Jazz Scales Piano: 7 Wild Jazz Scales and Practice Exercises!

Learn about Jazz Scale For Piano! Listen and see each scale as you read about them!

Jazz as a beginner can be wildly confusing! If you want to learn what scales are the most popular, and when to play them, then you are in the right place! My article will explain the topic “Jazz Scales Piano”.

What are Jazz Piano Scales?

Skip this if you already know!

Jazz scales are known to be one of the most common forms of improvisation in jazz music. Improvisation while playing jazz music involves new melodies, riffs, and solos created on the spot by the musicians, making jazz music almost unreadable. It’s an art form that requires a lot of practice to master successfully.

How do you use them?

The main idea behind jazz scales is using chords as a basis for creating improvisations within the same key. In order to be successful when improvising with jazz scales, you should have a good knowledge of chords, arpeggios, and jazz chord progressions.

A jazz musician improvising with jazz scales usually chooses one particular scale out of the seven modes of the major or minor scale of a given key, called jazz scales. The end result is that you can always use an improvisation based on jazz scales to resolve some kind of chord change in the accompaniment.

Disclaimer: No jazz scale is going to instantly make you sound like a jazz pro. It may not even sound like you’re playing jazz music for that matter. But by becoming well versed in these scales you’ll be more inclined towards a jazz style of piano, and be better prepared when playing jazz music!

Jazz scales are great exploring points, so let’s first review a list of the most popular jazz scales, and then some common questions about these scales!

What Scales are Used in Jazz Piano?

1. Dominant Bebop Scale: Jazz Scales Piano

Jazz Scales Piano Dominant Bebop
Jazz Scales Piano: The Dominant Bebop

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

The Dominant Bebop Scale is a must-know for any type of musician. It is extremely popular in jazz, and highly versatile.

This eight-note scale is built off of the Major scale. You first take the 5th Mode of the major scale and then add a passing♭7 between the 7 and root.

Take a listen here!

Where to Use This Piano Jazz Scale

The name kind of gives it away for this one. You should improvise over dominant 7th chords when using the Dominant Bebop Scale. You can also extend it to working over really any 7th chord.

The 7th chord and some swing are arguably the core of jazz, so knowing the Dominant Bebop Scale is super useful!

How to Practice This Piano Jazz Scale

Open up iRealPro, get a 12 bars blues rocking and rolling then start using the corresponding Dominant Bebop scale over the dominant 7th chords.

Ex:

Over the C7, use the C Dominant Bebop Scale, over the F use the F Dominant Bebop Scale, G uses G Dominant Bebop Scale.

Also if you have something like ii-V7-vi, feel free to use the dominant bebop over the V7 chord! Experiment!

Reference Song

Look at the works of Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, or Charlie Parker they have wonderful music that includes this scale.

2. Jazz Melodic Minor Scale: Jazz Scales Piano

Jazz Scales Piano Melodic Minor
Jazz Scales Piano: The Melodic Minor

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

The melodic minor isn’t necessarily a jazz scale, but there is a jazz version, and in it, you just keep the seventh and sixth notes raised the half step, on the way down. Ex: Usually, you would play B♭ or A♭ on the way down a C Melodic Minor scale, but in the jazz melodic minor you do not.

Where to UseThis Piano Jazz Scale

A melodic minor is a pretty safe scale to use, within an i7-iv7-V progression and many alternative progressions. Or above a bassline that includes the melodic minor notes. I would suggest using the five-finger jazz scale for beginners, so just play C, D, E♭, F, and G.

How to PracticeThis Piano Jazz Scale

Grab iRealPro and put on a Cm7-Fm7-G7 chord progression on repeat, and have a go improvising over it with the five-finger scale first with just your right hand only.

You can try adding your left hand in, playing the root note for when each chord starts, like C, F, G as the chord go along. And if you want to spice up the accompaniment/bass line in the left hand you can start really playing whatever sounds good, just make sure it’s in time and solid. Maybe you play C-E♭-G-E♭-F-F-D-C, all as eighth-notes. Play whatever just have fun!

Reference Song

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder, have some fun with the melodic minor it’s in B♭

3. Minor Bebop Scale: Jazz Scales Piano

Minor Bebop Scale
Jazz Scales Piano: The Minor Bebop

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

The Minor Bebop Scale is a wonderful tool in jazz, and as you can see/hear it’s closely related to the Major Bebop Scale.

In this example, we have a major scale in its second mode (Dorian) and we have added an eighth note to the scale, which is in between the♭7 and root.

Where to UseThis Piano Jazz Scale

You can use Minor Bebop scale to improvise in a wide variety of settings! Similar to the dominant bebop scale that works with dominant chords, the minor bebop scale works well with minor seventh chords.

Ex:

A chord progression in the minor blues, try using the scale over the iim7 chord in a iim7-V7-Imaj7 progression!

You’ll be able to use this scale in a huge number of pieces over minor seventh scales.

How to PracticeThis Piano Jazz Scale

Go on iRealPro again (Use any other software, or get some buddies. I just use this one personally.) Set up aniim7-V7 repeating progression and try alternating between the minor and dominant bebop scales, get a feel for how they interact!

If you can get the switch between the two scales down very smoothly this will help tremendously with expanding your jazz toolbox, and with paying attention to chord changes.

Reference Song

Je Ne Sais Pas- Hampton Jones, also any other jazz song with a minor seventh… which is a lot of them!

