Posts Tagged ‘Scales’

B diminished scale, whole-half

In Scales on May 10, 2014 at 11:39 am


All About The Symmetrical Augmented Scale

In Scales, Theorie on December 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

By Edouard Brenneisen

During a recent lesson, a student of mine hit me with the following question “Master (no, people don’t really call me this way…), what do I play over a Major 7th #5 chord?”. I then proceeded to demonstrate the usual suspects, i.e., the melodic and harmonic minor scales from the bIII degree… and the symmetrical augmented scale. “Master, master, what is this? What is THIS?!”, exclaimed my student. “This, my young apprentice (no, I don’t call my students this way either), is the symmetrical augmented scale”.

So, here’s the rundown on this scale! We’re looking at this (all examples are in the key of C):


Notice that this is a 6-note scale, a hexatonic scale. The symmetrical part comes from the repeating sequence of intervals used to build it: minor 3rd, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, minor 2nd, and so on.

Being a symmetrical scale, you will find interesting things in the intervals between each and every note.


Pay attention on exactly which degrees of the scale certain intervals occur.

Likewise, there’s a wealth of triads to be found in this scale…

… as well as tetrads (7th chords):
If you have read my previous articles, you know that I have a particular interest in patterns (though patterns are NOT everything!). If you haven’t read those articles, please check out my website, particularly the article dealing with new approaches to scale practice. Due to its particular symmetrical architecture, this scale lends itself particularly well to playing patterns. Here are a few for you!


Here are a few general observations on this scale and on the provided patterns. – Like all symmetrical scales, this one has really no “handles”, which makes playing it a little unsettling at first;

– Like all symmetrical scales, it only has a number of possible transpositions (the C symmetrical augmented scale has the same notes as the E and Ab symmetrical augmented scales);

The suggested patterns are only starting points – find your own! All patterns that you like should be played as retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion of the original pattern. Enjoy playing alternate fingerings with this scale!

About The Author: Edouard Brenneisen, Location: New York City,

pdf here: All About The Symmetrical Augmented Scale

Hexatonic scales

In Scales on December 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

In music and music theory, a hexatonic scale is a scale with six pitches or notes per octave. Famous examples include the whole tone scale, C D E F♯ G♯ A♯ C; the augmentedscale, C D♯ E G A♭ B C; the Prometheus scale, C D E F♯ A B♭ C; and what some jazz theorists call the “blues scale”, C E♭ F G♭ G B♭ C.

Whole tone scale

The whole tone scale is a series of whole tones. It has two non-enharmonically equivalent positions: C D E F♯ G♯ A♯ C and D♭ E♭ F G A B D♭. It is primarily associated with the French impressionist composer Claude Debussy, who used it in such pieces of his as Voiles and Le vent dans la plaine, both from his first book of piano Préludes.

This whole-tone scale has appeared occasionally and sporadically in jazz at least since Bix Beiderbecke’s impressionistic piano piece In a Mist. Bop pianist Thelonious Monk often interpolated whole-tone scale flourishes into his improvisations and compositions.

Whole tone scale

Whole tone scale

Augmented scale

The augmented scale, also known in jazz theory as the symmetrical augmented scale,  is so called because it can be thought of as an interlocking combination of two augmented triads an augmented second or minor third apart: C E G♯ and E♭ G B. It may also be called the “minor-third half-step scale” due to the series of intervals produced.

Augmented scale

It made one of its most celebrated early appearances in Franz Liszt’s Faust Symphony (Eine Faust Symphonie). Another famous use of the augmented scale (in jazz) is in Oliver Nelson’s solo on “Stolen Moments”. It is also prevalent in 20th century compositions by Alberto Ginastera, Almeida Prado, Béla Bartók, Milton Babbitt, and Arnold Schoenberg, by saxophonists John Coltrane and Oliver Nelson in the late 50s and early 60s, and bandleader Michael Brecker. Alternating E major and C minor triads form the augmented scale in the opening bars of the Finale in Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio.

