How to Improvise Jazz Piano - P1

How to Improvise Jazz on the Piano – P1

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The Jazz Scales

“How to Improvise Jazz Piano” using the Bebop and the Jazz Melodic Minor scale as well as the use of broken chords to play jazz piano solos, using the most standard Jazz chord progression II-V-I to illustrate the concept. “How to Improvise Jazz Piano” using the Bebop and the Jazz Melodic Minor scale as well as the use of broken chords to play jazz piano solos, using the most standard Jazz chord progression II-V-I to illustrate the concept.

What Makes the Jazz Scales Sound Jazzy?

The scales of the Jazz chord progression IIm7 – V7 – IMaj7 chords share the same notes. Therefore it makes them interchangeable with each other. These scales are the foundation of the Chord/Scale Relationships. But improvising using these scales only will sound “dull, ” and it would lack the necessary swing and color, and the reason for this is that these scales are “rhythmically uneven” and therefore not very useful with the Jazz Bebop style.

II-V-I Jazz Progression

scales of the progression

The Mixolydian Scale

To become fluent improvisers, we need to simplify the math in our heads by taking advantage of music commonalities. In this case, because the scales of the chords share the same notes we could use only one scale to play them all. Although this is true, one of the most common errors is trying to use the Mixolydian scale as the main scale for jazz improvisation.

The problem is that the Mixolydian scale has a “Flaw.” The flaw of the Mixolydian scale is that it is rhythmically uneven because the notes of the chord do not always fall on the “downbeat.” This inconsistency makes us “lose our footing” when trying to improvise Bebop. (Please watch video to see demonstration of this concept)

mixolydian scale

The Bebop Scale

The “Bebop” scale was designed to fix this rhythmic inconsistency by adding an extra half step passing tone to the “Mixolydian” scale, when adding this extra half step the scale becomes balanced in a way that all of the notes of the chord fall on the “downbeat” (Please refer to the video to see the example) 

bebop melodic scales

The Minor Dorian Scale

 The Dorian scale shares the notes of the Mixolydian over the minor chord. This scale is great when improvising on the “Dorian Mode” such as Miles Davis’ song “So What.” But is not that great playing over other chord progressions such as the II-V-I because it lacks color and swing due to the scale’s rhythmic inconsistencies. (Please refer to video)

b2ap3 medium 6th diminished scale of chords 2

The Melodic Minor Scale

Jazz and Bebop use the melodic minor scale due to the color provided by using the Major 7th and Minor 7th note. The use of this two notes gives the chord progression a “Jazzy flavor.” 

classical melodic minor2

The Jazz melodic Minor Scale

Bebop style is all about the use of half steps; those chromatic notes add to the swing to the improvisation especially when playing 16th notes. To add that resource to this scale the “Jazz Melodic Minor Scale” uses the also the Major 3rd, when descending. (Please refer to video to see the example).

jazz melodic mino 20160504 180714 1
scales of the progression
bebop melodic scales

Blending the Scales

The scales of the progression are “interchangeable” because they share common notes. Therefore we can use these scales on either chord. We can play the Bebop scale over the minor chord or the Jazz melodic minor scale over the dominant chord. We can even use a blend of both scales on either chord (please refer to video)