Kill that Note

Hexatonic Scales – Unlock your Jazz Piano Improvisation


Have you ever wondered why is it so hard to get a good sound out of the Major Scale when improvising Jazz on the Piano? If, so, you are not alone. The good news is that the problem is not in your improvisation skills but in the scale itself. In this Piano Video Tutorial, we’ll dig deep into the challenges posed by the major scale and how to get around them.

The Hidden Issues of the Major Scale:

While the Major Scale forms the backbone of Western music, it clashes when we try to use it to improvise jazz, leaving our solo sounding disjointed. That happens because of two main reasons.

  1. Odd Scale Length: The Major Scale contains seven notes which makes it an ‘odd’ scale and therefore it does not align with our common rhythmic structures like the 4/4 beat. Since 7 is not divisible by 4 or by 2 it creates a disparity in which our tonal centers end up falling on the weak parts of the beat, which leads to our scale going out of melodic sync throughout our improvisation.
  2. The ‘Problem’ Note: The fourth note of the Major Scale is commonly known as the ‘problem note’ because it clashes with the major 3rd which is a half step away which creates dissonance and therefore instability in our melodic line.

Common Solutions:

The combination of these two issues is what makes it hard for us to be able to achieve fluidity in our improvisation when using the regular major scale.

We have two different ways to get around these issues. One solution is adding an extra note to create an eight-note ‘even’ scale. Another solution is eliminating the problem note, making the scale an ‘even’ six-note scale.

The Bebop Scale: Enhancing the Major Scale

One approach is to transform the major scale into a bebop scale by inserting an additional note between the fifth and sixth degrees. This modification results in an eight-note ‘even’ scale that aligns more naturally with our 4/4 beat, as our tonal centers fall in the string parts of the measure ‘our down beats’ therefore enhancing stability and tonal clarity during improvisation.

The Hexatonic Scale: Simplifying Complexity

Another approach is simplifying the major scale by removing the ‘Problem Note’ creating a ‘Hexatonic Scale’ which is an ‘even’ scale of six notes. This streamlined scale not only eliminates dissonance but also aligns seamlessly with our 4/4 beat facilitating smoother transitions in our Melodic Motion.

Bebop Vs. Hexatonic:

Both scales have their strengths. Bebop scales offer wider harmonic possibilities, while hexatonic scales provide simpler, more streamlined melodic options. Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference and playing style.

Mastering the Hexatonic Scales

Incorporating hexatonic scales into your improvisational toolkit is essential for any aspiring jazz pianist. These versatile scales offer a solution to the challenges posed by traditional major scales, unlocking new possibilities for melodic expression and rhythmic precision.

Unleash your Inner Jazz Master

Don’t just read, put these concepts into action! Watch the video and dig deeper into the fascinating world of hexatonic scales to unlock the secret to improvisational freedom.

Remember, mastering new tools always takes time and dedication, but the results are worth it. Soon, you’ll be crafting solos that flow effortlessly.

Download the Hexatic Scales PDF:

If you’d like to learn about these subjects in more detail, subscribe to our course “Piano for the Modern Musician” REGISTER HERE for further musical exploration. Happy practicing!

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