Prometheus scale

The Prometheus scale is so called because of its prominent use in Alexander Scriabin’s symphonic poem Prometheus: The Poem of Fire. Scriabin himself called this set of pitches, voiced as the simultaneity (in ascending order) C F♯ B♭ E A D the “mystic chord”. Others have referred to it as the “Promethean chord”.

Prometheus scale

Blues scale

Since blue notes are alternate inflections, strictly speaking there can be no one blues scale, but the scale most commonly called “the blues scale” comprises a flatted seventh blue note, a flatted third blue note, and a flatted fifth blue note along with other pitches derived from the minor pentatonic scale: C E♭ F F♯ G B♭ C

Most common “blues scale”

Tritone scale

The tritone scale, C D♭ E G♭ G(♮) B♭, is enharmonically equivalent to the Petrushka chord, C C♯ E F♯ G A♯.

Tritone scale on C

The two-semitone tritone scale, C D♭ D F♯ G A♭, is a symmetric scale consisting of a repeated pattern of two semitones followed by a major third now used for improvisation and may substitute for any mode of the jazz minor scale. The scale originated in Nicolas Slonimsky’s book Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns through the, “equal division of one octave into two parts,” creating a tritone, and the, “interpolation of two notes,” adding two consequent semitones after the two resulting notes.

Two-semitone tritone scale on C
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Altered scales

In Lessons, Scales, Theorie on November 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

In jazz music, the altered scale and it’s appropriate scale is a great choice for melodies and chord voicings to make dominant chords sound full of color and tension. Then resolving that tension into the next chord can sound very pleasing. The scale contains every possible altered tension which are b9, #9, #11, b13 as well as the major 3rd and minor 7th. Here is the scale written out for an altered C7 chord:

altered scale, jazz music, theory

This scale is a great option when playing dominant V7 chords that resolve down a fifth to a minor chord such as C7 to a F-7. When resolving down a fifth to a major chord, it is more “normal” to use a natural 13 which corresponds to the major 3rd of the major chord.

Another option is to begin the voicing or melody on a basic mixolydian scale and then switch to the altered scale to finish it. This works well when the dominant chord is a full measure or 2 measures.

It’s worth noting that this scale interestingly has the same notes as it’s relative substitute dominant chord. So in the above example of a C7alt, it shares the same notes as a Gb7 with a #11. These two chords are practically interchangeable because the main difference is the bass note.

Another nice use of an altered chord/scale is resolving it up a half step to a major7 chord. This works because it has the same notes as the IV7 #11 in that major key. So in our C7 example, if it resolves up to a Dbmaj7, it shares the notes of a Gb7#11. This is a great technique if you want to add more chords to a chord progression: slip in the altered dominant chord a half step below the major chord you’re about to play. I specifically use the voicing 3, b13, b7, #9 most often in this situation but feel free to explore your own artistic voicings.

Anyway hope you’ve learned more about the altered dominant chord and scale and a few of it’s various uses.

from the Jazz Ressources

Harmonic Rules for Improvisation (Scott Henderson)

In Scales on April 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Here you will find the list of scales, modes, arpeggios, and triads required to improvise over any type of chord. Each underlined heading is a chord type, with scales, arpeggios and triads you can play below it.

These diagrams came from Scott Henderson’s 1988 RHS: “Jazz Fusion Improvisation” Video. Anybody who wants to learn to play Jazz, should get this video. As you work down the list for each type of chord, “outside” tones are introduced, allowing you to create tension. Lots of modal ideas are also used here, as we are using scales of multiple related keys.

Part 1




Modal jazz

In Chords, Scales, Solfège, Theorie on November 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

Modal jazz is jazz that uses musical modes rather than chord progressions as a harmonic framework. Originating in the late 1950s and 1960s, modal jazz is epitomized by Miles Davis’s “Milestones” (1958), Kind of Blue (1959), and John Coltrane’s classic quartet from 1960–64. Other important performers include Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and McCoy Tyner. Though the term comes from the use of the pitches of particular modes (or scales) in the creation of solos, modal jazz compositions or accompaniments may only or additionally make use of the following techniques.

