Monthly Archives

February 2009

Jazz Theory, Scales And Modes

Jazz Theory: The Major Scale

February 23, 2009

In this lesson we will learn everything there is to know about the major scale and how you can use it in your improvisations. The major scale, sometimes called the Ionian mode, is the starting point for all music theory and is without doubt the most important scale you will ever learn. Every musician, no matter what style of music they play needs to know about the major scale and how the major scale is constructed. In this lesson we will take a look at the notes of the major scale, the chords of the major scale and then we will show you the notes of the major scale in every key.

The Notes Of The Major Scale

The major scale is made up of even notes and has the following intervals:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The major scale in the key of C has the following notes:

C D E F G A B

You can also write the intervals of the major scale like this:
Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone

All of the notes in the major scale have names and although not essential to know, they are useful and come up time and again when talking about jazz music theory. Take your time and learn the names of each note in the major scale.

1 – Tonic

2 – Supertonic

3 – Mediant

4 – Subdominant

5 – Dominant

6 – Submediant

7 – Leading tone

8 – Octave

If you play piano, then you will probably know that the C major scale is the only major scale to contain no sharp or flat notes and it is made up of all the white notes on the piano.

You need to get a good grasp of both the notes and the chords in the major scale because many times in music theory we refer to things in terms of the major scale. For example we might refer to the Lydian mode (which is another scale) as being like “a major scale with a raised fourth”. If you know the notes and chords of the major scale inside out, then chances are you will find learning other scales and modes much easier.

The major scale has a bright and happy sound to it and you will have heard it played countless times before. You should instantly recognize the sound of the major scale when you hear it.

As promised, here is a list of all the major scales.

C Major Scale: C D E F G A B
D Major Scale: D E F# G A B C#
E Major Scale: E F# G# A B C# D#
F Major Scale: F G A Bb C D E
G Major Scale: G A B C D E F#
A Major Scale: A B C# D E F# G#
B Major Scale: B C# D# E F# G# A#
C# Major Scale: C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
Eb Major Scale: Eb F G Ab Bb C D
F# Major Scale: F# G# A# B C# D# E#
Ab Major Scale: Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
Bb Major Scale: Bb C D Eb F G A

The Chords Of The Major Scale

As well as knowing the notes of the major scale, it is important that you learn the chords of the major scale as well. The chords of all major scales follow the same sequence and the sequence of chords is:

1 Major 7

2 Minor 7

3 Minor 7

4 Major 7

5 Dominant 7

6 Minor 7

7 Minor 7b5

By using the formula above, we can work out that the chords of the C major scale are:

C major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F major 7, G dominant 7, A minor 7, B minor 7b5

You can apply this formula to any scale. As an example, here are the chords of the G major scale:

G Major 7, A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D dominant 7, E minor 7, F# minor 7b5

Arpeggios Of The Major Scale

Because arpeggios are based off chords, it follows that the arpeggios of the major scale are the same as the chords of the major scale. Inside the C major scale for example you can find the following arpeggios:

C major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F major 7, G dominant 7, A minor 7, B minor 7b5

Using The Major Scale

The major scale, as the name implies, can be used to play over major chords. In particular you would use the major scale to play over major triad chords, major 7 chords, major 9 chords, major 11 chords and major 13 chords.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the major scale and find this lesson useful. Make sure you know the major scale inside out before you move on to more complicated scales because it is the most important scale in music.

Uncategorized

Jazz Blues Chord Progressions

February 21, 2009

Welcome to this lesson on jazz blues chord progressions. The blues form is often one of the first things we learn when we pick up an instrument and chances are you will have heard a standard blues progression played many times before. The blues is a very common structure in jazz and thousands of songs have been written around the blues form.

A jazz blues is similar to a regular blues progression but it uses more complex chord substitutions to create a more interesting harmony. One reason for the popularity of the blues structure is that it is easy to improvise over and has become a standard way for musicians to warm up at jam sessions. If you play in a jazz group for any length of time, then changes are you will be asked to play a blues at some stage.

