The Gypsy Scale produces a rather beautiful, exotic sound which is seldom heard in western music. The scale goes by at least two other names: the double harmonic scale, and the Byzantine scale. To make things more confusing, there are also other scales which go by the name of ‘Gypsy Scale’, these include the Hungarian Gypsy scale (which, strictly, is a mode of the Gypsy scale shown below), and the Spanish Gypsy scale.
You could use this scale when an eastern sound is required, and, as its name implies, it is also reminiscent of Gypsy folk music.
Gypsy Scale Scale Spelling
The scale is spelled: 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 7
As you can see from the music below, one feature of the scale is that it contains two augmented second intervals – the leaps from the D flat to E, and from the A flat to B.
The fret diagrams below show two ways of playing the scale on guitar, with roots on the sixth and fifth strings:
Similarities / Relationships With Other Scales
You may have noticed that the Gypsy Scale has a similar sound to the Phrygian Dominant scale. In fact, there is just one note difference between them – The Gypsy Scale is the same as a Phrygian Dominant but with a natural, rather than a flattened, seventh. The scale spellings below should clarify this:
Gypsy Scale: 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 7
Phrygian Dominant Scale: 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7
If you already know the Phrygian Dominant (many rock and metal players often use this scale), you could simply alter it by playing the natural, rather than flattened seventh.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with this scale. It is a scale that, if you drop it into a solo or composition, will always be noticed. The one note that differentiates it from a Phrygian Dominant scale makes all the difference, making an already characterful scale sound even more exotic.