  1. slow-moving harmonic rhythm, where single chords may last four to sixteen or more measures
  2. pedal points and drones
  3. absent or suppressed standard functional chord progressions
  4. quartal harmonies or melodies


An understanding of modal jazz requires knowledge of musical modes. In bebop as well as in hard bop, musicians use chords to provide the background for solos. A song starts out with a theme that introduces the chords for the solos. These chords repeat throughout the whole song, while the soloists play new, improvised themes over the repeated chord progression. By the 1950s, improvising over chords had become such a dominant part of jazz, that sidemen at recording dates were sometimes given nothing more than a list of chords to play from.

Towards the end of the 1950s, spurred by the experiments of composer and bandleader George Russell, musicians began using a modal approach. They chose not to write their pieces using conventional chord changes, but instead using modal scales. Mercer Ellington has stated that Juan Tizol invented the melody to “Caravan” in 1936 as a result of his days studying music in Puerto Rico; where they couldn’t afford much sheet music so the teacher would turn the music upside down after they had learned to play it right-side up. This technique became known as ‘inverting’, and has been referenced as an inspiration for Modal Jazz.Musicians include Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Evans, Hancock, and Shorter.


It is possible for the bassist and the pianist to move to notes within the mode that are dissonant with the prime (tonic) chord of that mode. For example: within the C ionian mode, the notes of the scale are CDEFGAB, with C being the root note. Other non-diatonic notes, such as the note B♭, are dissonant within the C ionian mode, so that they are less used in non-modal jazz songs when playing the chord C. In a modal song, these other notes may be freely used as long as the overall sound of C ionian is entrenched within the listener’s mind. This allows for greater harmonic flexibility and some very interesting harmonic possibilities.

Among the significant compositions of modal jazz were “So What” by Miles Davis and “Impressions” by John Coltrane.”So What” and “Impressions” follow the same AABA song form and were in D Dorian for the A sections and modulated a half step up to E-flat Dorian for the B section. The Dorian mode is the natural minor scale with a raised sixth. Other compositions include Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches”, Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece”, and Shorter’s “Footprints”

In improvising within a modal context, a musician would start by thinking about playing the notes within that specific mode (e.g., D Dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D). It is also possible to take several notes from that mode (though not all) to create smaller scales or note choices for improvisation. For example, in D Dorian, one may play the notes of the D minor triad. This is what Miles Davis does at the beginning of his solo in “So What”. The player may even choose any of the triads available in that mode: C major, D minor, E minor etc. One thing to note is that choosing an upper structure triad using the 9th, 11th and 13th of the chord will result in tension.

The bassist, in a modal context, is not required to ‘walk’ from one important chord tone to that of another in order to make each chord change sound, in the same way required in conventional bebop or hard bop compositions; rather, he or she is free to improvise bass lines that may highlight or emphasize particular scale degrees within a specific mode (e.g., a bass line that is constructed to highlight the 6th degree during a Dorian chord). As a result, bass lines found in modal jazz are often constructed in four or eight bar phrases with an emphasis of the root or fifth degree on beat one of such phrases. Similarly, the comping instrument is not confined to play the standard chord voicings of the bop lexicon, but rather can play chord voicings based upon differing pitch combinations from the parent mode.

The way soloists created solos changed dramatically with the advent of modal jazz. In bebop, a soloist typically constructs solos to fit within a particular set of chord changes. In modal jazz, with its lack of conventional bop chord changes, the soloist can create interest by exploring the particular mode in rhythmically and melodically varied ways. Modal jazz is, in a sense, a return to melody.

