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LJS 214: 16 Scales to Know for Jazz

Welcome to episode 214 of the LJS Podcast where today I go over 16 scales that can be useful when it comes to conceptualizing jazz improv. Scales are never to be used exclusively to improvise, but the 16 I cover in this episode can be helpful to map out note choices over many different chords you will come across in jazz standards.

Listen to episode 214

When it comes to jazz improvisation, scales can be really great ways to organize pitches or note choices over top of chords in chord progressions.

Now, I don’t think scales should be used exclusively by any means to improvise. If we do that, they often become crutches and not tools, and it sounds more like you are playing scales than actual musical melodic lines. 

But that doesn’t mean we should throw out scales altogether. Not at all. We need to know them in order to know our instruments better, to explore them, to navigate them, and they can also be super helpful for helping us identify those note choices. 

So, in today’s episode, I’m going to be going over the 16 most important scales that I think you should know for jazz. 

In this episode:

1. Ionian or Major

2. Dorian

3. Phrygian

4. Lydian

5. Mixolydian

6. Aeolian

7. Locrian and Locrian #2

8. Half Whole Diminished

9. Whole Half Diminished

10. Altered scale

11. Whole Tone Scale

12. Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scale

13. Lydian Dominant

14. Major Bebop Scale

15. Minor Bebop Scale

16. Mixolydian Bebop Scale

Important Links

Blog Post: 16 Most Important Scales in Jazz

LJS 67: How to Use Pentatonics Over Any Chord

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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