Jazz scales piano

Jazz scales piano DEFAULT


As I mentioned in the last module on Jazz Chords; Jazz is almost always 'homophonic'. All this means is that Jazz consists of two parts:

  1. Jazz Chords (Harmony); and
  2. Improvisation (Melody).

To facilitate my teaching, I have further subdivided the above two facets of Jazz into Theory and Practice components. We will first learn the Theory (Jazz Chords and Jazz Scales) and then learn how to apply the theory in Practice (with Jazz Chord Voicings and Jazz Improvisation).

HarmonyJazz ChordsJazz Chord Voicings
MelodyJazz ScalesJazz Improvisation

In this module we look at Jazz Scales – which are used in improvisation. In these lessons we will discuss:

  1. The Chord-Scale System;
  2. Why you can use multiple scales over the same chord;
  3. Melodic minor and Altered scales;
  4. Diminished Scale;
  5. Wholetone Scale;
  6. much more.

And once we learn some Jazz Scales, we will go on to see how we can apply them in Jazz Improvisation.

Sours: https://www.thejazzpianosite.com/jazz-piano-lessons/jazz-scales/

5 Jazz Scales for Dominant 7 Chord Improv

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If you want to improvise jazz piano, one of the most common chords you will see are dominant 7 chords.  Therefore, it is essential to know what scales to use over these chords. In today’s Quick Tip, you’re going to learn how to play 5 jazz scales for improv on Dominant 7 chords.

Let’s dive in.

Dominant 7 Chords

If you know this, skip ahead, but if you don’t, this is essential!

What is a dominant 7 chord? A dominant 7 chord is a a chord containing 7 notes built a third apart, starting on the 5th note of a major scale. Therefore, if I build a chord all thirds apart on the 5th note of a C Major scale, I get a G7 chord:

G7 root position chord on piano

The 5-1 Progression

Usually, this chord is followed by a C Major chord, creating what’s called a 5-1 progression.  G7 is the “5 chord” in the key of C, and C is the “1 chord”:

G7 to C Major 7 (5-1) chord progression in jazz piano lead sheets

This 5-1 progression is one of the most important progressions in jazz music because it is found everywhere. Pull open your fake book or a lead sheet and look at the chords.  How many times do you see a dominant 7 chord followed by another chord a 5th down? It’s practically everywhere.

Also, many jazz students start by playing blues, and guess what? The most common chord in blues is the dominant 7th chords. Therefore, if you want to improvise jazz piano, then it is essential to know which scales work on a Dominant 7th chord.

Left Hand Foundation

Before I teach you the scales, you need a solid foundation to improvise and practice these scales over. Remember I said the most important progression in jazz is the 5-1 progression? Well, the best way to practice this progression is by using chord shells and a root-to-chord pattern.  Here’s one of the best ones to use:

G7 to CMaj7 jazz piano chord shells in Charleston groove

Scale #1: The Mixolydian Scale

When improvising jazz piano on dominant 7 chords, the first scale you need to know is the Mixolydian Scale. What is the Mixolydian Scale? The Mixolydian Scale is a major scale with a flat 7.  If we played this scale on a G7, it would be the notes G A B C D E F G:

G Mixolydian Scale on piano for jazz improv on dominant 7 chords

Notice that this is a lot like a G Major Scale, except it has a flat 7 (F natural) to match the G7 chord. This is a great scale to get started with because it uses only white notes. Another way you could think of this scale is as a C Major scale starting on G.

Now, it’s common when reading jazz charts to see dominant chords with added extensions and/or alterations. Which types of dominant 7 chords does the Mixolydian scale work over? The G Mixolydian Scale works over G7, G9, and G13 chords. I encourage you to play 8th notes, triplets, and turns using this scale.  You can learn more about these in the Quick Tip video above.

If you want to do even more with this scale, including what scales to use over all jazz chords, checkout the Scales for Improv on 7th Chords course. If you’re more of a beginner, you can also checkout the Scales for Improv on Major & Minor Chords course.

Scale #2: The Mixolydian #4 Scale

Now that you have the G Mixolydian scale under your belt, you might be thinking, “this sounds great Jonny.  But this I want more colors in my improvisation.” I don’t blame you… the G Mixolydian scale can start to sound bland after a little while if that’s the only scale you’re using.

To solve this, you need to add some spice! It’s time to add our first chord alteration, the #4. What is the #4? It is the fourth note of the scale raised a half step. Therefore, you can play your G Mixolydian scale and raise the C to a C# like this:

G Mixolydian #4 scale on piano for jazz improv on dominant 7 chords

This gives you a brighter, magical sound to your solo.  Now, play the C# in your right hand with the G7 chord in your left hand. Notice that the C# sounds better over the chord than the C did from the first scale.

Now, most jazz tunes that use dominant 7 chords only call for a regular dominant 7 chord in the song, meaning when you start improvising your solo, you could use this scale.

However, what if you were playing a lead sheet where the arrangement called for a specific type of G7 chord? Which type of G7 chord would you use this over? You would use it over a G7(#11) or a G7(b5 chord) I encourage you to explore this scale with 8th notes and triplets.

Scale #3: The Mixo-Dominant Diminished Scale

Scale #3 is called Mixo-Dominant Diminished Scale, but don’t let that phrase scare you! It’s simply a combination of the Mixolydian Scale that you already learned, and the Dominant Diminished Scale, which you will learn next. But an even easier way to think of this scale is that it is the scale you just learned, except we are adding a Bb to the scale:

G Mixo-Dominant Diminished scale on piano for jazz improv on dominant 7 chords

This Bb is called the #9, and this is our next chord alteration. Adding this chord alteration gives the scale a nice bluesy rub, since we now have a Bb and a B in the scale. Practice this scale with 8ths and triplets, and make sure to give some space in your lines.