Before you start to learn a jazz blues, you will need to get familiar with the sound and feel of the basic blues chord progression. The blues has a very unique sound and structure to it, repeating every 12 bars instead of the normal 16 you hear in most other songs. You may often hear people talk about playing a twelve bar blues and this is where the name comes from. The most basic of all blues progressions contains only three chords which are the I, IV and V chord and usually all three chords are dominant. The fact that all of the chords in a blues are dominant is very unusual in terms of music theory. The blues tends to be more about feeling than anything else. A typical blues chord progression is made up of 12 bars and would usually look something like this:

I | I | I | I

IV | IV | I | I

V | IV | I | I

The most obvious way to play over this standard blues progression would be to use the blues scale through the whole thing. If we translate the blues progression above into the key of F, we get the following basic blues sequence:

F7 | F7 | F7 | F7

Bb7 | Bb7 | F7 | F7

C7 | Bb7 | F7 | F7

Notice that all the chords in a standard blues progression are dominant seven chords. You could play the F blues scale through all of the chords in this blues sequence. You can play a blues sequence in any key, but the most popular key choices for jazz musicians tend to be F, Bb and Eb while rock blues progressions tend to be in the keys of E, A, G or D.

Jazz Blues Chord Progression

Jazz musicians quickly grew tired of just playing the blues scale over this progression and tried to find new ways to make the standard blues more interesting harmonically. The sequence below shows you how a jazz musician might adapt the standard blues sequence to make it more interesting harmonically:

F7 | B7 | F7 | F7

Bb7 | Bb7 | F7 | D7alt

Gm7 | C7 | F7 | C7

Notice the use of the ii – V in bar 9 and 10 and the use of the altered chord in bar 8. Now we have a jazz blues progression that is much more interesting harmonically and allows us to create more interesting melodic ideas when improvising.

You could add in a tritone substitution for this progression by replacing the D7 altered chord with an Ab7 chord which would give you the following chord progression:

F7 | B7 | F7 | F7

Bb7 | Bb7 | F7 | Ab7

Gm7 | C7 | F7 | C7

There are an almost unlimited array of things you can do with a jazz blue sequence, including tritone substitutions and more ii – V sequences. Jazz players during the bebop era took the jazz blues chord progression to the extreme and created ever more elaborate chord sequences. Here is a set of changes used by Charlie Parker in the tune Blues for Alice”.

Fmaj7 | Em7b5 A7b9 | Dm7G7 | Cm7 F7

Bb7 | Bm7 Eb7 | Am7 D7 | Abm7 Db7

Gm7 | C7 | Fmaj7 D7alt | Gm7 C7

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on jazz blues chord progressions. Every musician should take care to learn the blues sequence because you will come across it so often during your musical career. If you ever turn up to a jam session then understand the blues chord sequences is an essential skill. Good luck and enjoy playing these jazz blues sequences in different keys.

Chord Theory, Jazz Theory, Scales And Modes

Learn Jazz Theory

February 17, 2009

This lesson will help you think about jazz theory and help you find a way to organize your jazz theory practice time. When we start learning jazz music theory, it is easy to get bogged down with individual topics and lose track of where we are. Jazz theory can be a fun and interesting topic but you need to have a structured approach to learning jazz theory. I will try and outline the main topics you need to think about when you are learning jazz theory. We can break our practice time down into small sections and work on each section in turn. When learning anything, it really helps to have a plan of action by following the list below you will have a structured guide to learning jazz theory.

Although it can seem initially daunting, jazz theory is nothing more than information you can use to help you improvise and write music. You need to learn the basic information in order to play and improvise over a piece of music but you also need to develop your own musical personality. The more confident you become with jazz theory, the more natural and free your playing can become. In order truly become free as an improviser, you need to learn jazz theory inside out.

Below I have listed the main elements of jazz theory. Practice working through each section daily and you will soon be fluent in jazz theory.

Basic Jazz Theory

In order to be a competent improviser in jazz, you need to know all of the scales, chords and information below.

