Acoustic Mastery – John McLaughlin ‘Guardian Angels’

John McLaughlin – ‘Guardian Angels’

john mclaughlinThe composition ‘Guardian Angels’ first appears on John McLaughlin’s 1979 solo album ‘Electric Dreams’. This recording was his sixth solo album and ‘Guardian Angels’ is the track that opens the recording. Despite it’s rather short length (the track is only 51 seconds long) it displays a perfect blend of McLaughlin’s harmonic background in jazz and also his intense interest in Indian and World music.

Here’s the original track:

John McLaughlin – ‘Guardian Angels’

The composition features McLaughlin playing double tracked acoustic 6 & 12 string guitars and his fast-moving arpeggiated chords, with multiple meter changes offer a rich harmonic and rhythmic background for the melody played by both McLaughlin and violinist L.Shankar.

McLaughlin is well known for his formidable alternate picking technique and my guess here is that he plays the arpeggiated chords entirely with this technique, making this therefore one of the more challenging pieces I have featured on CGL.

Performance Notes

John McLaughlin


This composition requires a very assured picking technique to execute the multiple arpeggios accurately and my suggestion would be to work on it in small sections at first. In addition, some of the chords may sound a little unusual in isolation, but it is very important that you are comfortable with each arpeggio before trying to put everything together at tempo.

If you are going to attempt to play the entire composition with alternate picking, it might also help to write out your picking directions on a printed out score. I have found sometimes that this really helps in practice as you maintain the exact same picking attacks (i.e. downstrokes and upstrokes) each time you practice.

Some of the suggested fingerings I have indicated in the tablature could also be played in other ways on the fingerbaord and I’ll leave it up to you if you want to experiment with this.  Sometimes an otherwise difficult musical passage can be made much easier if you use a different fingering so experimentation is always worthwhile in this regard.

Below is a MIDI generated recording of the guitar part that John McLaughlin plays (played twice) and I have omitted the violin/guitar melody here so that you can focus on learning the guitar part.


Here is the PDF transcription with both regular music notation and guitar tablature. Take especially careful note of the multiple time signature changes as well, as the composition moves rapidly through them and they can catch you unawares.

‘Guardian Angels’ by John McLaughlin PDF

Enjoy working on this great composition by the master guitarist John McLaughlin

Happy Practicing,


Connections – Applying Scales In Jazz Improvisation

Scales In Jazz Improvisation – Making Connections

scales in jazz improvisation

In this lesson I’m going to explore an effective practice routine for integrating multiple scales in your soloing. If you’ve been struggling to make scales fit comfortably into your improvisations, or just feel that your scale playing always sounds like an interrupted exercise, then this article should really help you out. Although I will be demonstrating this approach over the chord changes to a well know jazz standard, the overall concept could be easily applied to other musical styles.

The application of multiple scales in jazz improvisation often mystifies some players, particularly when there are key changes involved and different scale types are required. Moving fluently between different scale positions (and scale types) can often seem an uphill struggle. There is however a helpful remedy for this.

As developing guitarists, we may initially learn some scale fingerings which whilst correct musically, are located in quite separate regions of the fingerboard. When we are then required to improvise with them, we end up rushing all over the fingerboard frantically trying to switch to these scale fingerings to match the harmony we are playing over. This approach can seriously interrupt the flow of otherwise good melodic ideas and also potentially lead to rather a disjointed sound. We are now going examine how to play scales within the same region of the fingerboard to facilitate smooth scale connection and produce a more consistent sound/melodic approach.

Using Scale Forms Intelligently

In the chart below you will see some possible chord scale choices for the first 12 bars of the well known jazz standard ‘Stella By Starlight’. As you can see almost immediately, there is a requirement to use major scales, harmonic minor scales and also a melodic minor scale. This kind of situation is very common when using scales in jazz improvisation, whereby you need to employ multiple scale types and often in different keys.

If you are already very familiar with these three scale types all over the fingerboard (and in different keys) then you may well have no problem using them to improvise with, but what if you only really knew one fingering pattern for each scale and each of these was located in a completely different area of the fingerboard?