Scale #4: The Dominant Diminished Scale

The dominant diminished scale is one of the coolest sounding scales to improvise with over dominant 7 chords. What is the Dominant Diminished Scale? It is a scale that starts with a half step and goes half step, whole step, half step, whole step all the way up the piano. Here is the G Dominant Diminished Scale:

G Dominant Diminished Scale on piano for jazz improv on dominant 7 chords

Notice now that instead of using an A (the 9), we are using an Ab, the b9. This is the next altered note we can add to our scale, this also creates a nice jazz rub since we have a G in the scale. Practice this scale with 8th notes and triplets, and work on speed.

Scale #5: The Altered Scale

The altered scale is the spiciest scale of them all and it has the most “rub” when played with a G7 chord. What are the notes of a G altered scale? They are G Ab Bb B C# Eb and F. If you think of the altered scale like a major scale, you would think of it as 1 b2 #2 3 #4 #5 b7 1. Here are the notes of the G altered sale:

G Altered Scale on piano for jazz improv on dominant 7 chords

For this scale, we are adding the Eb to the scale, which we call the b13.  This is our final chord alteration, and it gives another nice flavor to your improvisation.

Putting It All Together

The final goal in improvisation is to put all of these scales together. You want to mix and match them, and have fun while doing it!

If you want to learn more about jazz improvisation, I highly recommend these courses:

Soloing Over the Turnaround Progression
Soloing Over the Extended Turnaround Progression
Jazz Ballad Improvisation
Blues Improvisation Course
Latin Jazz Improv Course
Bossa Nova Improv Course

Enjoy your learning!

Jonny May

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Sours: https://pianowithjonny.com/piano-lessons/5-jazz-scales-for-dominant-7-chord-improv/
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The 16 Most Important Scales in Jazz [UPDATED]

Here is a list of the 16 most important scales for jazz improvisation and the harmonic contexts in which they can be used for improvisation.

It doesn’t matter whether you play guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet, bass, or the kazoo. These scales are important for all instruments to know.

While we do not want to sound like we are playing scales when we improvise, it is nevertheless very important to know what notes will be consonant with each chord, which is why chord/scale theory is so important.

You still have to study the language and vocabulary of jazz in order to know how to appropriately apply these scales in your improvisation!

I like to think of scales as “pitch collections.”

Meaning, note choice options we can play in any particular order, rather than a linear pattern to play.

I think this is a healthier way to think about scales, and ultimately will help us become better jazz improvisers.

So with that being said, let’s dive in to the 16 most important scales for jazz improvisation and make sure we know them.

When it comes to diatonic harmony, understanding the modes is incredibly important for relating “pitch collections” to different chord qualities.

1. Ionian or Major scale

Formula: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (Cmaj7)

The major scale is consonant over major chords.  For example, a C major scale corresponds with a C major chord.

2. Dorian Minor scale

Formula: 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7-8 (Dmin7)

The Dorian minor scale as a b3, natural 6, and b7.  It is the most commonly used minor scale for improvisation in jazz music.

It works over any ii chord, or i chord, but it can also be used for other minor chords, such as the iii chord and the vi chord.

3. Phrygian Minor scale

Formula: 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7-8 (Emin7 or G7(b9)sus)

Of the five types of minor scales (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian/Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, and Melodic Minor), the Phrygian mode is arguably one of the two least common minor scales for jazz improvisation, along with the harmonic minor.

The Phrygian mode is still used in at least two contexts:

  •  The Phrygian scale works over a iii chord (Emin7 in the key of C works with E Phyrgian)
  • The Phrygian minor can also be used over a V7 chord if the V7 chord is suspended and has a b9.  For instance, in a G7(b9)sus to Cmin7 progression, a G Phrygian (same key center as Eb major, 3 flats) works well.

4. Lydian Major

Formula: 1-2-3-#4-5-6-7-8 (Fmaj7 or Cmaj7#11)

The Lydian Mode works well over any maj7#4, maj7b5, or maj7#11 chord.

The most obvious example is as IV chord (e.g. F major in the key of C), but the Lydian mode can also work well over a I chord.

The Lydian scale is the brightest of all the church modes, and has a distinct, modern flavor over a I chord due to the non-diatonic (in the context of a I chord) #4 chord tone.

5. Mixolydian or Dominant Scale

Formula: 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7-8 (G7)

The Mixolydian mode is the most basic scale for improvising over a V7 chord.

You can also use the altered scale, the half-whole diminished scale, whole-tone, or even Phrygian over a V7 chord, but each different scale implies different alterations, and different scales will work better in different musical contexts.

6. Aeolian or Natural Minor

Formula: 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7-8 (Amin7)

You’d think that natural minor should be the preferred choice for minor chords, but most players default to using Dorian over a minor chord.

This is due to the relative consonance of the natural 6 from the Dorian scale versus the relative dissonance of the b6 from the Natural Minor scale.

You can choose to use Dorian over a vi chord, although Natural Minor is usually an acceptable choice also for a vi chord or a minor i chord.

7. Locrian or Half Diminished

Formula: 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7-8 (Bmin7b5)

The exotic Locrian scale is the darkest, most dissonant mode of the major scale.  It works well over a half-diminished chord (also known as a min7(b5) chord).