Major scale and it’s seven modes

The chords of the major scale

How chords are constructed

What scales to play over a dominant chord, major chord and minor chord.

Seventh chords

How to play over a 2 5 1 progression

The cycle of fourths

Advanced Jazz Theory

Once you have mastered the basics of jazz theory then you will also need to learn the following:

The melodic minor scale and it’s modes

The harmonic minor scale and it’s modes

Altered dominant chords

The chords of the melodic minor scale

The chords of the harmonic minor scale

The diminished scale

The whole tone scale

Suspended chords, slash chords and fourth chords

When practicing your jazz theory, break down a list of what you need to learn and work on each topic step by step. By having a structured plan of action, you will find learning jazz theory much easier.

Standards

Autumn Leaves Chord progression

February 8, 2009

Autumn Leaves is a classic jazz standard that everyone will come across at some point. This is one of the most popular jazz standards of all time and it is typically one of the first standards people learn to play. The song itself follows a simple 32 bar AB structure. The song features both a major and minor 2 5 1 progression and offers you a fairly gentle introduction into the world of jazz improvisation.

Let’s take a look at the autumn leaves chord progression.

A section (16 bars)

Cmin7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

Cmin7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

B section (16 bars)

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

Cmin7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | C9

Eb9 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

As you can see the tune can be divided up into two sections. The first eight bars of the A section are repeated making it easy to remember. The first four bars of the A section are a major 2 5 1 4 progression in the key of Bb and bars 5 to 8 are a minor 2 5 1 progression in Gm.

I will use this lesson to show you the easiest way to play over this chord progression, breaking each section down into the appropriate scale choice. Let’s start by taking a look at the first 4 bars of this song.

Cmin7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7

If you know your theory, you should spot that all of the chords in the first four bars are taken from the Bb major scale. In fact most of this tune is based on the Bb major scale.

The chords of the Bb major scale are:

Bbmaj7 Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 Am7b5

As you can see most of the chords in autumn leaves are taken from the Bb major scale and so we can use Bb major to improvise over a lot of this tune. We can improvise using the Bb major scale over all of the chords in the first four bars. Like I mentioned, this is the easiest way to play over the progression. You can think in terms of arpeggios or modes if you like but I find it easier to think of this as being just four bars of Bb major scale.

The next four bars are slightly trickier due to the presence of the D7b9 chord. The easiest way to play over this part of the song would be to use the G harmonic minor scale over the first two bars and then revert back to the Bb major scale for the bars 7 and 8. Playing the G harmonic minor scale over the D7b9 chord yields the D phrygian dominant mode which brings out the b9 sound nicely.

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

The only tricky part is the B section is the turnaround which looks like this:

Am7b5 | D7b9 | Gm7 | C9

Eb9 | D7b9 | Gm7 | Gm7

The only two chords that we have yet to cover are the C9 chord in bar 28 and the Eb9 chord in bar 29. The easiest way to play over a dominant 9 chord is to use either the mixolydian scale or the dominant 7 arpeggio. You can play C mixolydian over the C9 chord and Eb mixolydian over the Eb9 chord.

Once you have mastered playing over the autumn leaves chord progression using the simplest scale choices then you can start to experiment with chord tones and arpeggios to bring out the sound of the progression even more. I will expand on this idea more in a future lesson and look at more ways to play over the autumn leaves chord progression. Good luck and enjoy this great jazz standard.

Scales And Modes

The Jazz Melodic Minor Scale

February 8, 2009

Welcome to this lesson on the jazz melodic minor scale. Chances are if you have listened to a lot of jazz then you will have heard the melodic minor scale used quite often. The melodic minor scale is an essential scale for all jazz players to learn. In this lesson I will show you the notes of the melodic minor scale, the chords of the melodic minor scale and how you can use the melodic minor scale in your own playing. The most common use for the melodic minor scale is to play over minor major 7 chords. The more adventurous jazz player might also try playing it over minor 7 chords for added tension.

