Improvisation is more than scales
Most people think, to learn improvisation you really need to master you scales. That's true - but it's just a starting point. Granted scales are a big part of what you draw from for improvisation. There's also intervals, arpeggios and sequences and how you use and apply them.
Essential Jazz Scales?
A scale is not really “Jazz” or “Blues” or “Rock”. A scale is just a collection of notes. It is how a scale or theses collection of notes are used. Some are more common in one style vs. another.
In Jazz we can base all the scales that we will ever need off the Major (Ionian) and Natural Minor (Aeolian) scales. From theses two scales you can create or derive the any other scales you need for playing jazz.
Here are the Major and Natural Minor scale shapes to memorize from the scales page.
These two scales are core, key and/or references scales. Whatever you call them they are very important.
Essential Scale for Exploring Jazz
- Blues or Minor Pentatonic* ( C, Eb, F, G, Bb, C’ )
My QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, the Blues Scale book is available as a FREE download.
- Pentatonic or Major Pentatonic ( C D E G A C’
And the QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, the Pentatonic Scale books is available as a FREE download.
All scale examples are shown with a C root for comparision.
- Ionian ( C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C’ )
the Major scale is one of the first scale a lot of musicians learn. Especially on the piano where C major is the white keys only.
- Dorian ( C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C’ )
- Phrygian ( C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Lydian ( C, D, E, F#, G, A, B, C’ )
- Mixolydian or Dominant ( C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C’ )
- Aeolian or Natural Minor ( C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Locrian ( C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Major ( C D E F G A B C’ )
- Natural Minor ( C D Eb F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Harmonic Minor ( C D Eb F G Ab B C’ )
- Jazz Melodic Minor ( C D Eb F G A B C’ )
- Diminished ( C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C’)
- Whole Tone ( C D E F# G# A# C’ )
- Mixolydian +4 or Lydian Dominant ( C D E F# G A Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -2, -6 ( C Db E F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -2 ( C Db E F G A Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -6 ( C D E F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Inverted Diminished ( C Db D# E F# G A Bb C’ )
- Super Locrian ( C Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb C’ )
* There is some overlap with these essential scale, with some just alternate names for the same set of notes.
DERIVED SCALES - From these essential jazz scales other scales can be drived for use in the jazz idiom.
The Blues - a progression, a scale, a felling. The blues is at the heart of all American music. IT's found it's way into rock, country, folk. R&B and Jazz. It's a great vehicle to explore jazz.
The Mixolydian Scale and the Blues
The Mixolydian scale, sometimes called the Dominant scale is a great place to start when learning to soloing in more advanced jazz styles. This is a great “bridge” scale widely used in the blues, rock, and R&B styles. It's a great scale to get your feet wet with when exploring jazz.
The Mixolydian scale is created by lowering the seventh scale degree of a major scale one half step. This gives the Mixolydian scale a formula of (1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 8).
The Blues is the most common song form in music and can easily “jazzed” up with 4-part chords.
In Jazz we can base a lot of the scales that we'll ever need from the Major (Ionion) and Natural Minor (Aeolian) scales. From theses two scales you can create the essential scales you need in jazz styles.
Here is a basic blues progression using seventh chords and a sample solo using the mixolydian scale over each chord.
The chords are C7, F7 and G7. The C, F and G Mixolydian scales will be used.