When approaching a half-diminished chord, some players like to sharpen the b2 from the Locrian mode to a natural 2.

If you raise the b2 to a natural 2, this new scale is called the “Locrian #2” (that’s “sharp” 2, not “number” 2) mode, which is actually the 6th mode of melodic minor harmony. This scale is 12b34b5b6b78, and the natural 2 differs from the Locrian mode.

It’s useful to place Locrian and Locrian #2 into the same category of scale, as they can both be used to navigate a half-category:

7.5 Locrian #2

Formula: 1-2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7-8 (Bmin7b5)

If you’d like a more full explanation on the major modes, check out this video I’ve created:

8. Half-Whole Diminished or Dominant Diminished

Formula: 1-b2-b3-3-#4-5-6-b7-8 (C13b9)

Because diminished scales are symmetrical, there are only three diminished scales, and each can be started in eight different places!

All diminished scales are made up of alternating half-steps and whole-steps, but you can start with either a half-step or a whole-step.

The half-whole diminished scale can be referred to as dominant diminished because it works well over a dominant 13(b9) chord.

The half-whole diminished is made up of the intervals H-W-H-W-H-W-H-W (H=half-step, W=whole-step)

9. Whole-Half Diminished

Formula: 1-2-b3-4-#4-#5-6-7-8 (Cdim7)

If you start a diminished scale with a whole-step, it becomes W-H-W-H-W-H-W-H. This mode of the diminished scale works well over a diminished chord.

10. Altered Scale

Formula: 1-b2-b3-3-#4-b6-b7-8 [C7(#9b13) or C7alt, C7(#9b13) or C7alt]

The altered scale is actually the 7th mode of melodic minor.

It works great over an altered chord (7#9b13, or 7alt), which implies 7(b9#9#11b13). This scale has many names, including “Super-Locrian,” “Diminished-Whole-Tone” or even the “Dim-Wit” scale.

Vibraphonist Gary Burton likes to remind us that the altered scale has a hidden tone, the natural 5th, that is also consonant with this scale.

Though the natural 5th isn’t technically in the 7th mode of melodic minor, remember that the natural 5th works also when improvising with an altered scale over an altered dominant chord.

11. Whole-Tone Scale

Formula: 1-2-3-#4-b6-b7-8 (C7b13)

The whole-tone scale only has 6 notes (the 7th note would be the doubled root in the top octave). It is entirely made up of whole-steps: W-W-W-W-W-W.

This scale implies a natural 9, a #11, a b13, and of course a b7.  It works well over a 7b13 chord as long as there is a NATURAL 9 and not a b9 or #9.

12.  Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scale

Formula: 1-b3-4-b5-5-b7-8 (for Blues Scale add #4)

Minor Pentatonic:

Blues Scale:

The blues scale is one of the first scales that many jazz musicians are taught.

I prefer to think of the blues scale as a Minor Pentatonic with an added #4.

These scales are often played over a blues, as the sounds lend well to that sort of language.

However, if you want to go beyond these scales, definitely sign up for our free masterclass “Boost Your Jazz Blues.”

13. Lydian Dominant

Formula: 1-2-3-#4-5-6-b7-8 (C7#11)

Lydian implies a #4.  Dominant implies a b7.  If you put them together, you have the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale!

This scale works well over a dominant II7 or a dominant IV7 chord, a bII7 tritone sub,  or any 13(#11) chord.

If you add an extra chromatic passing tone to a major, Dorian, or Mixolydian scale, you get a bebop scale.

While bebop musicians technically put the chromatic notes in other places and it sounded just fine in recordings, jazz theorists have codified the bebop scales into something more concrete, placing the chromatic passing tone between 6 and 5 (major bebop scales) and 8 and b7 (dominant and minor bebop scales).

The bebop scales are primarily descending scales, and so I’ve listed the numbers backward to reflect the descending nature of these scales.

14. Major Bebop

Formula: 8-7-6-b6-5-4-3-2-1 (Cmaj7)

Major BeBop Scale

You can use the major bebop scale with any major chord.

The chromatic passing tone is placed between 6 and 5.  With any of these bebop scales, the idea is to use the chromatic note as a chromatic passing tone, and not to stop on the chromatic note for too long.

15. Minor Bebop

Formula: 8-7-b7-6-5-4-b3-2-1 (Cmin7)

Natural Minor BeBop Scale

The minor bebop scale has a chromatic between 8 and b7.  It works well over a minor chord.

Remember to use the chromaticism in the scale when improvising, and to use the natural 7th as a passing tone.

16. Mixolydian Bebop

Formula: 8-7-b7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (G7)

Mixolydian Bebop Scale

The Mixolydian bebop scale is the quintessential bebop scale.  It has a chromatic passing tone between 8 and b7, and it works the best over an unaltered dominant chord.

I hope that these scales will help you in your quest to become a better improviser!

You definitely want to go further than just learning these in the key of concert C and take these through all 12 keys.

Sours: https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/the-16-most-important-scales-in-jazz/
JAZZ SCALES EXPLAINED IN 10 MINUTES with Julian Bradley (no more confusion)

Jazz scale

A jazz scale is any musical scale used in jazz. Many "jazz scales" are common scales drawn from Western European classical music, including the diatonic, whole-tone, octatonic (or diminished), and the modes of the ascending melodic minor. All of these scales were commonly used by late nineteenth and early twentieth-century composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, often in ways that directly anticipate jazz practice.[2] Some jazz scales, such as the bebop scales, add additional chromatic passing tones to the familiar diatonic scales.


