Psychedelic Guitar Scales (with TABs)

Since many people visit my blog to know more about scales for psychedelic guitar, I would like to explain some basics in more detail. And in tablature, this time.

As a preparation, please read this former post! I will give you a basic riff to improvise on, by using the mixolydian scale. You can either play this scale the usual way (example 1) or slide along just the G-string (example 2), maybe pretending your guitar was a sitar…

So, use some slides, bendings and so on! Scales are just a raw material, nothing more. You have to make something out of it. Go ahead now.

Psychedelic Basic Riff in A – give it a nice rhythm!







Example 1): Psychedelic Scale (A mixolydian)







Example 2): A mixolydian on just one string (G string): use slides in a wild manner!

G –––0––2––4––6––7––9––11––12––14–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Don’t forget to practice each scale either way, meaning downward as well as upward! Furthermore, it’s understood that nobody will be able to create a psychedelic sound who lacks listening experience with psychedelic music…

If so, maybe you should listen to the medley in this former post: psychedelic medley and the list of tunes

psychedelic guitar playing: scales and techniques


Musicians have to learn scales, for scales are the raw material of melodies as well as the raw material of improvised solos.

For psychedelic music one might denote certain scales, but it won’t suffice to just climb them up and down, as one will have to learn how to use these notes.

From my own experience I would recommend the mixolydian scale. Listen to, for instance, “Ride my see-saw” by the Moody Blues. The solo (near the end) is pure mixolydian. But there is no scale reserved for psychedelic styles. So all the scales common in rock music, above all minor pentatonic, if played in a certain way, will sound psychedelic.

So what are these ways of playing? As a hint, you can read this former post.

Or, listen to this former sound track, using the mixolydian scale.

Keep in mind Indian music had a great impact on sixties’ music, especially around 1966/67. Modal soloing over a droning root can be a key to sounding psychedelic. One of the most efficient playing techniques is the use of just one string, regarding the guitar as a sitar. Crazy vibratos, whammy bar effects, and slides add to an overall oriental impression. Oriental sounding scales, such as harmonic minor or phrygian, enhance that effect. Bendings, at times combined with additional vibrato, and double stop bendings on strings g and b are very common.

There is no particular guitar or amp or scale or substance needed (though it might help), for psychedelic music is an attitude. It emanates from a surreal mindset. Studying surrealism is a good starting point.

A fine analysis of psychedelic music styles (with reference to surrealism) is found in Tim Ellison’s book “The band are not quite right” (free download). Thanks to “psy-curious” who led me there!

Appendix: examples of the above mentioned scales in the key of A:

Mixolydian: a-b-c#-d-e-f#-g-a. Minor pentatonic: a-c-d-e-g-a. Harmonic minor: a-b-c-d-e-f-g#-a.Phrygian: a-bb-c-d-e-f-g-a.