Jazz Ukulele - Scales

Learning to play jazz on a ukulele. What are the scales need to explore this form of music?

What is a Jazz Scale?

uke_band_jazzThe term Jazz Scales is somewhat misleading. There are no scales that have exclusive use in jazz. However there are scales which are so commonly used in jazz as to make their study valuable to any jazz musician.

A scale is not really a “Jazz” or “Blues” or “Rock” scale. A scale is just a collection of notes.

Scale are typically where one starts when learning to improvise. They are the heart of improvisation. In fact, ALL music comes out of scales – chords and chords progressions can be traced back to and understood through scales.

Six Essential Scales

For rock, blues, country, and bluegrass you can get away with six (6) essential scales:

  • 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.

  • Dorian ( 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’ )
  • 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.

Recommended Books and Lessons

These Six Essential Scales are covered in the QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele books available in C, G and D tunings.

icon-PDF(38x49)Here is a ukulele lesson on the Six Essential Scales. The six essential scale are shown in their open position form in C and as a movable form.

Essential Scale for Exploring Jazz

Contemporary Scales

All scale examples are shown with a C root for comparision.

Modal Scales

  • 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’ )

Traditional Scales

  • 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’)

    Here is a FREE download of the Diminished scale using the QuickStart Series Scale Fingering format.

  • Whole Tone ( C D E F# G# A# C’ )

    Here is a FREE download of the Whole Tone scale using the QuickStart Series Scale Fingering format.

Alterted Scales

  • 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’ )

Suplemental Scales

  • 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.

Recommended Books

Several of these essential scales are covered in the QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele books available in C, G and D tunings.

The Blues Scale

The Blues scale is most associated with the musical style known as Blues. Since Blues was enormously influential in the development of jazz, it's a great place to start. The Blues scale, also known as the Minor Pentatonic, is a five note scale consisting of a root, b3rd, 4th, 5th, b7 and octave. In C, these notes would be C Eb F G Bb C’. Wes Montgomery once told Chuck Anderson that the Blues is responsible for the fire in jazz. 50% of Wes’ original songs used the Blues scale in the melody.

Here are a few great jazz guitarists to check out that would be consider to be influenced by the blues and very bluesy players.

Kenny Burrell

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BurrellKenny

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( from listing's site ) - The Detroit-born Kenny Burrell reigns as the dean of jazz guitarists. He's combined Charlie Christian's prebop fluency, Django Reinhardt's Old World touches, and the rhythmic drive of Nat King Cole's guitarist, Oscar Moore.

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John "Wes" Montgomery
( 3/6/1925 - 6/15/1968 )

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"The first time I worked with Wes was for a recording session at the Tsubo Club on San Francisco Bay. We played, just like we'd play in a club, with an audience, like crazy, with no other idea than to take off musically." - Johnny Griffin

Has to be considered one of the top three, if not top, jazz guitarists of this century. No guitarist that has come after Wes has not been influenced by him one way or the other.

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Content is always being added and updated. So check-in often. Thanks, Curt

Over 500+ lessons, 54 songs and TABS, 240+ archtop luthiers, 200+ ukulele builders, festival information, ukulele links on the web. On the web since the early 90's and growing everyday. This site just never stops growing!!!

[ UL0 ] (ukulele) SCALES.PHP | Updated: Friday, 11th April, 2014 @ 05:24pm • 23 Visitors On-line