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Chuck Anderson’s Scale Building for Jazz

Chuck Anderson

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Help fine-tune your scale knowledge with Chuck Anderson’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Lesson Series

In the previous lesson, I talked about the importance of being able to spell chords for improvisation. It is equally important to be able to spell scales. 

In approaching scales, we don’t want to think of them as do, re, mi exercises. Each scale represents a stream of notes that can be used in your solos. These notes can be used in any order and with any rhythm. Embellishments are also freely used.

Chords and chord progressions lead us to scales. 

Here are the 16 most used scales in the jazz guitar style. Use the step patterns to calculate the scales in any key. 

The following sample scales all start on C.

Major = 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2   — C major = C D E F G A B C   ( aka C Ionian)

Natural Minor = 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2,  1, 1  — C Natural Minor = C D Eb F G Ab Bb C  (aka Aeolian)

Harmonic Minor = 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2, 1+1/2, 1/2  — C Harmonic Minor = C D Eb F G Ab B C 

Jazz Melodic Minor = 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1/2  — C Jazz Melodic Minor =  C D Eb F G A B C 

Minor Pentatonic = 1+1/2, 1, 1, 1+1/2, 1  — C Minor Pentatonic = C Eb F G Bb C (aka a type of Blues scale) 

Major Pentatonic = 1, 1, 1+1/2, 1, 1+1/2  — C Major Pentatonic = C D E G A C

Dorian = 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2, 1  — C Dorian = C D Eb F G A Bb C

Lydian = 1, 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2  — C Lydian = C D E F# G A B C

Locrian = 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1  — C Locrian = C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C

Super Locrian =  1/2, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1  — C Super Locrian =  C Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb C  (aka  altered dominant)

Mixolydian =  1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2, 1  — C Mixolydian = C D E F G A Bb C (aka Dominant)

Mixolydian +4  = 1, 1, 1, 1/2, 1,  1/2, 1  — C Mixolydian +4  =  C D E F# G A Bb C (aka Lydian Dominant)   

Mixolydian -2, -6 =  1/2, 1+1/2, 1/2, 1, 1/2, 1, 1  — C Mixolydian -2, -6 =  C Db E F G Ab Bb C   (aka Phrygian Major)                                                                            

Diminished = Alternate whole and half steps  — C Diminished = C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C

Inverted Diminished = Alternate half and whole steps   — C Inverted Diminished = C Db Eb E F# G A Bb C  (aka  altered dominant)

Whole Tone = All whole steps  — C Whole Tone = C D E F# G# A# C

Develop fingerings for these scales. Most importantly, learn their sounds and their effects. Next time, we’ll look into applications for these scales.

More lessons from Chuck Anderson.

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