One important feature of jazz is what theorists call "the principles of chord-scale compatibility": the idea that a sequence of chords will generate a sequence of compatible scales. In classical major-mode harmony, chords typically belong to the same scale. For example, a ii–V–I progression in C major will typically use only the notes of the C diatonic collection. In jazz, a four-chord progression may use four different scales, often as the result of chordal alterations.

For instance, in C major, a jazz musician may alter the V chord, G7 (G–B–D–F), with a flattened fifth, producing the chord G7♭5 (G–B–D♭–F). An improviser might then choose a scale containing these four notes, such as the G whole tone scale, the G octatonic scale, or a mode of either D or A♭ melodic minor ascending. In each case, the scale contains the chord tones G–B–D♭–F and is said to be compatible with it. This notion of "chord scale compatibility" marks a fundamental difference between jazz harmony and traditional classical practice.

An avoid note is a note in a jazz scale that is considered, in jazz theory and practice, too dissonant to be played against the underlying chord, and so is either avoided or chromatically altered.[3] For example, in major-key harmony the 4th, and thus the 11th, is an avoid note and is therefore either treated as a passing tone or is augmented (raised a semitone).[4] Avoid notes are often a minor second (or a minor ninth) above a chord tone[5] or a perfect fourth above the root of the chord.[6]

[One] can get a good sense of the difference between classical and non-classical harmony from looking at how they deal with dissonances. Classical treats all notes that don't belong to the chord (i.e., the triad) as potential dissonances to be resolved. ... Non-classical harmony just tells you which note in the scale to avoid ["what is sometimes called an avoid-note"] (because it's really dissonant), meaning that all the others are okay.[6]

Modes of the major scale[edit]

Main article: Mode (music) § Modern modes

The number of scales available to improvising musicians continues to expand. As modern techniques and musical constructions appear, jazz players find the ones they can put into compositions or use as material for melodic exploration. Prominent examples are the seven modes of the diatonicmajor scale and added-note scales.

Mode Name Scale on C Associated chord[7]
IIonianC–D–E–F–G–A–B–CC major 7 (9, 13)
IIDorianC–D–E♭–F–G–A–B♭–CC minor 6 or C minor 7 (9, 11, 13)
IVLydianC–D–E–F♯–G–A–B–CC major 7 ♯11 (9, 13)
VMixolydianC–D–E–F–G–A–B♭–CC7 (9, 13)
VIAeolianC–D–E♭–F–G–A♭–B♭–CC minor 7 (9, 11)
VIILocrianC–D♭–E♭–F–G♭–A♭–B♭–CC minor 7♭5 or Cø7 (11, ♭13)

Compare each of the modes to the major scale for clues as to the subtle differences between them. Ionian is based on the 1st degree of the major scale, Dorian on the 2nd, Phrygian on the 3rd, etc.

Name Scale Associated chord[citation needed]
C IonianC–D–E–F–G–A–B–CC major 7 (9, 13)
D DorianD–E–F–G–A–B–C–DD minor 6 or D minor 7 (9, 11, 13)
E PhrygianE–F–G–A–B–C–D–EE minor 7 (♭9)
F LydianF–G–A–B–C–D–E–FF major 7 ♯11 (9, 13)
G MixolydianG–A–B–C–D–E–F–GG7 (9, 13)
A AeolianA–B–C–D–E–F–G–AA minor 7 (9, 11)
B LocrianB–C–D–E–F–G–A–BB minor 7♭5 or Bø7 (11, ♭13)

Bebop scales[edit]

Main article: Bebop scale

Bebop scales add a single chromatic passing tone to the seven-note major scale (Ionian and Mixolydian modes). The added passing tone creates an eight-note scale that fits rhythmically evenly within a 4
4 measure of 8 eighth notes, thus making it useful in practicing. When an eighth note bebop scale run starts on the beat from a chord tone (i.e. the root, third, fifth or seventh) the other chord notes will also fall on the beat. As a result, all of the nonchord tones will fall on upbeats.

There are two commonly used types of bebop scales:

  1. The dominant bebop scale, which adds a chromatic passing tone between the 7th and the root.
  2. The major bebop scale, which adds a chromatic passing tone between the 5th and 6th notes.

Modes of the melodic minor scale[edit]

Main article: Jazz minor scale

The ascending melodic minor scaleMbr />built on A

A great deal of modern jazz harmony arises from the modes of the ascending form of the melodic minor scale, also known as the jazz melodic minor scale.[8] This scale is essentially a diatonic major scale with a lowered third, for example C–D–E♭–F–G–A–B–C. As with any other scale, the modes are derived from playing the scale from different root notes, causing a series of jazz scales to emerge.[8]