The player may also use the many different pentatonic scales within the scale such as C minor pentatonic, F major pentatonic and G minor pentatonic. Note that these scales are also relative Eb major, D minor and Bbmajor pentatonic, respectively.


Miles Davis recorded one of the best selling jazz albums of all time in this modal framework. Kind of Blue is an exploration of the possibilities of modal jazz. Included on these sessions was tenor saxophonist John Coltrane who, throughout the 1960s, would explore the possibilities of modal improvisation more deeply than any other jazz artist. The rest of the musicians on the album were alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly (though never on the same piece), bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. (Kelly, Chambers, and Cobb would eventually form the Wynton Kelly Trio.) This record is considered a kind of test album in many conservatories focusing on jazz improvisation. The compositions “So What” and “All Blues” from Kind of Blueare considered contemporary jazz standards. Davis has acknowledged a crucial role for Bill Evans, a former member of George Russell’s ensembles, in his transition from hard bop to modal playing.

While Davis’ explorations of modal jazz were sporadic throughout the 1960s—he would include several of the tunes from Kind of Blue in the repertoire of his “Second Great Quintet”—Coltrane would take the lead in extensively exploring the limits of modal improvisation and composition with his own classic quartet, featuring Elvin Jones (drums), McCoy Tyner (piano), and Reggie Workman and Jimmy Garrison(bass). Several of Coltrane’s albums from the period are recognized as seminal albums in jazz more broadly, but especially modal jazz: Giant Steps,[ Live! at the Village Vanguard (1961), Crescent (1964), A Love Supreme (1964),and Meditations (1965). Compositions from this period such as “India,” “Chasin’ the Trane,” “Crescent,” “Impressions,” as well as standards like Richard Rodger’s “My Favorite Things”, performed by John Coltrane, and “Greensleeves” have entered the jazz repertoire.

Coltrane’s modal explorations gave rise to an entire generation of saxophonists (mostly playing tenor saxophone) that would then go on to further explore modal jazz (often in combination with jazz fusion), such as Michael Brecker, David Liebman, Steve Grossman, and Bob Berg.

Opening chord to “Maiden Voyage”: minor eleventh chord (Am7/D).  Play Using D Dorian.

Another great innovator in the field of modal jazz is pianist Herbie Hancock. He is well known for working in Miles Davis’s “Second Great Quintet”, Herbie Hancock recorded a number of solo albums, beginning with Maiden Voyage (1965), prior to joining Miles’ band. On the title song of this album Hancock has just a few suspended and minor chords that are played throughout the entire piece and played with a very open sound due to Hancock’s use of fourths in voicing the chords. The piece’s haunting repeating vamps in the rhythm section and the searching feeling of the entire piece has made “Maiden Voyage” one of the most famous modal pieces of all times.

A true precursor to modal jazz was found in the hands of virtuoso jazz pianist, composer and trio innovator Ahmad Jamal whose early use of extended vamps (freezing the advance of the song at some point for repetition or interjecting new song fragments) allowed him to solo for long periods infusing that section of the song with fresh ideas and percussive effects over a repetitive drum and bass figuration. Miles Davis was effusive in his praise for Jamal’s influence on him, his playing, and his music: a perfect setup for the modal work that lay in Davis’ future.

From Wikipedia

Nelson Veras clinic on Messian’s mode

In Scales on October 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Last Friday the amazing Nelson Veras did a very nice clinic at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Nelson, born in Bahia, Brasil, now living in France, is 32 years old and already wellknown among musicians for his unique style.

Nelson started out with a solo performance of Besame Mucho.

He recently recorded that tune for his brilliant new CD, “The Solo sessions, vol.1”, but it was the first time he performed it on stage. Although the meter was the same (as he explained, short-short-long-short, 2+2+3+2=9) the performance was totally different from the CD version.
This immediately showed one of the main things Nelson wanted to share with us. He is constantly trying to seek for ways to avoid playing things he already can play.
He spoke about his technique. His technique differs from most jazz guitar players since he does not use a pick. He explained how he uses the fingers of his right hand and complained about the instability of the nails and about ‘the mess’ his right hand fingering is.