You might well end up having to scramble all around the guitar neck just to cover the basic scale changes. If this is the case, then let’s examine how you can play all the required scales in just one area of the guitar neck, say between about the 5th and 9th frets.

The First Step in Applying Scales

Our first task is to learn the required scales within the same approximate region of the fingerboard. The PDF diagram below should help with this. (Note that C Dorian mode/scale has the same pitches as the Bb Major scale and Bb Mixolydian has the same pitches as the Eb Major scale)

Scale Positions for ‘Stella By Starlight’ PDF

Take each of the scale forms illustrated in the PDF above and learn them thoroughly (play them very slowly at first) from the lowest available note in the diagrams up to the highest available note. In doing this you will find that you are not always starting and finishing on the scale’s root, which may be a departure from past scale exercises you have learned which began and ended on a root/octave.

When you have completed studying each scale diagram and can play it from memory both ascending and descending without a mistake, then you can start to combine them. A good follow-up exercise is to play the first scale ascending up to the highest available note and then descend down the next scale type to the lowest available note. Do this slowly (and repeatedly) so that you can really hear each tone in the scale. Speed is not important here, just the pitch accuracy. What you are aiming for is an ability to move through each of the scales without hesitation as you progress forward through the underlying harmony of the composition.

It is very important that you master the above exercises fully before moving on. Once you have mastered them you can then further develop your knowledge of the scales by trying the following exercises:


A) Playing in quarter notes only, begin with the lowest available note from the first scale (D Harmonic Minor) and ascend up through the first eight available notes. When you have arrived at the last note, continue ascending but switch now to the next scale type (Bb Major Scale) and play another eight notes. You have now shifted scale type to match the underlying harmony. Also, by just restricting yourself to quarter notes (four notes per bar) you can easily check when you need to change scales. Here’s a quick example of what the first four bars should sound like:


B) Play the above exercise now going through all the required scales for the first 12 bars of ‘Stella By Starlight’. You will be playing roughly within a span of 5 – 6 frets.(depending on the scale type) for the whole exercise. If you run out of available notes within the current scale fingering, just change the direction of your line. For example if you are ascending through the scales and can’t play any higher notes, then just reverse the process and begin descending down the scale.


  • Try the above exercise but now with eighth notes (you will have to periodically change direction here too if you keep within a span of around 5 – 6 frets) As before, take things very slowly and make sure you are moving onto the next scale at the correct point within the chord progression.


  • Try the above exercises in eighth note triplets. This may feel a bit more difficult at first but it is very important to practice as well due to the change from even to odd note groupings.



The exercises discussed above are enormously helpful in developing improvisational fluency with multiple scales and with some diligent practice can really transform your playing. You can of course pick other regions of the fingerboard to employ these exercises and ultimately you should do this anyway, but only after really mastering one area first. Remember too that you can start each scale from any degree (not always the lowest or highest available pitch) and you should experiment with this.

In the next lesson I’ll expand upon these scales for jazz improvisation exercises to cover some more advanced applications.


Happy Practicing,



Guitar Playing On A Single String (or two)

Playing On A Single String (or two)

playing on a single stringWhilst some of us may have first explored learning the guitar by playing on a single string, (i.e. by learning a simple melody or riff) this process is usually overtaken by practicing with the more conventional fingerboard approach of playing ‘in position’.

Once you have learned the basic CAGED chord shapes and some scales and arpeggios, playing on a single string tends to get left behind. Some guitarists even view playing on a single string as something confined only to beginners.

In this lesson I’d like to revisit single string practice, as it can really benefit your guitar playing no matter what level your musical experience. Even for quite advanced players, working with single strings can really open up your musical horizons and is especially helpful for improvising as we’ll shortly see.

Mick Goodrick’s Influence

playing on a single stringBefore I go further I have to make mention of how I rediscovered single string playing.