Mode Name Scale on C Associated chords[citation needed]
IAscending melodic minorC–D–E♭–F–G–A–BC minor major 7 (9, 11, 13) or C minor 6 chords (functions as i minor)
IIPhrygian ♮6, Dorian ♭2, Assyrian, or PhrygidorianC–D♭–E♭–F–G–A–B♭D7sus (♭9, ♯9, 13) chord, with ♭2 as a non-chord tone producing a minor ninth
IIILydian augmented or Lydian ♯5C–D–E–F♯–G♯–A–BE♭ major 7♯5 (9, #11) chord (functions as a III+)
IVLydian dominant, Lydian ♭7, Acoustic scale, Mixolydian ♯4, Overtone, or LydomyxianC–D–E–F♯–G–A–B♭F7 (9, ♯11, 13) chord (functions as a dominant, secondary, or substitute dominant)
VMixolydian ♭6, Melodic major, fifth mode of Melodic minor, Hindu, or MyxaeolianC–D–E–F–G–A♭–B♭G7 (9, ♭13) chord (functions as a dominant with ♭13 as a non-chord tone or the fifth avoided in the chord voicing as they produce a minor ninth)
VILocrian ♮2, Half-diminished, or AeolocrianC–D–E♭–F–G♭–A♭–B♭A minor 7♭5 (9, 11, ♭13) (functions as a ii chord in the fifth mode of melodic minor)
VIISuper Locrian, Altered dominant scale, or altered scaleC–D♭–E♭–F♭–G♭–A♭–B♭B7 (♯ or ♭9, ♯11, ♭13) chord (functions as a dominant with the fifth of the chord replaced by ♯11 or ♭13, may also be used to harmonize a vii7♭5 chord in melodic minor)

The names of these scales are variations of the names used for some of the modes of the diatonic major scale, for example the Phrygian ♮6, the second mode of the melodic minor, is named so because it is the same as the Phrygian mode of the major scale with a major sixth.

Diminished scale[edit]

Main article: Octatonic scale

Sometimes called the octatonic scale because it contains eight tones, the diminished scale is composed of a series of alternating half and whole steps. There are two types of diminished scales, one starts with a half step and the other starts with a whole step. The two scales are modes of one another.

Because of the repetition of the interval pattern after only two notes, each note in the scale can be the root in another symmetric diminished scale. For example, the C diminished scale of the half-step-first type, has the same notes as the half-step-first E♭ diminished scale as well as the whole-step-first D♭ diminished scale. All three are composed of the same eight pitches: C–D♭–E♭–E♮–F♯–G–A–B♭–C.

Because of the symmetry of the diminished scale, there are only three distinct diminished scales (shown to the right). The others are all modes of these three.

Whole tone scale[edit]

Main article: Whole tone scale

The whole tone scale, consisting exclusively of whole steps, is often used on V7 +6 chords.

Pentatonic scales[edit]

Main article: Pentatonic scale

Two pentatonic scales common to jazz are the major pentatonic scale and the minor pentatonic scale. They are both modes of one another.

The major pentatonic scale begins with a major scale and omits the fourth and the seventh scale degrees. The minor pentatonic scale uses the same notes as the major pentatonic scale, but begins on the sixth scale degree of the corresponding major scale. In this nomenclature, minor is employed in the sense of relative key, as the diatonic A minor scale is the relative minor of the diatonic C major scale.

Jazz improvisers, particularly bassist and guitarist, use these scales in a number of interesting ways. For example, over B♭maj7♯11, one can use a major pentatonic based on the 2nd scale degree of B♭ (C–D–E–G–A) to imply 9–3–♯11–13–7, respectively. Similarly, over a fully altered F♯7 chord, one can use the same major pentatonic, this time based on the tritone (C–D–E–G–A) to imply ♭5–♭13–♭7–♭9–♯9, respectively.

Blues scale[edit]

Main article: Blues scale

The term blues scale refers to several different scales with differing numbers of pitches and related characteristics. The six-note blues scale consists of the minor pentatonic scale plus a chromatic passing tone between the 4 and 5. This added note can be spelled as either ♭5 or ♯4. Guitarists often mix the major and minor pentatonics together along with the blues scale.

Another common blues scale has nine notes (shown to the right). Winthrop Sargeant defines this scale as "a definite series of tones within an octave used as the basis of a musical composition," compiled instead from multiple compositions and improvisations (according to Stearns: "a great many jazz records") and is hypothesized as displaying the influence of African music.[9] The E♭ and B♭ are blue notes.[10]

Harmonic minor scale[edit]

Main article: Harmonic minor scale

The harmonic minor scale built on A

The harmonic minor scale is also of value to many improvisors, as it provides an alternative color for many common chords and chord progressions. The A harmonic minor scale can be used on the chords of a piece in A minor, especially on the minor ii–V–i chord progression.

One of the most common uses of the harmonic minor scale is its fifth mode, which is a frequently heard sound over dominant chords.

Altered dominant scale[edit]

Main article: Altered scale

The altered dominant scale built on C

The altered dominant scale, also loosely called the altered scale, is so named because all the scale members that can be altered relative to the basic dominant scale (the Mixolydian mode), without losing the dominant quality, are altered. The scale includes both altered fifths (♭5 and ♯5) and both altered ninths (♭9 and ♯9).

  • Starting on G, it contains the notes: G, A♭, B♭, C♭, D♭, E♭ and F.
  • Starting on C, it contains the notes: C, D♭, E♭, F♭, G♭, A♭ and B♭.

The altered fifths coincide enharmonically with the ♯11 and the ♭13 which would also be considered altered relative to their Mixolydian forms. The tonic, major third (as a diminished fourth), and dominant seventh are retained as essential to the dominant quality.

The scale can also be understood as a mode of the ascending melodic minor scale starting from the 7th scale degree. For a C7 chord, the C♯melodic minor scale starting from B♯ (C enharmonically) produces the C altered dominant scale enharmonically.

