lesson will show you some of the most commonly used jazz guitar scales,
although keep in mind you shouldn't necessarily be limited to using
scales. Jazz is an experimental genre and guitarists are constantly
exploring new scales (and modifying old ones) for improvisation.
Each scale below is
shown in its first position box pattern, but you can learn how to
"unbox" these scales in their individual lessons. I'll also note the
associated chord type for each scale so you have some idea of when to
Remember, learning scales
is just one part of jazz
guitar, but it is a crucial part, as a lot of
your playing time will be spent on lead improvisation. For now, just
get to know the basic interval structure and flavour of these scales.
Each one offers its own unique sound...
modal jazz guitar scales
are your standard improvisation scales over major, minor and diminished
In the diagrams below, take a look at how the intervals/tones
correspond with those in the associated chord. For example, Lydian is
suited to maj7#11 chords because of it's #4 tone (4 is technically the
same as 11 in music theory).
7th chords (e.g. C Major over Cmaj7)
Characterised by the major 7th (7) added to the major triad (1, 3, 5).
7th (Sharp 11th) chords (e.g. C Lydian over Cmaj7#11)
The #4 (#11) gives Lydian its distinctive flavour over major 7th chords
(1, 3, 5, 7).
7th chords (e.g. C Mixolydian over C7)
The basic dominant scale (1, 3, 5, b7).
7th / Minor 6th chords (e.g. C Dorian over Cm7 / Cm6)
Characterised by its major 6th (6) over minor 7th chords (1, b3, 5, b7)
Half Diminished chords (e.g. C Locrian over Cm7b5)
as well as functioning as individual scales, modes also work over chord
sequences. To fully understand this concept (in fact, a lot of jazz
requires a good deal of prerequisite theory) you need to understand the
chord scale and how it
connects with the 7
modes of the major scale.
example, Dorian is associated with the ii (2) chord (because it's the
2nd mode) and will therefore work over the ii V I (2 5 1) turnaround
common in jazz.
minor jazz guitar scales
melodic minor scale also has its own modal system, producing 7 of its
own modes/scales, each one rooted on a degree of the scale. These
derived scales have qualities that are well suited to those tense,
altered jazz chords.
Notice how the names of some of these scales refer
to modes of the major scale (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian) but with slight
alterations (e.g. Dorian b2) that make significant differences to the
scale's overal sound...
Minor Major 7th / Minor 6th chords (e.g. C Melodic Minor over CmM7 /
over: Suspended 4th, Flat 9th chords (e.g. C Dorian b2
The Dorian mode with an altered flat 2nd. Generally used as an
alternative to Phrygian minor.
over: Major 7th, Augmented 5th chords (e.g. C Lydian
Augmented over Cmaj7#5)
over: Dominant 7th, Sharp 11th chords (e.g. C Lydian
Dominant over C7#11)
over: Dominant 7th, Flat 13th chords (e.g. C Mixolydian b6
Remember the 13th is the same as the 6th, so we're looking for a flat
6th (b6) over flat 13th chords...
over: Half Diminished chords (e.g. C Half Diminished over
only difference between this scale and the other natural half
diminished scale - Locrian - is the major 2nd instead of the minor 2nd.
over: Dominant 7th, Sharp 9th, Flat 13th chords (e.g. C
Altered over C7#9b13)
jazz guitar scales
and jazz are connected both stylistically and in their application of
harmony. Adding the flat 5th (b5) to minor pentatonic gives us what is
often called the "blues scale"...
in blues, this flat 5th scale is typically used over minor key
progressions over the minor tonic chord position (e.g. If the
progression was Em / Am / B7, the E blues scale might be used).
can also add an extra tone to major pentatonic to give it more
jazzy/bluesy flavour. Essentially, we're adding a chromatic minor 3rd
pentatonic. In the context of a major key progression (e.g. I IV V),
the minor 3rd will often resolve quickly down to the 2nd or up to the
In jazz, combinations of major and minor pentatonic blues scales will
be used in the same lead passages.
jazz guitar scales
scales add chromatic "passing tones" to standard 7
note scales. You'll also often hear the bass following these
chromatic passages. Passing tones should be glanced over rather than
emphasised/held. See them as the path between the starting and
destination notes of a phrase.
Holding the major 3rd over a minor chord, for example, will sound
dissonant, but if you pass over it quickly, as part of a larger phrase,
it'll fall into context. This chromatic
phrasing is a large part of
jazz's distinctive sound.
over: Major 7th chords
Ionian with an added flat 5th.
over: Dominant 7th
Mixolydian with an added major 7th.
over: Minor 6th chords Dorian with an added major 3rd.
Remember, this is a minor
scale used in a minor context, so don't dwell on the major 3rd. Use it
as a passing tone...
Tone jazz guitar scale
whole tone scale is so-called because it consists entirely of whole
step intervals. It's used to colour augmented 7th chords (e.g. Caug7 /
jazz guitar scale
is an eight note (octatonic) scale that works over diminished 7th (e.g.
Cdim7) chords. It's characterised by its repetitive interval pattern (W
H W H W H W H)...
I hope you found this lesson useful! For a more comprehensive guide to
jazz guitar, I highly recommend JamPlay's jazz
series. They take you through all the important techniques
and theory with HD video and several pro tutors.
this lesson helpful? Please let others know, cheers...