Some years ago I was introduced to a wonderful book by the great US jazz guitarist and educator, Mick Goodrick. The Advancing Guitarist’ is a instructional book for intermediate to advanced guitar players and within it there is an emphasis on the value of playing along single strings (as opposed to playing positionally on multiple string sets)

This book had a profound and very positive effect upon my own musical practice and I soon saw the advantages to playing along single strings rather than always playing across them (in position)

One of the first realisations I came to from working with single strings was that I couldn’t play my favourite ‘licks’ very easily, as most of them relied on playing across strings sets using conventional scale patterns. When I first tried to improvise using just one string it sounded very awkward and I realised that much of what I had been playing was based on visual scale ‘shapes’ rather than using my ear to guide me whilst trying to create a melody.

Playing on a single string really made me think a lot more about what I was playing in terms of note choice. A very useful musical discovery therefore!

The Wonders of One String Playing

To offer you a practical example of this approach and how it might particularly benefit your soloing skills, try using the following fingerboard diagram to isolate the notes from the C major scale on each individual string. Play the C major scale on each string (beginning from the low E string and working upwards to the top E string) from the open strings up to the 12th fret and back down again.

Here’s a PDF of the diagram below that you can print out:

C Major Scale (Single Strings) PDF

Once you have done this take the Jazz Funk style backing track below (the chords on this track just alternate between Cmaj7 and Fmaj7) and improvise for a while as you would normally using any fingerboard position or scale shape that you are familiar with (i.e. unrestricted practice)

Cmaj7 – Fmaj7 Backing Track

Once you have done this, take a short break and then return to the track and do the same thing but this time restrict yourself to just a single string. Try taking the top E string for example and see if you can improvise comfortably with just that string alone. Remember you can’t change strings here, only move up and down the same string (restricted practice)

Having done that, take another break and then review what you just played.

What did you notice about playing on the single string in comparison to playing with no restrictions?

Did it sound different, better, worse?..try to analyse this.

Using Other Scales – The More Difficult Stuff

Using the approach we examined above, now try the same idea but with a completely different scale. Major scales are fairly easy to hear, but this time we are going to employ a scale from a completly different different source that may prove harder to hear at first.

playing on a single string

The G ‘Altered’ scale is a mode of the Ab Melodic Minor scale and is commonly used when improvising over altered dominant 7th chords such as: G7#5, G7b9,b13, G7#9 etc.

Here’s this scale mapped out on all six strings for you and there is also a downloadable PDF for you here as well to print out and put on your music stand.

G Altered Scale (Single Strings) PDF


As we did above, you are going to start working with the new scale by having no restrictions for your soloing so you can play anywhere on the fingerboard using any familiar scale shapes you already know for the G ‘Altered’ scale.

Here’s a backing track using just a G7 ‘Altered’ chord, again in a Jazz Funk style. You can use the G ‘Altered’ scale throughout the track.

G7 Altered Backing Track

Having played a bit on the above track your next task is to just limit yourself to a single string as we did with the C major scale. If the G ‘Altered’ scale is less familiar to you than the earlier scale then take things slowly and aim towards developing some simple melodies at first. You will soon find yourself becoming more fluent with the scale.

Single String Playing – Putting It All Together

Hopefully by now you will have started to see just how useful playing on single strings can be in developing your improvisational skills. Licks are very hard to play when you don’t have access to neighbouring string sets and it’s very likely now that you will be thinking a lot more carefully about what melodies you are playing.

As a final exercise, here is a backing track for a II V I progression in C Major, (Dm7 – G7 ‘Alt’ – Cmaj7) where you can mix between the two scales we have just examined in this lesson. The Dm7 chord is held for one bar, the G7 ‘Alt’ chord for one bar and the Cmaj7 chord for two bars.

You can use the C Major scale over the Dm7 chord and also the Cmaj7 chord but you will need to switch to the G ‘Altered’ scale for the G7 ‘Altered’ chord (which is actually G7#9)

II V I Progression Backing Track


Take things slowly with all the above exercises, as playing on a single string may feel quite awkward at first, especially if you have always played just using conventional scale positions. It is very much worth persevering with this approach though, as over time you will become much more aware of what you are playing melodically.