In the second half of his clinic he spoke about his influences. He named a.o. Milton Nascimento, João Gilberto, Toninho Horta, a number of classical composers, Stravinsky, Debussy, Messiean and -of course Miles, Parker, Trane and Jarrett. Although he likes jazz guitarplayers (Metheny, Montgomery) he never tried to really copy them. Avoiding the traditional jazz licks. 

He doesn’t see himself as a passionate guitarist per se. He’s more interested in the character and style of a musician than in what instrument he plays. He showed how he practiced with metronome. Making a division of e.g. 5 per beat.
Also with the goal of being able to apply things you know in four over a meter of five he showed how he practices playing a classical piece and Donna Lee against a metronome. 
Besides his very strong rhythmic approach there is another thing that make his style so outstanding: the seemingly endless flow of modal/chromatic elaborations. This specific sound in improvisation comes from the extensive use of the so called Messiaen modes.
Nelson showed how he uses three modes, the’M3′, ‘M4’ and ‘M6’.

Messiaen’s 3rd mode
1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ – C D E E G G A B B C

Messiaen’s 4th mode
½ ½ m3 ½ ½ ½ m3 ½ – C D D F G G A B C

Messiaen’s 6th mode
1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ – C D E F F♯ G♯ A♯ B C

The French compose Olivier Messiaen defined these Modes Of Limited Transpositions in his work ‘The technique of my musical language’

Nelson showed his creative approach in soloing and finding chords in these symmetric scales.

Listen to “this sound file for the second half of the clinic.

Here Nelson showed the thin line between soloing and comping like a master musician like he feels.

He left the room full guitarist in great admiration for this impressive yet humble musician. A great clinic.

Check these 8 videos of the clinic:

Nelson on right hand technique single string

Nelson on Messiaen mode 3

Nelson fooling around w/ Messiean mode

Nelson looking for voicings, trying to surprise himself

Nelson praticing with metronome (quintuplets)

Nelson on practicing the Messiaen mode 4 and 6

Nelson w/Eran Har Even playing You and the Night and the Music

Nelson w/Gabor Gsongradi playing How Deep is the Ocean

NelsonVeras on MySpace

Messiaen’s mode

In Scales on October 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

Messiaen’s first mode, also called the whole-tone scale, is divided into six groups of two notes each. The intervals it contains are tone, tone, tone, tone, tone, tone – it has two transpositions and one mode.

The second mode, also called octatonic/diminished/semitone-tone/tone-semitone, may be divided into four groups of three notes each. It contains the intervals semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone – it has three transpositions, like the diminished 7th chord, and two modes:

The third mode is divided into three groups of four notes each. It contains the intervals tone, semitone, semitone, tone, semitone, semitone, tone, semitone, semitone – it has four transpositions, like the augmented triad, and three modes.

The fourth mode contains the intervals semitone, semitone, minor third, semitone, semitone, semitone, minor third, semitone – it has six transpositions, like the tritone, and four modes.

The fifth mode contains the intervals semitone, major third, semitone, semitone, major third, semitone – it has six transpositions, like the tritone, and three modes.

The sixth mode has the intervals tone, tone, semitone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, semitone – it has six transpositions, like the tritone, and four modes.

The seventh mode contains the intervals semitone, semitone, semitone, tone, semitone, semitone, semitone, semitone, tone, semitone – it has six transpositions, like the tritone, and five modes.

Try first improvising with the 3rd, 4th and 6th mode

for print: Messian’s modes

Lessons from John Basile

In Lessons, Scales on October 8, 2012 at 12:04 am

minor scales, voicing and interpretation.

The Five Shapes (Major scale)

In Scales on October 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Simple Shapes/patterns to learn and exercise major scales using the five guitar patterns
in C Major pdf  here:  The Five Shapes