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ONLY Scale and Chords You Need to Know for Jazz

Welcome to episode 269 where I have the audacity to suggest that you only need to know one scale in order to start improvising over jazz standards. And chords? Only a small handful. This episode will help beginner and intermediate jazz musicians cut the fat, weed out the excess, and get down to the essentials.

Listen to episode 269

Every month in our LJS Inner Circle membership, we do something called the Monthly Jazz Mastermind. 

And this is an opportunity for all the members to get on a live Q&A call with me to ask any music or jazz-related questions. 

It’s a lot of fun and we had a great question that came up, and the question was, “as a trumpet player, which scales and chords are considered to be a must-know before going on to others?”

And the first way I answer this particular member was that it doesn’t matter if you’re a trumpet player or a guitar player, a bass player, a saxophone player.

Whatever instrument you play when it comes to jazz, there’s really only a few scales and really only a few chords that you need to know before going on and exploring more in-depth things. 

In fact, I had the audacity to suggest that this particular musician only needs to know one scale. 

So, let’s dig into that in this episode. Let’s discover this. Let’s break things down, make things simpler and let’s do this thing.

In this episode:

1. Understanding the major scale

2. Understanding how to harmonize a major scale with 7th chords

3. There are only 5 chords you need to know

4. Understanding how to utilize the major scale over all of the 7th chords

Important Links

1. Podcast Sponsor: Modacity (music practicing app)

2. LJS Inner Circle Membership

3. Free Guide to learn standards by ear: Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way

Brent Vaartstra
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."


  1. That was a great podcast. I think I finally understand it now, but don’t know all my major scales well enough to quickly link the chord to its correct mode…but I do know what I have to do now!


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