I’ve really seen some incredible results not only with my own playing but with that of many of my students using this single string approach, so see what it does for you!

Happy Practicing,


A (Musical) Picking Exercise For Guitar

A (Musical) Picking Exercise For Guitar

picking exercise for guitarA lot of guitar students tell me that they can become easily bored with just practicing scales and arpeggios to develop their technique, so here’s an alternate picking exercise for guitar that might make things sound a bit more musical.

The exercise is principally designed to facilitate the playing of arpeggios with alternate picking, but feel free to use whatever picking style works best for you.

I’ve written the picking exercise out almost entirely in 16th notes (semiquavers) although you could convert it to 8th notes (quavers) if you prefer. You’ll also see that there is also some use of chromatic passing notes contained within the picking exercise just to add a little melodic colour. The exercise also features some Cycle of Fifths movement as well.

Here’s the picking exercise written out in regular music notation (see PDF link below) as well as tablature.

Btw – the tablature fingerings are just one way that you could play this exercise, so please don’t feel bound by them.

Picking Exercise For Guitar PDF

Some thoughts on technique and speed

This exercise isn’t especially designed to be played at a very fast tempo, but so that you can hear what it sounds like at some different speeds, here are three examples ranging from around 60 BPM up to a pretty challenging 140 BPM! (All examples are played on a MIDI piano for maximum audio clarity)

As always with this type of exercise start by learning the study in small sections (and very slowly) Make sure you know it all thoroughly before trying to speed things up. Always play first and foremost for accuracy and not just speed.


Audio Examples




Enjoy this picking exercise for guitar and I’ll see you in the next lesson,


Happy Practicing,



‘All The Things You Are’ – The 11 Point Workout

‘All The Things You Are’ – 11 Practice Exercises

'All The Things You Are'I often get asked questions by my students about building an effective practice routine for learning jazz standards.

These guitarists are usually looking for a routine that will combine ‘comping’ (chordal accompaniment) exercises and some studies applicable to single-line improvisation. In this article I am going to give you an eleven point practice schedule built on these lines for the well known jazz standard ‘All The Things You Are’.

ATTYA is a popular composition for detailed practice/study with many jazz musicians. The song has multiple key changes to negotiate, covers several common II V I sequences and is generally regarded as an important composition to have in your performance repertoire.

Learn The Melody First

Drop 2 chord voicings, jazz guitar, Drop 3 Chords on Guitar, playing in all 12 keys, bebop scales, chord tones, all the things you are,Before you delve into the full practice regime in detail, I believe that it’s very important to memorise a composition’s melody  first and before doing anything else. This means that you should know a melody well and be able to play it without hesitation in more than one fingerboard location. For copyright reasons I’m not publishing the melody here, however you can find the original melody for ‘All The Things You Are’ in any good quality fake book.

The ATTYA Workout

The PDF at the bottom of this page offers you 11 specific exercises that you can practice through the first eight bars of ‘All The Things You Are’ (n.b. the full song version of this practice routine will soon be available to CGL subscribers)

The practice routine includes the following exercises:

  • Fixed Interval Arpeggios
  • Mixed Arpeggios
  • 3rds and 7ths (‘Guide-Tones’)
  • Roots and 10ths
  • Chord Scales leading to Chord Tones
  • Complete Chord Tones – Root, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13
  • 4 – Note ‘Coltrane’ Patterns
  • Close Position Triads
  • Wide Triads
  • Drop 2 Chords
  • Mixed Drop 2/ 3 and Altered Dominants

This practice routine represents just some of the practice approaches you could employ when learning a new composition. The routine covers both single-line and harmonic studies. This list is of course not an exhaustive one, but does represent what I feel are effective practice exercises.

Here’s an example of just one of the eleven practice exercises, which in this case focuses upon playing all of the available chord tones for each chord within the first eight bars of ‘All The Things You Are’. This outlines the R, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th of each chord type.