This scale is also called the superlocrian scale, as it is indeed reminiscent of a Locrian scale with a ♭4, but it is usually regarded as that of major quality. Another name for this scale is the diminished-whole tone scale because the first tetrachord is that of a (half, whole) diminished scale and the second tetrachord is whole-tone.


  1. ^Hatfield, Ken (2005). Jazz and the Classical Guitar Theory and Applications, p. 121. ISBN 0-7866-7236-6.
  2. ^Tymoczko, Dmitri (1997). "The Consecutive-Semitone Constraint on Scalar Structure: A Link Between Impressionism and Jazz", Integral 11:135–79.
  3. ^Humphries, Carl (2002). The Piano Handbook, p. 262. ISBN 0-87930-727-7.[full citation needed]
  4. ^Humphries (2002), p. 128.
  5. ^Nettles, Barrie (1987). Harmony 1. Berklee College of Music. p. 34.[full citation needed]
  6. ^ abHumphries (2002), p. 126.
  7. ^"Jazz Modes Chart". www.apassion4jazz.net. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
  8. ^ abBaerman, Noah (1998). Complete Jazz Keyboard Method: Mastering Jazz Keyboard, p. 34. ISBN 0-88284-913-1.
  9. ^Sargeant, Winthrop (1946). Jazz: Hot and Hybrid. New York, Dutton. Cited in Marshall Winslow Stearns (1970). The Story of Jazz,[full citation needed] p. 278. ISBN 0-19-501269-0.
  10. ^Dr. Metfessel, Milton cited in Stearns (1970), p. 278.

Further reading[edit]

  • Yamaguchi, Masaya. 2006. The Complete Thesaurus of Musical Scales, revised edition. New York: Masaya Music Services. ISBN 0-9676353-0-6.
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_scale

Scales piano jazz

Jazz Piano Scales & Modes

Scales & Modes

The major and minor scales are an essential step in learning jazz piano. They provide a pool of notes for you to choose from when improvising and set the foundations for further modal scale study.

Major Scales All 12 Keys

The 12 major scales provide the foundation for further scales study. Learn these scales thoroughly so that you can play them by memory.


36 Minor Scales PDF

There are 3 types of minor scale: natural minor, melodic minor and harmonic minor. Each scale has a different use and application in jazz piano.


Major Pentatonic Scales PDF

The major pentatonic scale is built from the 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 degrees of the major scale. It’s used for improvisation and also to build chord voicings.


Minor Pentatonic Scales PDF

Listen to McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane to get an understanding of the types of sounds created through improvising with pentatonic scales.


The Modes Of The Major Scale

A mode is essentially a scale with an exotic name. We can derive 7 modes from the major scale which can be used for improvisation in major keys.


Walking Bass Lines Supplement

This is a supplement for the lesson on walking bass. We explore how to walk that bass in your left hand up basic triad shapes and scale fragments.


In-Depth Lessons on Jazz Piano Scales & Modes

To play and improvise jazz piano, you must have a good knowledge of jazz piano scales and jazz piano modes. On this page you can find full length video lessons which cover all of the essential theory. If you are new to jazz piano, check out the lessons on the major and minor scales.

What Is A Jazz Scale?

A jazz scale is a series of notes that can be used when playing jazz. There are many different types of scales that can be used for jazz improvisation. Some jazz scales are from Western European Classical music including the diatonic major and minor scales, the diminished scales and the whole tone scales. There are also many other types of scales used in jazz such as the pentatonic and blues scales, bebob scales and other modal scales.

Jazz Piano Scales For Beginners

If you are just starting out with jazz piano scale study, the first step is to learn the 12 major scales. Many of the interesting and exotic sounding modes can be derived from the major scale and so spending adequate time to memorise them will give you strong foundations for further scale study. Whilst there is only 1 type of major scale, there are 3 types of minor scale: the natural minor scale, the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.

It’s important that you understand how to construct each minor scale and also understand the uses and application in jazz piano. The natural minor scale is simply the major scale played from the 6th to the 6th degree. Eg. just start the C Major Scale on the 6th note and you will be playing the A Natural Minor Scale.

The Melodic Minor Scale is used to create more interesting melodic possibilities when playing in minor keys. The modes of the melodic minor scale can also be substituted into major harmony to access more exotic sounding extensions and alterations. The Melodic minor scale is only one note different to the major scale… simply flatten the 3rd of the major scale. Understanding this relationship will help you visualise the melodic minor scale.

The Harmonic Minor Scale is used to create more interesting harmonic possibilities in minor keys. When we construct a minor 251 progression, the V chord is always built from the Harmonic Minor Scale. This ensures that the V chord is dominant in quality which creates a strong and convincing sense of resolution to the I chord.

In addition to the lessons on the major and minor scales, you can also download PDFs containing the scales in all 12 keys. Firstly download the major scale in all 12 keys PDF. By all means, use the notation to speed up the learning process but try to commit these scales to your memory as soon as possible. Also ensure that you learn the scales numerically as this will help you greatly with further scale study. An additional PDF can be downloaded which contains the 3 types of minor scale.

Jazz Piano Scales For Improvisation

Scales and modes are used extensively in jazz for improvisation and melodic development. Try not to look at scales as a linear set of notes as this can result in aimlessly running up and down the scale which is not very musical or creative. Instead, scales offer you an ‘available set of notes’ that you can play over a chord. The relationship between chords and scales is called chord scale theory.

