What jazz scales you use over a chord tells you something about the sound of what you play in terms of extensions and alterations. In this video I am demonstrating the sound of 7 scales that you can put to use over a Cmaj7 type chord. Ranging from the good old major scale to a few atonal and more exotic scale choices. A big chunk of what is available in Jazz Theory I guess 🙂
For each scale I also give some suggestions for what arpeggios or pentatonic scales might be useful for that sound.
List of content: 0:08 Intro 1:32 Major Scale Improvisation 1:53 Major Scale, extensions and arpeggios 3:28 Lydian Improvisation 4:04 Lydian Scale, Target notes, extensions, pentatonic scales 5:18 Lydian #9 Improvisation 5:38 Lydian #9, sound, chord construction, arpeggios and triad pairs 7:55 Lydian Augmented Improvisation 8:24 Lydian Augmented Scale, Special Pentatonic, Cmaj7#5 and arpeggios 10:55 Don’t Study modes Rant! 12:18 Augmented Scale Solo 12:43 Augmented Scale, construction and Triad sets 15:53 Messiaen Mode Improvisation 16:26 Messiaen Mode: Construction, arpeggios, Minor Fragments 21:56 Lydian Augmented #9 22:38 How to find scales for a chord? 23:29 Lydian Augmented #9 – Arpeggios, triad pairs and ideas 25:48 Practicing using these scales – Target or Defining notes of the sound 27:27 Did I leave out any Scale options?
When playing over a progression like the Bb jazz blues you need to be aware of certain things and be able to play different things so that you have the material you need to really improvise following the harmony of the blues: The Chords, the Scales and the Arpeggios. I have also added a transcription of a chorus of me soloing over the blues as an example of using the material covered.
In this lesson I have made 4 choruses of exercises: The chords, the scales that go with the chords. The arpeggios that are the melodic version of the chords and finally a solo chorus which demonstrates how you might use the other exercises when playing over the Bb blues.
To keep it simple I have kept all exercises in one position so that if you go through the exercises you should begin to have a tool set to improvise over the Bb blues in that position.
The chord voicings
To improvise over a song you probably need to be able to play the chords so you can hear the harony and how it moves. In the following example I have written out a set of voicings to play the Bb Blues.
You’ll notice that I in general don’t write out which extensions I use, so I write out the basic type of chord and if whoever is playing a chord he can fill in extensions to his own taste. This is common practice in Jazz in general.
In the 2nd example I added a scale to each chord. The way I am playing the scales is that I start on the root and run up to the 7th, this gives you a bit of time to switch to the next chord. This way of applying scales to a progression is the same as you’ll find in Barry Harris exercises. It is a nice way to add the scale in a musical way so that you hear how they spell out the harmony.
The Bb7,Eb7,Cm7 and F7 are easily understood in terms of where they sit in the key, since it is all mixolydian or dorian.
The E dim scale is in fact an F harmonic minor from E to E. You can see how I arrive by this by looking at it from the Bb7 scale:
Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb
If I need to fit an E dim in there then an easy way to do that is to replace the D with a Db and the Eb with an E:
Bb C Db E F G Ab Bb which you can write out from F to recognize that it as an F harmonic minor scale.
For the G7(b9) you need to look at it as a dominant resolving to Cm, which tells us that we should use a Cm scale for it. In this context the (actually in most contexts) that means using the C harmonic minor scale. You can use this approach to determine what scale you should use for any auxiliary dominant.
When playing over changing harmony the best way to really follow the chords is of course to use the notes of the chords in your solo. Therefore it is very important to be able to play the chords of the progression as arpeggios. In example 3 I have written out the arpeggios in this position.
To make it easier to connect the different arpeggios I have written them out in a similar range which means that I don’t always start on the root of each chord.
You should practice the arpeggios like I’ve written them out, but you would get a lot from also improvising over the progression just using the arpeggios.
When you solo over the progression the target notes you choose to make lines that clearly reflects the harmony.
