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Encyclopedia > Jazz scales

One important aspect of jazz is its use of many complementary scales and the modification of these scales by the introduction of blue notes. In addition to the scales of Western European classical music, diminished, pentatonic and altered scales are very important. Jazz is an original American musical art form originating around the early 1920s in New Orleans, rooted in Western music technique and theory, and is marked by the profound cultural contributions of African Americans. ... In music, a scale is an unordered collection of notes or pitches, as opposed to a series of intervals, which is a musical mode. ... In jazz and blues notes added to the major scale for expressive quality, loosely defined by musicians to be an alteration to a scale or chord that makes it sound like the blues. ... Classical music is a broad, somewhat imprecise term, referring to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, European art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly 1000 to the present day. ... Diminution, from Italian diminuimento, is a musical term used to mean different things in the context of melodies and intervals or chords. ... In music, a pentatonic scale is a scale with five notes per octave. ... In music, an altered scale is a scale in which all of the notes of the scale except the tonic have been flattened (lowered in pitch) by an interval of a half step from a major scale. ...


Two pentatonic scales common to jazz are the major pentatonic scale and the minor pentatonic scale.


The major pentatonic scale begins with a major scale and omits the fourth and the seventh scale degrees: a C major scale is {C, D, E, F, G, A, B}, so a C major pentatonic scale would be {C, D, E, G, A}: C major pentatonic scale In music theory, the major scale (or major mode) is one of the diatonic scales. ... In music or music theory a scale degree is an individual note of a scale, both its pitch and its diatonic function. ... Download high resolution version (952x74, 2 KB)C major pentatonic scale. ...


The minor pentatonic scale uses the same notes as the major pentatonic scale, but begins on the sixth scale degree of the corresponding major scale. Continuing the example above, A is the sixth scale degree of C major, so the A minor pentatonic scale would be {A, C, D, E, G}: A minor pentatonic scale Download high resolution version (952x82, 2 KB)A minor pentatonic scale. ...


The nomenclature, "minor pentatonic scale," minor is employed in the sense of relative key, as the diatonic A minor scale is the relative minor of the diatonic C major scale. A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ... In music, the relative minor of a particular major key (or the relative major of a minor key) is the key which has the same key signature but a different tonic, as opposed to parallel minor or major, respectively. ...


The minor pentatonic scale with a flattened fifth followed by the fifth is sometimes called the blues scale, on A {A, C, D, Eb, E, G}: Pentatonic blues scale on A Download high resolution version (948x81, 2 KB)Pentatonic blues scale on A. Created by Hyacinth using Sibelius and Paint. ...


The number of scales available to improvising musicians continues to expand. As modern techniques and musical constructions appear, jazz players find the ones they can put into compositions or use as material for melodic exploration. Prominent examples are the seven modes and added-note scales.

 Ionian mode= C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C Dorian mode= C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C Phrygian mode= C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C Lydian mode= C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C Mixolydian mode=C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C Aeolian mode= C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C Locrian mode= C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-C 

Compare each of the modes to the major scale for clues as to the subtle differences between them. Ionian is based on the 1st degree of the major scale, Dorian on the 2nd, Phrygian on the 3rd, etc.


Combinations of the characteristic details of these modes are also in common use. For example, the Lydian Dominant uses the raised 4th degree of the Lydian with the Flatted seventh of the Mixolydian, yielding C-D-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C. Chromatic alterations are also useful, as in the Altered Lydian scale, C-D-E-F#-G#-A-B-C for use on the chord Cmaj7+5.


Another type of scale uses an added note to create an 8-tone scale. This construction yields a melodic pattern that fits two groups of four 1/8 notes each into a 4/4 measure, making the characteristic swing rhythm of jazz improv very evident.


An example is the C jazz or be-bop major scale C-D-E-F-G-G#-A-B-C ascending or C-B-A-Ab-G-F-E-D-C- descending. Use the flatted 3rd, Eb, and get the jazz or bebop minor.


The harmonic minor scale is also of great value to the improvisor, as it provides an alternative color for many common chords and chord progressions. An example is C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C.


This scale can be used on the chords of a song in C minor, or in a song in C major, where the resolution at the end of a series of chords returns to the major.


Blues scales also come in major and minor varieties. The C major blues scale is C-D-D#-E-G-G#-A-C ascending or C-A-Ab-G-E-Eb-D-C descending.


The C minor blues scale is C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb-B-C ascending or C-B-Bb-G-Gb-F-Eb-C descending. The differences in the up and down versions are only one of musical spelling, e.i. Gb vs F#.


The variations in definitions and use of scales for jazz improv are as numerous and personal as the musicians. The interest lies in seeing the various approaches and trying them out. Look for more information in any music store or online catalog. Every improvisor with a bent for teaching or communicating has some materials with their own perspective at the fore, myself included. See Aebersold, Liebman, Mark Levine, Arnie Berle, or do a web search on jazz theory.


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Jazz scales (222 words)
The major pentatonic scale begins with a major scale and omits the fourth and the seventh scale degrees: a C major scale is {C, D, E, F, G, A, B}, so a C major pentatonic scale would be {C, D, E, G, A}.
The minor pentatonic scale could more accurately be called a mode, as it comprises the same notes as the major pentatonic scale, but begins on the sixth scale degree of the corresponding major scale.
The nomenclature, "minor pentatonic scale," is confusing, since this scale is actually constructed from a major scale; the term minor is employed in the sense of relative minor[?].
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