All The Things You Are


You will notice from the above example that some of the chords have a #11 added as a chord tone. This is a common alteration added to both dominant 7th and major 7th chords. You will also see on the G7 chord several alterations have been added as chord tones (b5, #5, b9, #9)

I would suggest playing just one exercise at a time until you can play it from memory before moving on to the others.

Here is the PDF of the 11 point practice plan

(n.b. this PDF is in standard music notation however I will be adding a tab version very soon)

ATTYA – The Workout – 1st 8 Bars PDF (regular notation)

Happy Practicing


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Chord Tones for Jazz Improvisation – Part I

Using Chord Tones for Soloing

chord tonesIn jazz education circles you rightly hear a lot of talk about the importance of chord tones in improvisation. A great many players and jazz educators emphasise the use of these tones in soloing as an aid to increasing harmonic clarity.

In this lesson we are going to begin examining what chord tones are, where they come from and how you can begin to use them in your soloing. This is a potentially big subject, so we’ll take things slowly in this first lesson.

What are Chord Tones?

Chord tones are simply arpeggio notes. As such, they offer the soloist specific notes to highlight in their improvisations that accurately describe the given harmony. All common jazz chords have seven available tones (with the exception of diminished chords which actually have eight..there will be more on this in future lessons)

Here are the seven tones in order:

Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th

Drop 2 chord voicings, jazz guitar, Drop 3 Chords on Guitar, playing in all 12 keys, bebop scales, chord tones,Obviously as harmonic qualities change (i.e. major, minor, dominant, altered dominant chords etc.) the exact intervals of these tones will change slightly, with some having lowered or raised 3rds, 5ths, 7ths etc. As an example, a chord such as a Maj7#11 might have an arpeggio formula like this:

Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, #11 and 13th

chord tonesThe exact chord tones we require are determined by the chord structure itself and of course by the parent scale that produces it. Therefore with some chords there can be variations of which exact type of 9th, 11th and 13th would be added to a given chord, all depending on the chosen parent scale. If all this sounds rather complicated, don’t worry – as we’ll start with a simple example in this lesson.

Chord Tones of Common Jazz Chords – The Major 7th

The musical example below show us the chord tones for a Cmaj7 chord with the 9th, 11th and 13th added to give us a complete list. You’ll also see that we have actually written out all the notes contained within the C major scale.

chord tones


It is very important to be able to play any one of these tones against the chord at will whilst improvising. Many players just become familiar with the first few (lower) notes of the example above, but eventually all chord tones should be second nature to you as an improviser.

Here is a backing track for Cmaj7 for you to practice playing along with. Take each one of the notes from the above musical example and play it slowly (i.e. use long note durations) against the chord backing.

Remember to just play a single note at a time, to really hear how these chord tones sound against the underlying chord. This is also an excellent ear training exercise.

Once you have played this exercise, now try to improvise a little just using the C major scale against the backing track.

See if you can emphasise (i.e. play it louder, higher, or for longer) one of the chord tones at the beginning and end of each phrase you play. For example you could begin by playing from the 3rd of the arpeggio, then play your melody line and then aim to finish with the 7th. There are many possibilities of course so experimentation is very important here.

If you want to be really thorough, you could also try playing two-note combinations of chord tones along with the backing track (i.e. playing two notes per bar). In Jerry Bergonzi’s excellent book – ‘Developing A Jazz Language‘ – he points out that there are actually 42 different two-note chord tone combinations. See how many you can play without hesitation?

Here they all are for you:

The 42 Two-Note Chord Tone Combinations


In the next lesson we’ll go into other chord types and their respective chord tones, but for the time being study the exercises above so that you can play any one of the chord tones from the Cmaj7 chord without hesitation.

Happy practicing,


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Learning Bebop Scales – Part Two

Bebop Scales – Bebop Dominant Scale

bebop dominant scale,In Learning Bebop Scales – Part One, we examined the concept of modifying existing seven note scales to produce eight note versions, often termed bebop scales.

We also learned that these modified scales can be very helpful in providing harmonic clarity for your solos. This is primarily due to the revised placement of chord tones on rhythmically strong beats, when you use the bebop scales.