Chord Scale Theory

Every chord implies a scale, or in many cases multiple scales. This relationship is called Chord Scale Theory. As a jazz musician, you have the creative freedom to choose and select chord scales based on the type of sound you want to produce. Modal scales are derived from the major and minor scales and are used in jazz for soloing and improvisation. Learning the major and minor modes gives you a pool of notes to improvise over any chord symbol.

The Modes Of The Major Scale

The major modes cheat sheet provides the formulas for each of the major modes in relation to  the major scale. Memorising and understanding these formulas will allow you to quickly and easily find the 7 major modes of all 12 keys.

The Modes Of The Melodic Minor Scale

Download the melodic minor modes cheat sheet which gives you the formulas for quickly constructing more exotic sounding chord scales. 4 of the melodic minor modes are commonly used and these are highlighted in green. 

Blues & Pentatonic Scales

Pentatonic scales exist in both major and minor keys and provide a good starting point for learning to improvise. Pentatonic scales are particularly useful in a modal setting when playing over 1 chord for an extended period of time.

Listen to the masters of jazz piano such as McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane to get an understanding of the types of sounds created through improvising with pentatonic scales.

Symmetrical Jazz Piano Scales

The half-whole diminished scale is an 8 note symmetrical scale. The scale alternates half and whole steps until the scale starts again. The scale can be played over dominant chords and has the tensions b9, #9 & #11.

Sours: https://www.pianogroove.com/jazz-piano-scales-modes/
5 Amazing Jazz Scales for Dominant 7 Chords - Piano Improv Lesson

How to Practice Scales for Jazz Piano

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Do you want to learn how to effectively practice your scales so that you can play jazz piano? Most students learn their major scales by playing them up and down the piano. While this is a good exercise to master technique, it does not help you effectively improvise using your scales. To accomplish this, you need an exercise that helps you practice the scales at different starting points. In today’s piano lesson you are going to learn this exercise, which I call a Connecting Modes Exercise. Specifically, you will learn:

  • C Major Scale Fingering
  • The Modes of C Major
  • How to Connect the Modes of C Major Using Chromatic Connectors
  • A Jazz Swing Accompaniment Using the Turnaround Progression

Whether you are new to jazz or have experience playing jazz piano, you will find this exercise to be highly beneficial to you. It’s not only fun to play, but it will help you develop both excellent technique and the ability improvise jazz comfortably at the keyboard. Let’s get started.

Jazz Piano Scale Practice: The C Major Scale

The first step to effectively practice your scales for jazz piano is to make sure you understand the C Major Scale. If you don’t know the C Major Scale, here it is:

C major scale for jazz piano with fingering

The C Major scale is all white notes, which makes it easy to play. Pay attention to the fingering above! You will use the same fingering as you practice each of the positions of the exercise.

If you don’t know your major scales, you can learn all of them in our Level 1 Foundations Learning Track.

Now that you know the C Major Scale, let’s talk about the each of the modes.

Jazz Piano Scale Practice: The 8 Musical Modes

To practice your scales for jazz piano, you must understand your music “modes”. Musical modes can be explained in either a very confusing way or a very simple way. I’m a big fan of simplicity, so  here you go.

What is a music mode?

A music mode is when you play the notes of a major scale starting on other notes from the scale.

Dorian Scale

For example, if you play a C Major scale starting on a the D, you have what is called D Dorian:

D Dorian Scale : C Dorian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Phrygian Scale

If you play the C Major Scale starting on E, you have an E Phrygian Scale:

E Phrygian Scale : E Phyrgian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Lydian Scale

If you play the C Major Scale starting on F, you have an F Lydian Scale:

F Lydian Scale : F Lydian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Mixolydian Scale

If you play the C Major Scale starting on G, you have an G Mixolydian Scale:

G Mixolydian Scale : G Mixolydian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Aeolian Scale

If you play the C Major Scale starting on A, you have an A Aeolian Scale:

A Aeolian Scale : A Aeolian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Locrian Scale

If you play the C Major Scale starting on B, you have an B Locrian Scale:

B Locrian Scale : B Locrian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

Ionian Scale

Finally, if you play C Scale on the C, you have C Ionian Scale (which is the same scale as a regular C Major Scale):

C Ionian Scale : C Ionian Mode for jazz piano with fingering

I highly encourage you to play each mode up and down the piano. You can also practice these modes in all 12 keys with our Smart Sheet Music, which allows you to change the key with the click of one button. You can also download the lesson sheet music for this Quick Tip at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership.

Learn from about how modes work from our partner at Jazz-Library.

Now that you know your music modes, it’s time to learn the Mode Connecting Exercise.

Jazz Piano Scale Practice: Mode Connecting Exercise

To effectively practice your scales so that you can improvise jazz piano, you need to be able to comfortably play all of your modes on that piano that you just learned. Now, you could just play each scale up and down the piano, but there is a better way to switch between the modes seamlessly. I call this the Mode Connecting Exercise:

What is the Mode Connecting Exercise?

The Mode Connecting Exercise is an exercise where you play each mode up and down the piano, connecting each mode to the next with a “chromatic connector”. In other words, if you played the first mode up the piano, C Ionian, you start and end on the C. Now, what if we wanted to connect this to our second mode, D Dorian? We can do this by using the note just one half step below the target note of D, which is a C#. Check it out!

C major scale with chromatic connector to D Dorian Scale

Now, with this idea, you can string together all of your modes using a chromatic connector. Here are the first 8 measures of the exercise:

Connecting Modes Exercise right hand only to practice scales for jazz piano

Pretty cool huh?!? If you continue this idea, you can practice your modes all the way up the piano. Now, when you get to your 4th mode, F Lydian, you will want to use a chromatic connector above your target note F. Why? Because prior to the F, you are already on the E. In other words, you are already on the lower chromatic connector. In this case, it’s smart to use the upper chromatic connecting to land on the next note.

