>Step by step

Con­struct­ing jazz scales

Computer Music - - Easy Guide -

1 To re-ex­am­ine what a scale ac­tu­ally is, here’s our usual jump­ing-off point: the C ma­jor scale. It’s a se­quence of seven notes from C to B, played con­sec­u­tively on the white keys of the pi­ano key­board. The pat­tern of in­ter­vals be­tween th­ese notes is T-T-S-T-T-T-S, where T stands for tone and S stands for semi­tone.

2 It’s this unique pat­tern that makes this scale a ma­jor scale, but this is just one of many dif­fer­ent types of scale, each de­fined by its own in­ter­val­lic pat­tern. Here’s a small se­lec­tion of some other scales that use dif­fer­ent in­ter­val­lic pat­terns, and as such are al­most guar­an­teed to work over spe­cific chord types used in jazz.

3 When choos­ing what notes to play over a par­tic­u­lar type of chord – such as mi­nor 7th or dom­i­nant 7th, for ex­am­ple – there’s a sim­ple rule of thumb that you can use that guar­an­tees suc­cess al­most ev­ery time. Let’s look first at a re­ally com­mon jazz chord, the mi­nor 7th. Here’s

Eb, Cm7, built from the root, C, mi­nor third

Bb. fifth G and flat sev­enth

4 The rule can be called the ‘Chord Tone Plus A Tone’ rule. To build the scale that works over this chord, we first need to iso­late the chord tones, so in this case

Eb, Bb. that’s C, G and That’s four of the seven tones in our scale ac­counted for. We know th­ese will work over a Cm7 chord, be­cause they’re taken di­rectly from the chord it­self.

5 To fill in the gaps, we now need to count up a whole tone (two semi­tones) from each chord tone and in­clude those notes in our scale. So a whole tone up from C would be D, a tone

Eb up from would give us F, and a tone up from G would give us A. The re­sult­ing

Eb Bb scale ends up be­ing CD FGA – in other words, the C Do­rian scale.

6 This ap­proach works with any chord type in any key. Let’s try a ma­jor 7th this time – how about Emaj7? Its chord G#, D# tones are E, B and – all good so far. A F#, G# tone up from E is a tone up from A# would be and a tone up from B would C#, F# G# A# give us so that leaves us with E C# D#, B which is other­wise known as the E Ly­dian scale.

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