It is important to realize that the jazz melodic minor scale is different from the classical melodic minor scale. In classical music they used the melodic minor scale when ascending but they used the natural minor scale when descending. You do not need to do this when playing jazz and you can play the melodic minor scale regardless of whether you are ascending or descending.

Melodic Minor Scale Notes

Let’s get started by taking a look at the notes that make up the melodic minor scale. In the key of C, the notes of the melodic minor scale are:

C D Eb G A B

The melodic minor scale can be represented in intervallic form like this:

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7

We could also write out the intervals of the melodic minor scale like this:

tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – tone – semitone

As you can see, the melodic minor scale is basically a major scale with a minor third. There notes of particular interest in the melodic minor scale are the minor third, the sixth and the major seventh.

The melodic minor scale is used all the time in jazz, both in improvisation and in harmony. The melodic minor scale also has six other modes that are used quite often in jazz. The most important modes of the melodic minor scale from an improviser’s point of view are the fourth mode (the Lydian dominant scale) and the seventh mode (the altered scale). In this lesson we are going to concentrate on the melodic minor scale only and we will leave it’s modes for another lesson.

Melodic Minor Scale In All Keys

Here is a list of all the possible melodic minor scales in all keys.

C melodic minor scale

C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B – C

G melodic minor scale

G – A – Bb – C – D – E – F# – G

D melodic minor scale

D – E – F – G – A – B – C# – D

A melodic minor scale

A – B – C – D – E – F# – G# – A

E melodic minor scale

E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D# – E

B melodic minor scale

B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A# – B

F# melodic minor scale

F# – G# – A – B – C# – D# – F – F#

C# melodic minor scale

C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A# – C – C#

G# melodic minor scale

G# – A# – B – C# – D# – F – G – G#

Eb melodic minor scale

Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – C – D – Eb

Bb melodic minor scale

Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – A – Bb

F melodic minor scale

F – G – Ab – Bb – C – D – E – F

Melodic Minor Scale Chords

As well as knowing the notes of the melodic minor scale, you will also need to know the chords that make up the scale.

The chords of the melodic minor scale in the key of C are:

Cmin/maj7, D min 7, E major7#5, F7#11, G7, Am7b5, Bm7b5

As you can see, there are some pretty interesting chords present in the melodic minor scale and this makes it really useful for creating interesting chord progressions. The minor major seven chord, as the name implies, is a minor triad with a major seventh added.

The intervals of the minor major seven chord are:

1, b3, 5, 7

This minor major sound is really powerful and distinctive and really highlights the sound of the melodic minor scale.
Modes of the melodic minor scale

I won’t go into to much detail on the modes of the melodic minor scale in this lesson but here is a quick run down of the seven modes of the melodic minor scale and how they are used.

Melodic minor

This is the first mode of the melodic minor scale. The melodic minor scale is sometimes called the jazz minor scale. It has a strange jazz like minor sound and you can use it to play over min/major seven chords.

Dorian b2

The dorian b2 scale is the second mode of the melodic minor scale. Although rarely used it is worth taking the time to get to know this sound. You can use this scale to play over minor 7 chords, or susb9 chords.

Lydian #5

The third mode of the melodic minor scale is a great scale choice for playing over Maj7#5 chords. It has a dreamy augmented type of sound to it.

Lydian b7

The fourth mode of the melodic minor scale can be a really useful scale for playing over dominant 7b5 chords. The Lydian dominant mode has a very fusion sound to it.

Mixolydian b6

The fifth mode of the melodic minor is often seen as having an exotic sound. Try playing it over a dominant vamp to hear the sound.

Aeolian b5

The sixth mode of the melodic minor scale is the Aeolian b5 mode. The Aeolian b5 mode is a great alternative to the locrian mode and used to play over minor 7b5 chords

Superlocrian (Altered Scale)

The seventh mode of the melodic minor scale is sometimes called the altered scale. The final mode of the melodic minor scale has every alteration possible for a dominant chord. You can use the altered scale to play over any altered dominant chord for an outside jazz sound

I will cover the modes of the melodic minor scale in more depth in another lesson. For now try to learn the sound and shapes of the melodic minor scale and practice using them to improvise over a minor major seven chord vamp. The melodic minor scale has a really unique sound to it and it should be part of every jazz improviser’s arsenal.

