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What is a Jazz Guitar Scale?

Guitar-scales are what grammar is to the English language, if you don’t understand how to use them properly you’ll never make sense to your listeners. In this instance, your audience has a finely tuned ear to jazz guitar.

In most cases, learning how to play the guitar starts with learning chords. These would include G, D, E, F and the like. However, the more scales you know how to play, the better your skills will be. Music theory involves understanding the foundation on which all music is built, and scales set the tone for that foundation.

Now that you know why scales are so important, let’s find out which scales you need to know to become a skilled guitar player.

Essential Scales

There are three important categories of scales. These include:

• Major

• Melodic Minor

• Harmonic Minor

Each of these jazz basic scales contributes to your greater understanding of jazz music and how to create it on your own. Once you have these scales down pat, you can move on to specific jazz scales. These are the scales you’ll need to have in your pocket to ensure you can alter the melody to fit a jazz audience. Figuring out the flow of these scales can improve your melodies and enhance the sounds you come up with.

Specific Jazz Scales

If what you’d really like to play is jazz, then you need to dig deeper in your quest for the right guitar scales. Most of these scales were developed by the founders of modern jazz, so it’s important to familiarize yourself if you want to be one of the greats, or just want to understand what they played.

Here’s a brief overview:

• Dominant Bebop-it’s one of the most important scales for jazz musicians, built on the Mixolydian-Scale, and is an eight-note scale.

• Minor Bebop-mode of the major scale, allows you to apply other important jazz standards you likely already know, also known as the Dorian mode, the second mode in the major-scale.

• Major Bebop-based on the first mode of the major-scale, with an addition between the fifth and major 6th intervals.

• Harmonic Minor Bebop-like the other three-scales, the harmonic minor-scale can easily be used to improvise and is an eighth-note scale.

• Lydian Dominant Scale-also known as the 4th mode, the Lydian Dominant

Jazz guitar scale is often used to improvise and has a distinct discordant sound.

If you want to create accurate, interesting, and harmonious music you have to memorize these scales. The jazz world lives and dies with them, and with a bit of practice you can play them easily. Learning how to play these scales will enhance your ability to understand chord progression which in turn improves your solos.

Become a better jazz guitar player by understanding guitar-scales. Your audience will thank you.


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