4. Harmonic Minor Bebop Scale:Jazz Scales Piano

Harmonic Minor Bebop Scale
Jazz Scales Piano: The Harmonic Minor Bebop

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

The Harmonic Minor Bebop Scale is one of my favorites! It’s a very jazzy scale, and why I put it first. Having an eighth note scale is something you will see in jazz quite often, and it helps you stay in the harmonic pocket.

The harmonic minor bebop scale is a variation of a harmonic minor scale sort of. Just add an extra note to the scale: the♭9th. And, flatten the 6th, 2nd, and 3rd on the way down. I know that’s a weird way of explaining it, so just look above if you are confused.

Where to UseThis Piano Jazz Scale

Because the scale is a variant of the harmonic minor scale, you can use the harmonic minor bebop scale in similar scenarios.

Ex:

Improvise over the first (ii7-♭5) and second (V7alt) chords in the iim7♭5 to V7alt to im7 chord progression.

Because we tend to spend more time practicing our major key progressions, having a good grasp of this scale can go a long way in bringing our minor key soloing up to the same level.

How to PracticeThis Piano Jazz Scale

First, get the scale memorized, and well understood. Switch it to a few different keys, get it under your fingers.

Go on iRealPro or grab some buddies and get aniim7♭5 to V7alt to im7 chord progression going.

If you are feeling this is a little easy, start incorporating the Minor Bebop Scale that is introduced later, over the im7 chord. See how the two scales mix together!

Reference Songs

“A Night in Tunisia” by Clifford Brown, pay attention to the solo and have the chord book ready so you can track along. It’s just a wonderful little piece, full of great phrases.

5. Major Bebop Scale:Jazz Scales Piano

Jazz Scales Piano Major Bebop
Jazz Scales Piano: The Major Bebop

Work out an iim7-V7-Imaj7 vamp in one or more keys to practice this and the previous two Bebop Scales.

If you’re just starting off with these sounds, you might want to make each chord longer than one bar.

Start with four bars of iim7, four bars of V7, and eight bars of Imaj7, then work your way down to one bar of each.

Use the Minor Bebop Scale to blow over the iim7 chord, the Dominant Bebop Scale over the V7 chord, and the Major Bebop Scale over the Imaj7 chord while improvising over these chords.

This will assist you in incorporating these various Bebop sounds into your solos, as well as learning how to outline each transition in a ii-V-I at the same time.

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

Our final bebop scale on the list is the Major Bebop scale!

The major bebop scale is derived from the major scale, from the first mode(Ionian). With an additional note between the major 6th and fifth, we get another eight-note bebop scale!

Where to Use This Piano Jazz Scale

Similar to the other bebop scales, the pattern continues: use the major bebop scale over major seventh chords.

Here is a nice chord progression: iiim7-IV7-Imaj7. It sounds really good over the major seventh chord.

How to Practice This Piano Jazz Scale

Set up a niceiim7-V7-Imaj7 backtrack, and switch between all three types of your bebop scales!

This is great practice and will help you immensely,

Reference Song

For Sentimental Reasons – William Best

6. Lydian Dominant Scale:Jazz Scales Piano

Lydian Dominant Scale
Jazz Scales Piano: The Lydian Dominant

What is This Piano Jazz Scale

The Lydian Dominant Scale is another great scale.

This scale is slightly discordant when you play it slowly, but with some experience can sound quite flashy. This Lydian dominant scale adds a bold kind of sound to improvised lines that use it, so probably focus on this scale last.

Where to Use This Piano Jazz Scale

The Lydian Dominant has a certain mood to it, but can generally be used over any seventh chord. Most commonly the seven-sharp-eleven.

How to Practice This Piano Jazz Scale

Add this scale into your practice with the other bebop scales and ask yourself a few questions.

  • How do the scales sound when you switch from one to another?
  • Can you hear different colors/emotions being evoked when you play each scale?
  • How can you easily transition from one scale. tothe next?
  • Do the scales feel natural in your lines?

Reference Songs

Blues Seven – Sonny Rollins

What Scale is Best for Jazz?

Dominant Bebop Scale

The Dominant Bebop Scale is the most common jazz scale and is the most useful scale to know in jazz.

As the dominant seventh chord are the most common, so the dominant bebop scale is the most commonly used scale. The real advantage of the bebop scales comes from their eight-note configuration, allowing you to easier stay within theharmonic pocket.

I highly suggest learning the major and minor versions of the bebop scale as well if you take away anything from this article!

Jazziest Scale I Know:Jazz Scales Piano

Jazzy Scale
Jazz Scales Piano: The Jazzy Mystery

I actually do not know what jazz scale this is, it seems like a Harmonic Minor Bebop Scale with a few notes missing, tell me in the comments what scale this is. My friend just showed it to me one day, so I know it exists.

Listen below and tell me!

Conclusion on Jazz Scales for Piano

Ending Image

Why To Learn Jazz Scales for Piano

Jazz scales are very common among jazz musicians who perform live gigs. It’s not at all uncommon for jazz musicians to be required to play long sets without stopping once while improvising with jazz scales during each song. This means that learning jazz scales is extremely important if you intend to play jazz music!

Learning jazz scales is a great first step in becoming an excellent jazz pianist. I hope you enjoyed this article. Put the effort in and see the results.

Mark D.

Mark D.

Hi, I'm Mark. I've been playing instruments since I was just a little kid. I've played cello and piano for a few years, and recently picked up guitar. I've produced bad music. I also run this blog where I share interesting things I've learned. I hope you Enjoy my posts!

2 Comments
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  1. Very useful, thank you for this!

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