You can learn more about guitar scales by checking out Jamplay which is a great way to learn scales on guitar.

Scales And Modes

The Harmonic Minor Scale

February 8, 2009

Welcome to this lesson on the harmonic minor scale and how you can use it in your own playing. The harmonic minor scale is an important scale in all kinds of music and like the major scale, it has seven unique modes. There are only two commonly used modes of the harmonic minor, the harmonic minor scale and the phrygian dominant scale. To me the harmonic minor scale has a very powerful and classical sound to it and that is probably due to the scales widespread use in classical music. The harmonic minor scale is used quite often in jazz and so it is definitely an important scale to learn.

If you grew up in the 80’s you will have heard the harmonic minor scale and phrygian dominant scale used to death by most of the spandex wearing guitar players who pioneered the neoclassical shred guitar sound.

Harmonic minor intervals

Let’s start by taking a look at the notes that make up the harmonic minor scale. The notes of the harmonic minor scale in the key or C are:

C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B

We can represent these notes using intervals like this:

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7

The harmonic minor scale is used over min/major seven chords and also to play over minor 2 5 1 progressions If we look at a minor 2 5 1 progression in the key of C, we can see that all of the chords belong to the C harmonic minor scale. This means that it is possible to play the harmonic minor scale over every chord of the minor 2 5 1 progression.

Minor 2 5 1 in C

Dm7b5 | G7b9 | Cmin/maj7 | Cmin/maj7

Here is a list of all 12 possible harmonic minor scales

C harmonic minor scale

C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – B – C

G harmonic minor scale

G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb – F# – G

D harmonic minor scale

D – E – F – G – A – Bb – C# – D

A harmonic minor scale

A – B – C – D – E – F – G# – A

E harmonic minor scale

E – F# – G – A – B – C – D# – E

B harmonic minor scale

B – C# – D – E – F# – G – A# – B

F# harmonic minor scale

F# – G# – A – B – C# – D – E# – F#

C# harmonic minor scale

C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A – B# – C#

G# harmonic minor scale

G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E – G (F##) – G#

Eb harmonic minor scale

Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb – D – Eb

Bb harmonic minor scale

Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – Gb – A – Bb

F harmonic minor scale

F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – E – F

Harmonic Minor Chords

As well as getting to know the notes of the harmonic minor scale, it is also important to learn the chords that make up the harmonic minor scale. Here are the chords of the harmonic minor scale.

I min/maj7, II m7b5, III maj7#5, IV min7, V7b9, VI maj7, VII dim

I have written out the chords for the C harmonic minor scale below.

Cmin/maj7, Dm7b5, Ebmaj7#5, F minor 7, G7b9, Abmaj7, B diminished

As you can see there are some really interesting chords in the harmonic minor scale and they are really useful for writing and composing music.

Harmonic minor modes

There are seven modes of the harmonic minor scale but only two of them are regularly used. I would suggest learning mode one (the harmonic minor) and mode five (the phrygian dominant scale) really well but I wouldn’t worry too much about the other modes. Some of the harmonic minor modes can be useful to get ideas and new sounds but you will find very little use for them in day to day playing. Here is a list of all seven modes of the harmonic minor. Some of these scales may have multiple names but I have chosen the ones I think are most descriptive.

1 Harmonic minor mode

The first mode of the harmonic minor scale is unsurprisingly the harmonic minor scale itself. This scale is used to play over minor 2 5 1 progressions and also over the dark sounding minor/major 7 chord.

The intervals of the harmonic minor mode are:

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7

2 Locrian Natural 6th

The second mode of the harmonic minor scale is the Locrian natural 6th. This scale is very rarely heard but can be used to play over minor 7b5 chords.

