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ONLY 2 Scales You NEED to Know for Jazz

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"The Jazz Standards Playbook Vol. 2"

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My job as a teacher is always to make jazz simpler, not harder. And sometimes around the concept of scales, we make things too complicated. We give ourselves too many choices. We place too much importance on it.

So, in today’s video, I’m going to boil things down to the basic 2 scales you need to know for jazz improv.

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Further Reading:

Jazz Improvisation Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

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. You are starting to make me late for work Brent ! i want to stay home and play the wh scale and much around with it thanks a lot
    Ashley Renton

  2. Cool approach, which certainly works in many situations. Like Scott outlined above I would also like to add the blues scale which I consider as a very basic "jazz-scale". For minor-modes (e.g. minor II-V-I progressions) I think harmonic minor and melodic minor scales are important.

  3. O.k. cool, on the 2 scales. I would like to suggest that the "lowly" blues scale might have been included. Besides being able to use it "normally" over appropriate progressions, you can also "fake jazz" by using it over dominant chords with the root of the minor blues scale 1 1/2 steps down from the root of the dominant chord. (C# minor blues over E7 for example). I know this might be considered "cheating" or "over simplified" by a "hardcore jazz enthusiast". But it works, it's simple, it sounds good, and it leads to further discovery and/or expansion on your chosen instrument. So, again, I'd like to vote for and/or give a shout out to the blues scale, simple, useful, and (arguably) necessary. 🙂

    • Hey Scott, thanks for contributing! I'm not saying you're wrong, but I'd say that the only realy full-function use of the blues scale (which is really just a minor pentatonic with a #4), is over the blues. You can't really fake a 2-5-1 with a blues scale. It just won't sound right or outline the chord changes. But I agree, it can be a helpful tool!


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