A thorough understanding of scales and their related modes is essential in the development of technique on your instrument and your success as an improviser. Through your knowledge of scales, you will possess the ability to instantly evaluate lead sheets or chord charts and recognize the appropriate scales and notes which are available to utilize on particular chord types.
Even if it may seem like there are hundreds of scales and chords used in music, you can analyze and play over practically every chord type using only four scales and their related modes including the major scale, the melodic minor scale, the diminished scale, and the whole tone scale.
To begin, we will analyze the most common scale found in Western music, the major scale. The major scale is composed of seven different pitches and features seven consecutive letter names which extend in an ascending or descending fashion from a given note. Starting from the note C, the major scale would be played as follows: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. These pitches are all of the natural notes of the musical alphabet, and they are also all of the white keys found on a piano.
In addition to playing this set of notes, you are also performing a specific sequence or series of whole steps and half steps. A whole step would be the interval between C and D, and a half step is the distance between E and F or B and C. The formula of whole steps and half steps within the major scale is: W-W-H-W-W-W-H. By maintaining this pattern of whole and half steps, you can build a major scale starting on any note on the fingerboard.
The notes of the major scale can be identified by scale degree according to their location in the scale. For instance, D is the second note of the C major scale and is referred to as the second scale degree, E is the third scale degree, F is the fourth scale degree, and so on. Along with numbers, every scale degree has a scale degree name as well such as tonic (1), supertonic (2), mediant (3), subdominant (4), dominant (5), submediant (6), and leading tone (7). For singing, syllable names including Do (1), Re (2), Mi (3), Fa (4), Sol (5), La (6), Ti (7), Do (8) are commonly used because they are easier to sing than numbers.
Since the major scale contains seven different notes, there are seven unique diatonic modes or versions of the scale which can be generated from a single major scale. Theoretically, not only are you playing the C major scale when you play C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, but you are also playing the first mode of the C major scale which is called the Ionian mode. If you take the C major scale and play from the second scale degree or the note D to the D one octave higher, you have just played the second mode of the C major scale which is referred to as D Dorian. The C major scale is the parent scale of the D Dorian mode. Likewise, if you again take the notes from the C major scale and play from the third scale degree or the note E to the E one octave higher, you have just generated the third mode of the C major scale which is E Phrygian. If we continue on in this fashion, the resulting modes in the key of C major include F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, and B Locrian. In classical or traditional theory, the modes of the major scale are often referred to as "the church modes" or Medieval modes.
In terms of chord/scale theory, the modes of the major scale can be categorized into major seventh, minor seventh, dominant seventh, and half-diminished seventh chord types. The Ionian and Lydian modes are major seventh sounding in quality because they contain the same chord tones consisting of a root, major third, perfect fifth, and a major seventh scale degree. The Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian modes are all minor seventh in quality due to them containing a root, minor third, perfect fifth, and a minor seventh scale degree. Mixolydian is associated with the dominant seventh chord type since it includes a root, major third, perfect fifth, and a minor seventh scale degree. Finally, Locrian is half-diminished seventh in quality because it features a root, minor third, diminished fifth, and a minor seventh scale degree. ... Subscribe Today & Read More!
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Jazz Improvisation is a comprehensive 20-lesson course that will help you acquire the essential skills which are necessary to connect your ears to the fingerboard, develop ideas, and communicate more fluently through the language of improvisation. Featuring dozens of fretboard diagrams and play-along tracks with exercises written in standard notation and tablature, topics covered include practice techniques, ear training, scales, modes, chords, passing notes, approach note techniques, and chord tone soloing. After completing this course, you will have expanded your fretboard familiarity, broadened your knowledge of chord/scale theory, increased your technical proficiency on the instrument, and become more productive in your practice sessions. You will possess the fundamental tools that are required to improvise great bass lines and solos on any chord type, chord progression, or song form in the jazz repertoire. ... Subscribe Today & Read More!