The intervals of the Locrian Natural 6th mode are:

1, b2, b3, 4, b5, 6, b7

3 Ionian #5 mode

The third mode of the harmonic minor scale is the Ionian #5 mode and it is used to play over the gorgeous sounding major 7#5 chord. I love the sound of this scale but you will find that it is very rarely used in traditional jazz music.

The intervals of the Ionian #5 mode are:

1, 2, 3, 4, #5, 6, 7

4 Dorian #4

The fourth mode of the harmonic minor scale is the dorian #4 mode. You will not hear this scale played very often.
The intervals of the Dorian #4 mode are:

1, 2, b3, #4, 5 ,6, b7

5 Phrygian dominant mode or Phrygian major mode

Out of all the modes of the harmonic minor, this is the one you will probably hear most often. It is a really great sounding scale for playing over the dominant 7b9 chord. This mode is also called the Phrygian major scale.
The intervals of the Phrygian dominant mode are:

1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7

6 Lydian #2

Mode six of the harmonic minor scale is the interesting sounding Lydian #2 mode. Again this mode is rarely used and you do not need to worry about it too much.
The intervals of the Lydian #2 mode are:

1, #2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7

7 Super Locrian Diminished (Locrian bb7)

The seventh and final mode of the harmonic minor scales is the super locrian diminished scale. You will not need to know much about this scale and it is very rarely used.

The intervals of the Super locrian diminished scale are:

1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, bb7

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the harmonic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale modes. Take your time to get to know the sounds of the harmonic minor scale because it is a really useful tool to learn and will greatly expand your musical vocabulary.

You can learn more about guitar scales by checking out Jamplay which is a great way to learn scales on guitar.

Chord Theory

Fourth Chords

February 8, 2009

Most chords you learn are constructed by stacking third intervals but as well as standard chords created by stacking thirds, you can also create chords by stacking fourth intervals. Fourth chords were first made popular in jazz by pianist McCoy Tyner, and in particular on the Miles Davis album So What.

Fourth chords are sometimes referred to as quartal voicings and are very common in modal jazz music. In this lesson, I will show you how to build chords using fourths and how you can use these interesting fourth chords in your own playing. Fourth chords are well suited to modal jazz music or in situations where you want to create a modern and open chord sound.

Building fourth chords

Lets take a look at how we create a quartal voicing by taking a look at the D Dorian scale. The notes of the D Dorian scale are:

D E F G A B C D

A normal minor seven chord could be created by stacking third intervals like this:

D F A C

To create a fourth chord we stack fourth intervals giving us the following chord voicing:

D G C F

You can carry on stacking fourth notes up the Dorian scale to create more chords based on fourths. If you listen to the sound of this fourth voicing, you will hear that quartal voicings have a very modern and open sound to them.

The example below shows the introduction to the Miles Davis classic So What. Notice the use of the fourth chord in this example. This particular fourth voicing is often referred to as the So What chord.

Fourth chords tend to be fairly ambiguous harmonically and could function as a variety of chords in different situations. It is best not to worry about the chord names too much when dealing with quartal harmony and think more in terms of using them to add a particular colour to your music.

You should definitely experiment with some quartal fourth voicings in your music.

Chord Theory

The Phrygian Susb9 Chord

February 8, 2009

This lesson will focus on a particular chord voicing that really brings out the sound of the Phrygian mode. The chord we will be looking at in this lesson is the susb9 chord.

The susb9 chord has a dark and mysterious sound to it and can sound really beautiful when played in the right context. Although it is not a sound you will hear too often, it is a sound you should definitely get to know at some stage.

The notes of the susb9 chord are:

1 4 6 b7 b9

You can voice the susb9 chord in different ways and you might need to alter the voicing to suit your instrument. Piano and guitar players will probably want to use different voicings for the susb9 chord.

The main function of the subb9 chord is to bring out the sound of the Phrygian mode, but it can also be used as an interesting and unusual chord substitution.

You can add the fifth to the chord, but I would tend to leave it out. Other voicings for the susb9 chord are:

1-b9-4-5-b7

1 4 5 6 b7 b9

I love the sound of the susb9 chord, and I hope you find a place for it in your own music.

Bitnami