As an example of how you can use the material I have written out a short improvised solo on a Bb blues.
I hope you can use the exercises and the materials to get started improvising over a Jazz Blues progression. You can check out some of my other lessons on Blues, arpeggios and target notes for more ideas.
Take You Jazz Blues Skills Further
Do you wan to see how this information can be put to use and look at how you can expand on it as well? Then You can also check out my Bb blues solo lesson with a 4 chorus transcription + lesson:
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This lesson will try to give you a strategy and a way to make exercises that should give you more freedom to move freely over the neck of the guitar when you improvise. How long the road to achieve that is depends on how far you are with knowing the notes of the neck, the scales or the chords.
What you need to know in advance
So since I can’t start completely from scratch and I chose to focus more on how you connect the positions and get more of an overview of what notes and arpeggios are found in each one of them there are a few things that you need to know first that I won’t spend too much time on.
The neck covered in major, harmonic minor and melodic minor: fingering positions. That can be caged or 3 notes per string or strict positions. This is a physical or visual way to approach the scales.
Know the notes of the scales and the diatonic chords: So you need to know each note in each fingering and you need to know that in all keys, you also need to know what chords there are on what degree of the scale. Here are a few ways to check and/or get this better:
Try to play the scale on each string. So you need to know for each string what are the notes of this scale on that string and you need to know what the notes are and where they are found on that string.
Try to play diatonic arps in one position one for each string.
Try to play triads on a set of strings. This exercise is letting you practice the notes at one of the frets and also what arpeggios are found in the scale for each one of these notes. It is also a welcome change from just playing all the diatonic arpeggios.
Another good exercise that helps getting an overview of the arpeggios and the notes in the scale and in the different positions is to play triads (or any other arpeggio type) on one set of strings up the neck.
Make sure to do this exercise in a tempo where you can see each arpeggio in one of the scale fingerings you have so that you can add up the visual information of the triad and the scale. Seeing shapes within the scale positions is a very useful thing!
If you would like me to make more lessons on some of the above subjects you should let me know!
If you want to improvise then it can be very useful to practice open ended exercises, so exercises that use things you already know but you need to fit them in on the spot and make choices while playing.
Practicing scales and scale exercises from the lowest to the highest note of the instrument like this can be such an exercise if you try not to learn a certain pattern by heart.
You’ll notice I don’t play ascending and descending the same. To me it is important to keep pushing yourself to find new ways to move in the scale, so I deliberately try to avoid this. At the same time you can probably also see that I am moving from one position to the next along the way using different bits of the position before moving on. That tends to be the most effecient way to play like this.
Here’s a how I’d suggest you approach this: Practice all keys, each key from the lowest to the highest note on the neck. For each key do another scale exercise, 3rds, diatonic triads 7th chords, shell voicings etc etc. Keep you brain and ear working while playing don’t just run up and down the scale. Make sure to change the other exercise (3rds, arps etc) for each scale so that you don’t just repeat the same exercise. The thing that you practice is to have the overview of the neck not only the arpeggios and the key.
Here’s an example of how you might play the Bb major scale in 3rds
One way I often extend these exercises is to practice the scales or arps through a progression so a Coltrane cycle or a II Valt I progression. This will help you get even closer to the point where you improvise across the neck.
The main idea here is to take something you’re improvising on and force yourself to move around, essentially it can be anything, a chord, a turnaround or a whole song.
In the beginning you might have to start out rubato or keeping it very simple, just to get used to it, but as you progress you should be able to play quite fluently in time while improvising and moving position in the phrases and in between while still sounding coherent.
Exercise 1: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Bbmaj7 chord. You’ll probably find out if you have spots that you don’t know well enough and you are practicing trying to make melodies that are making sense and are in several positions.