In this lesson I am going to continue with the study of bebop scales by examining the popular Bebop Dominant scale. As you might have guessed by the title, this scale can be used very effectively for improvising over dominant 7th chords. Let’s first examine how this scale is created.

The Bebop Dominant Scale

The musical example below illustrates a C Mixolydian mode in bar one. If modes are still fairly new to you, an easy way to think of this mode is that it is just a major scale with a lowered seventh degree. If you already know about modes, the C Mixolydian mode is Mode V from the F major scale. (C Mixolydian has the same notes as F major played C – C)

bebop scales


The scale shown in bar two is the bebop scale version of the Mixolydian mode. It’s generally referred to as a Bebop Dominant scale (or sometimes as the Bebop Mixolydian mode/scale)

Drop 2 chord voicings, jazz guitar, Drop 3 Chords on Guitar, playing in all 12 keys, bebop scales,As we saw with the Major Bebop scale, the addition of an extra note (added onto the original seven note scale) moves the root note of the scale onto the downbeat (first beat) of the next bar (the root note is now one octave higher) This is actually desirable when you are soloing, as it places a strong chord tone on the down beat of the new bar. With the original version of the scale, the octave fell onto the last 8th note of the bar (a weak beat by comparison)

How to Practice the Bebop Dominant Scale

Our first exercise is to practice the scale from the root note to the octave and back down. Play the following example, where I have switched to a moveable scale fingering with no open strings. Note how the final root note is now on the downbeat of the final bar.

bebop scales



You can achieve the same result with other chord tones from the scale too. Let’s now play from the third degree of the scale ascending and descending from the major 3rd.

bebop scales



Now here’s the Bebop Dominant scale starting on the 5th degree of the scale, another strong chord tone. Yet again the scale passage begins and ends on the chord tone and on the downbeat of the final bar.

bebop scales



Finally here is the Bebop Dominant scale starting on the b7 degree of the scale. Play the exercise from the b7 ascending and descending as we did in the previous examples.

bebop scales



As you can see (and hopefully now hear) the Bebop Dominant scale operates in a very similar fashion to the Bebop Major scale we saw in the previous lesson. It gives you an ability to highlight chord tones successfully in your 8th notes lines. Here are some sample jazz lines using the scale (n.b. these are included in the MP3 file later in this article)

bebop scales


bebop scales


One other useful attribute of the Bebop Dominant scale is that you can also use it successfully over a IIm7 chord. Try the last two lines over a Gm7 to hear this effect and of course you can employ the scale over a IIm7 – V7 chord change, such as Gm7 – C7.

Finally here is a longer 16th note line which mixes the Bebop Dominant scale with some other melodic devices such as approach notes. Note that the line is now being played here over both a Gm7 chord and a C7(9) chord.

bebop scales



Here are all the above Bebop Dominant scale exercises and lines in a PDF for you to work from. Below that is an MP3 of all the audio examples.

The Bebop Dominant Scale and Exercises PDF

The Bebop Dominant Scale Exercises and Lines Complete MP3

Happy Practicing with your bebop scales,


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Learning Bebop Scales – Part One

Bebop Scales for Guitar

bebop scalesEven if you’ve never heard of bebop scales before, this article may well be of some interest to you if you are looking to expand your knowledge of the jazz language and improve your single-line soloing.

Bebop scales appear in the playing of many great improvisers in the history of jazz, ranging from pre-bebop players like Louis Armstrong right through to all the most modern players. As we’ll see it can be a very useful addition to your improvisational vocabulary. First let’s examine what a bebop scale actually is.

So what is a bebop scale?

Complete Guitar LessonsBebop scales are just modified versions of traditional (asymmetric) scales. I first came across the concept of modifying asymmetric scales some years ago whilst reading a great book on jazz improvisation written by the legendary jazz educator David Baker. In his book, Baker referred to what he termed ‘the bebop scales’ which were extended versions of the asymmetric scales every musician is familiar with – such as the major and harmonic minor scales.

In its simplest form, a bebop scale is produced when you take a standard seven note scale (or mode) and by adding an additional note to the scale you create an eight-note version of the same scale. Let’s look firstly at how this system works with a regular C major scale.

