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A Jazz Scale Every Pianist Should Know

Post by: Ryan Benthall

When it comes to jazz piano, a lot of players ask me in our piano lessons about what kind of scale to use when improvising on a given chord. There are multiple selections a player can make, such as the pentatonic scale, blues scale, major/minor scale, etc.

However, there is one scale that embodies a very authentic sound in jazz, and it's really just the major scale with one added note! This idea is taught by the legendary jazz pianist & educator Barry Harris. He has coined this scale the "6th diminished scale", but that's just a fancier term for this very simple concept. Essentially, the scale is a major scale with an added #5 scale degree, making it a symmetric 8 note scale, as opposed to the asymmetric major scale with 7 notes. Another name used to identify this kind of scale is the "bebop scale". If you are playing a C 6th diminished scale, the notes would be: C D E F G G# A B. The fact that this scale is symmetrical makes it perfect for creating lines that will rhythmically line up with the meter, always landing on one of the "pretty notes" (chord tones) on any desired beat! You can play this scale ascending & descending, but the magic really happens when you create patterns out of it. I would highly recommend viewing Barry's lesson on YouTube.

It is a lecture that is full of golden nuggets of musical knowledge. I really hope this resource comes as a springboard for players to start incorporating deeper elements of harmony into their playing! You can learn more about creating melodic patterns, chords, and improvising by signing up for piano lessons with me through the Lesson Studio.
 


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