12 Major Scales

Scales provide the basis for understanding harmony. Learning and memorising the 12 major scales is the first step in learning jazz piano.

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Minor Scales for Jazz Piano

There are three types of minor scale: the natural minor, the harmonic minor, and the melodic minor and each one has a different use and application in jazz.

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Half Whole Diminished Scale

The half-whole diminished scale is an 8 note symmetrical scale that’s used for improv. The scale alternates half and whole steps until the scale starts again.

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Modes of Major Scale

This lesson is an introduction to major modes, explaining what they are and where they come from. These 7 modes play a fundamental role in improvisation.

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Chord Scale Theory

Chord scale theory defines the relationship between chords and scales. Chords are vertical arrangements of notes whilst scales are horizontal.

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The Melodic Minor Modes

The melodic minor scale is an exotic sounding scale. Furthermore, the modes of the melodic minor are used extensively in modern jazz improvisation.

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Choosing Chord Scales

Before attempting to improvise over a jazz standard or lead sheet, it’s a good idea to identify which chord scales will work over the chords in the progression.

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The Altered Jazz Scale

The altered mode gives you access to the altered tensions of a dominant chord. In fact, the altered scale contains every possible altered chord tone.

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Pentatonic Improvisation

We will explore the pentatonic scale from a jazz improvisation standpoint applying the scale to number of different chord types and common progressions.

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Major Blues Scale: “Georgia”

Using the tune “Georgia” – we will also explore the concept of the major blues scale and how to apply this to major 251 progressions.

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What Is A Jazz Scale?

A jazz scale is a series of notes that can be used when playing jazz. There are many different types of scales that can be used for jazz improvisation. Some jazz scales are from Western European Classical music including the diatonic major and minor scales, the diminished scales and the whole tone scales. There are also many other types of scales used in jazz such as the pentatonic and blues scales, bebob scales and other modal scales.

Jazz Piano Scales For Beginners

If you are just starting out with jazz piano scale study, the first step is to learn the 12 major scales. Many of the interesting and exotic sounding modes can be derived from the major scale and so spending adequate time to memorise them will give you strong foundations for further scale study. Whilst there is only 1 type of major scale, there are 3 types of minor scale: the natural minor scale, the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.

It's important that you understand how to construct each minor scale and also understand the uses and application in jazz piano. The natural minor scale is simply the major scale played from the 6th to the 6th degree. Eg. just start the C Major Scale on the 6th note and you will be playing the A Natural Minor Scale.

The Melodic Minor Scale is used to create more interesting melodic possibilities when playing in minor keys. The modes of the melodic minor scale can also be substituted into major harmony to access more exotic sounding extensions and alterations. The Melodic minor scale is only one note different to the major scale... simply flatten the 3rd of the major scale. Understanding this relationship will help you visualise the melodic minor scale.

The Harmonic Minor Scale is used to create more interesting harmonic possibilities in minor keys. When we construct a minor 251 progression, the V chord is always built from the Harmonic Minor Scale. This ensures that the V chord is dominant in quality which creates a strong and convincing sense of resolution to the I chord.

In addition to the lessons on the major and minor scales, you can also download PDFs containing the scales in all 12 keys. Firstly download the major scale in all 12 keys PDF. By all means, use the notation to speed up the learning process but try to commit these scales to your memory as soon as possible. Also ensure that you learn the scales numerically as this will help you greatly with further scale study. An additional PDF can be downloaded which contains the 3 types of minor scale.

Jazz Piano Scales For Improvisation

Scales and modes are used extensively in jazz for improvisation and melodic development. Try not to look at scales as a linear set of notes as this can result in aimlessly running up and down the scale which is not very musical or creative. Instead, scales offer you an 'available set of notes' that you can play over a chord. The relationship between chords and scales is called chord scale theory.

Chord Scale Theory

Every chord implies a scale, or in many cases multiple scales. This relationship is called 'Chord Scale Theory'. As a jazz musician, you have the creative freedom to choose and select chord scales based on the type of sound you want to produce.

The Modes Of The Major Scale

The Modes Of The Melodic Minor Scale

Blues & Pentatonic Scales

Symmetrical Jazz Piano Scales

Jazz Piano Scales Exercises

Jazz Piano Scales PDFs

Jazz Piano Scale Charts