How to create a Bebop Major Scale

In the example below you will see a regular one octave C major scale written in the first bar. The scale begins and ends with a root note and all within the space of eight 8th notes (quavers) The second bar then shows the bebop version of the same scale.

You can see that the new scale is now an eight note scale (rather than seven) with an extra note added in to augment the normal scale. (the extra note (Ab) is also chromatic to the key of C major)

bebop scales


Why the extra note in the scale?

complete guitar lessons, learning rhythms on guitar, bebop scales,When you play the bebop version of the major scale in the above example, one of the first things you may notice is that you arrive at the first octave one 8th note (quaver) later than with the regular seven note scale. This (rhythmic) fact will be important to be aware of as we examine things further, as it now places the note C (our starting pitch but one octave higher) on the downbeat of the next bar rather than the final eighth note of the previous bar.

What this achieves rhythmically is the placement of the final note of the scale on a strong beat instead of having it on one of the weaker beats in the bar. The root is now placed on the downbeat of the next bar and is therefore given a much greater emphasis. Try comparing the two scales and hear this effect for yourself. It just fits the underlying chord more musically.

Using the bebop scale can increase the harmonic clarity that can be achieved with a scale. Simply put, you can emphasise chord tones a little more using the bebop scale.

Why Bebop Scales work well with 8th notes

A lot of jazz players play lines constructed in 8th notes (quavers) and often begin or end a scale passage with a chord tone (e.g. R, 3, 5, 6 or 7). As we saw above, when you play a regular (non-bebop) major scale in one octave beginning with say the root of the scale, you would finish the scale on the last 8th note of the bar. With the bebop major scale however, that final note is now placed on the downbeat of the next bar. See the examples below for this written out over three bars.

bebop scales


Expanding the Major Bebop Scale and a method to practice it

Whilst starting and finishing a melodic line with the root is not necessarily a bad idea, the bebop scales wouldn’t be of much use if all we could do is play up and down the scale starting and finishing on the root all the time.

The root can also sound like the musical equivalent of a full stop within a melodic line, making forward motion difficult and many jazz players prefer to emphasise other chord tones. Thankfully this will work fine with the system we’ve explored above. Take the 3rd of a chord for example.

If we take the 3rd of the chord C Major (E) and then apply our bebop scale approach we get this example:

bebop scales


Again, the addition of the extra note (Ab) places the 3rd of the chord on the downbeat of the second and third bars. You can also try the above approach with the 5th and 6th of a major chord too and get very similar results. Here’s an example starting and finishing on the 5th degree of C major:

bebop scales


Now here’s the same idea played from the 6th degree of C major:

bebop scales


By now you should be beginning to get the idea of how the bebop scales work in practice. Take any major scale you know and then practice playing the bebop scale version starting on either the Root, 3rd, 5th or 6th degree of the scale as consecutive 8th notes. You always add the b6 to the traditional major scale to create the bebop version of it.

Here’s a PDF file showing the bebop major scale starting from the different chord tones outlined above along with a sample 8th note line showing how you can apply the major bebop scale to create longer melodies.

The Bebop Major Scale PDF

You can hear all the exercises from the above PDF file here in an MP3 file recorded on a MIDI piano for maximum clarity.


In the next lesson we’ll study another (and equally useful) bebop scale type – the Dominant Bebop scale.

Happy Practicing,



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Complete Guitar LessonsWelcome to CGL. My name is Pete Sklaroff. I am the former Head of Jazz Studies and Assistant Head of Music at Leeds College of Music (UK) and a past student of US jazz guru Charlie Banacos. My proven step by step teaching approach to achieving your true potential on guitar (which has helped hundreds of guitarists just like you) is backed up by 25+ years of professional experience in jazz education and live performance.  Study jazz guitar and improvisational techniques through my international Skype lessons, pre-recorded videos or by 1-1 in person sessions. Learn more about Complete Guitar Lessons here and begin your journey today to real jazz guitar success.