Also, make sure you are swinging the 8th notes in your right hand (don’t play them “straight”). Now that you have the right hand, let’s make it even more interesting and fun to play by adding some chords.

Jazz Piano Scale Practice: Turnaround Progression

If you want this exercise to be even more fun to play, you’ll want to add some chords in the left hand.  One of the best progressions to use is the Turnaround Progression, which is this sequence of chords: C Major 7, A Minor 7, D Minor 7, and G7. Here is a very simple way of playing it using chord shells:

Turnaround Progression left hand shells to practice scales for jazz piano

If you don’t know your chord shells in all 12 keys, I highly recommend our Chord Shell & Guide Tones course.

Now that you have your Turnaround Progression, you’ll want to add it to the Connecting Modes Exercise. Here are the first 8 measures:

Connecting Modes Exercise with left hand chords to practice scales for jazz piano

Now that you have the full exercise, you’ll want to gradually increase your speed. An excellent resource for this is the attached backing tracks, which you can download at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership.

For a deep dive on other scales you can use on the Turnaround Progression, plus tricks for improvising sweet jazz lines, checkout the Soloing Over the Turnaround courses (Beginner/Intermediate, Intermediate/Advanced) for the swing style. If you want to improvise over this progression in the Jazz Ballad or Cocktail Jazz style, checkout our Jazz Ballad Soloing Challenge.

I recommend that you get this exercise to 130BPM since that is the most common tempo for medium jazz swing tunes.

Putting It All Together

Once you have this up to tempo, you’ll want to practice improvising over the turnaround progression using the C Major Scale. You can use any notes from the C Scale over the left hand chords, and they will sound great! The key is to leave little gaps in-between your lines and explore the full range of your keyboard. Each time you improvise a jazz line, try starting on a different note from the C Scale. The more you practice the Connecting Modes Exercise, the more comfortable you will be improvising on any note of the C Scale.

Now, if you want to practice soloing over other chord progressions, here are a few of my top recommendations:

And if you want to hear how I use modes to solo, checkout my Fly Me to the Moon improvisation.

Thanks for learning with me, and see you in the next Quick Tip!

Your teacher,

Jonny May

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Sours: https://pianowithjonny.com/piano-lessons/how-to-practice-scales-for-jazz-piano/

Now discussing:

Jazz scales and improvisation

There is not a single group of scales that can be called jazz scales – a jazz pianist uses lots of different scales. But there are typical scales used in jazz as this overview shows. F, Bb, Eb and Ab are all common keys in jazz since they work well for brass instrument.

This guide will include Bebop Scales, Modal Scales and Jazz Minor scales.

Useful scales:

Bebop Scales – great for soloing or improvising in jazz.
Super Locrian Scales – common for modern jazz.
Nine Tone Scales – sometimes used for jazz improvising.

The Modal Scales

The Modal Scales (often referred to as just modes) were once discovered in Ancient Greece. In modern days the Modal Scales are frequently used in jazz improvisation. Dorian is often played over minor chords, Lydian is often played over major chords and Mixolydian is often played over dominant chords.

Here are the modal scales in the standard order:

In theory, these scales are more like keys or modus (‘interval’ in Latin), but we will use either “scales” or “modes” as terms. The Modal scales will probably be kind of complicated in the beginning, but the thing is: they are really just variations of Major scales starting on another degree (the Major Scale is the parent scale). Therefore, if you know the major scales you will have an easier job to memorize each of the modes.

If we take the C Major Scale and play it in the Dorian Mode, what happens is that the notes remain the same, but the starting point is altered. C - D - E - F - G - A - B change to D - E - F - G - A - B - C and become Dorian.

Here is a complete overview of the modus of C Major:

Ionian: The tonic is still C.
Dorian: The tonic change to D.
Phrygian: The tonic change to E.
Lydian: The tonic change to F.
Mixolydian: The tonic change to G.
Aeolian: The tonic change to A (this is identical with the A Minor Scale).
Locrian: The tonic change to B.

What is all this good for you may ask. Why don't stick to the regular Major scales? It is true that the notes are the same in modes as in Major scales, but not the note order and that makes a big difference. It is the changed order that gives them a unique sound quality that is caused by a different root note.

We can see the differences by comparing the interval formula of the Major Scale:

with the intervals in some of the modes …

  • (Dorian) 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7 – (Phrygian) 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7 – (Locrian) 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7

So how can we use the modes? As already said, the modes can become useful when you are playing a scale over a chord in an improvisation situation. Some modes (Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian) will sound good with Major or Dominant chords and some (Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian) will sound good with Minor chords. The exception is Locrian that is based on diminished intervals.

Jazz Minor Scales

The “Jazz Minor Scale” is a melodic minor scale, but without any change of notes when descending, see Melodic Minor.
Jazz minor scale in C
The Jazz Minor is often used as a replacement for other minor scales in jazz.

Backing tracks

It is also possible to improvise jazz piano by playing the common Major and Minor scales. Backing tracks for jazz presented by Pianoscales.org.

Jazz Scales backing tracks album cover
Track list

C Sweet and Soft

Gm Gypsy

All tracks are available for members. Become a member.


Sours: https://www.pianoscales.org/jazz.html

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