Exercise 2: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Gmaj7, E7alt Am7 D7alt turnaround. This is the same as exercise 1, only now you also have to know some melodic minor scales and another chord sound in the key (in this case the 2nd degree, Am7)
I have spend quite a lot of time on especially exercise 2 since it also is a good way to come up with new melodies for me. Once I started working on it like this is was very fast getting a lot easier to play in most positions on any progression and still make sense.
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I’ve had a few questions about what options there were for scales and sounds on dominant 7th chords so I decided to make a lesson demonstrating a few of the common ones and talking a bit about what I think characterizes them and how I approach improvising with them.
I set out to just make a few short examples, but in the end I talk a bit about how I use the scales and about the lines so the video became a bit long. In the end I thought the information was useful so I left it in there.
As I mention in the video I often uses the chords when learning scales so if I want to learn to improvize with a certain scale at some point in a progression or song then I find a chord that really sounds like that scale and play that in the context of the song to hear how it sounds.
Mixolydian or F7 from Bbmajor
In this example I am “just” using the Bb Major scale. It seems logical as a starting point and as a reference. I did try to make a melody on the F7 that was at least not cliché. I do that by using Drop2 or Open voiced triads, something that might be a subject for a later lesson too as they are a very good way to incorporate larger intervals in lines without sounding too fragmented.
Mixolydian b9b13, F7 from Bb Harmonic Minor
In this example we borrowed the dominant of Bb minor in the cadence. It works well with a lot of different chord types to borrow an equivalent from the minor scale. Mixolydian b9b13 is also more or less the first choice for a scale on an F7 that resolves to a minor chord, so for that it is important to know it. I chose the F7(b9) chord as an example because it has a 5th and a b9 which in context gives paints the F7 from Bb harmonic minor sound (to me anyway). Part of the line on the F7 is based on the A diminished arpeggio which is also diatonic to Bb Harm min. and is a good arpeggio to check out when using that scale.
The Altered Scale
Playing F# melodic minor is on an F7 chord is mostly described as the F7 altered scale. The melodic minor scale has a strong augmented sound in it and the scale also sounds a bit like the whole tone scale as I demonstrate in the video. Making lines on F7altered I find it a good starting point to use the fact that F# melodic minor also contains the B7 which is the tri-tone substitute of F7. As an example I use the B7 and F#m triad arpeggios in the line. If it is difficult to hear the F7 altered then it can be good to really just play/think B7#11 and resolve that to Bbmaj7 to get used to the sound.
The Diminished scale
The diminished scale is another good scale to apply to dominants. It is to me charactereized by the fact that it has alterations on the 9(which to me sounds minor), but has a natural 13 (which sounds like major), which is why it has some things sounding like minor and some like major. This mix of minor and major extensions makes it a bit difficult to use in some situations.
One important aspect of the diminished scale is that it is symmetrical, so everything can be transposed in minor 3rds and still be in the same scale. This is handy in terms of guitar technique because it is easy to move a phrase like that on the guitar, but often the phrases you get when you make melodies like that are very predictable and (to me) not very beautiful.
The way I mostly approach making melodies with the dimninished scale is to mix up the triads that it contains, for the F7(13b9) chord there are 4 major triads contained in the scale: F Ab B and D, so I mix those up to make lines, of course there are many other ways to make lines, this just happens to be what I mostly do (right now anyway).
The Whole tone scale
The Whole tone scale was until now a bit of a special effects scale to me. But as has happened before, when I make a lesson on something I get to rediscover shings. In a way the Whole tone scale is the opposite of the diminished scale because it has a natural 9 and altered 5th or 13. Since it is a scale consisiting only of Whole steps there are not that many options for chords, everything is augmennted triads and dominants, so that is what you have to work with when making lines.
As I also mention in the video I sometimes use the wholetone scale as an effect in situations where the chord contains an augemented triad, in a way letting the triad decide what Whole tone scale to use even if that does not fit with the rest of the chord. As an example a AmMaj7 where the chord contains the Triad C E G# so you could play C D E F# G# Bb on it, a similar trick could Work on a D7(9#11)).
I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.