later Piano Roll windows, by moving the scale to the same octave as the window you are writing the melody in say. That way you know you are only using the notes in the scale:

Ghost notes – These are notes in other Piano rolls associated with the current Pattern. See the Piano roll Menu > Helpers > Ghost channels (Alt+V) option. To edit Ghost notes (Double Right-click or X1 button) on the notes to switch to the Ghost channel.

(I only remembered this after doing all the tracks, so DO check the notes for yourself!)

Scale 2 – Melodic Minor

This scale is the same as the diatonic major but has a minor 3rd instead.

Starting on C now:


With a melody and harmony a minor 3rd above, as before:


Scale 4: MinorMajor7 + 4

Only one note changes from scale 2 – raise the 4th by a semitone = dim5:

This is a weird scale I’m not familiar with at all, with its interesting 3 semitone jump from minor 3 to sharp 4:

It sounds like this:


With a melody and harmony a min 3rd above again:


Allan’s Jazz Scales – These are variations on major and minor 8 note scales with one extra semitone

Scale 6 – B flat major add flat 6 (=sharp 5 = aug 5th)

This has an EXTRA note between the normal major 5th and 6th notes:


Again, as it has 9 notes to the octave, it loops nicely in 4/4 time with the root at the start of each bar.

With melody and major 3rd harmony:


Scale 7 – Major with Dom 7


With melody and harmony:


Scale 8 – C minor add +7

CMinorAdd +7.mp3

With melody and harmony:

CMinorAdd +7MelHarm.mp3

Scale 9 – C minor – add sharp 5 and major 7 (no minor 7)

I think I understand this one as a 9 note scale, a Melodic minor with a sharp 5?

Sounds like this:


With melody and harmony:


Scale 10 – Symmetrical – 3 semitones, tone, 3 semitones, tone…

Cant complete in 2 bars…


Mel and Harm


Interesting that Allan doesn’t mention the Whole Tone symmetrical scale – can’t say I can recall him using it anywhere myself – the only person that springs to mind for that one is the awesome 1970’s-NOW, Psychedelic Rock Pioneer, Steve Hillage…Oh, to be 17 again with this in the car…

One of my faves of his – Talking to the Sun – SOOO ahead of its time with those incredible synths!!

Steve and Miquette these days: