Jazz Scales – Bebop

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Recently we have been looking at the Pentatonic and Blues scales. These are commonly used in improvising.

As touched upon last week, the development of the blues and ragtime helped shape Jazz which led to some other interesting scales which depart from the normal Western classical tradition of music.

The style of Bebop arose around the time of WW2 and has laid the foundation of modern jazz. It uses a basic diatonic scale but embellishes the melody with chromatic passing notes, very much like the introduction of the b5 of The Blues Scale when it is added to the Minor Pentatonic.

The basic scale of Bebop, and the most important, is the Bebop Dominant scale. Often just referred to as the Bebop Scale:

It is a Mixolydian scale with a chromatic passing note added between the b7 and the root. As you can see this turns the normal 7 note scale into our first 8 note scale! If the scale is started on a chord tone and on a downbeat, all the other chord tones fall on a downbeat too (as long as it’s played in order!).

It’s only a small change to the scale but it creates the ‘driving’ feel of Bebop melodies. Also, as we now have 8 notes in the scale and songs are generally played in 4/4 time, the scale perfectly fits the beats. The scale can be used over 7th chords and II-V-I progressions.

Other Bebop Scales:

This is basically a Major Scale with a chromatic passing note between the 5th and 6th. It is commonly used over Maj7 and 6th chords.

This is often called the Bebop Minor scale. This can be viewed as a Dorian scale with a chromatic passing note between the b3 and 4th. Interestingly it also has all the notes of both the Dorian AND Mixolydian!

Other chromatic passing notes can be added to the above scales, and we shall look at this and a few more Bebop Scales in the future! For now practice these and get them under your fingers!!

Experiment and have fun!!

-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist

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