How To Play The Bebop Scale

Spike Spiegel 1/ 6 scale Stylish Collection bo...
Spike Spiegel 1/ 6 scale Stylish Collection box by MEDICOM side 1 (Photo credit: Doc_Brown)

"Make friends with scales, especially the bebop scale. It's the "glue" of the jazz language. Don't leave home without it!" -- Jamey Aebersold

 Awhile back I wrote a post on Classic Bebop. There's a neat section in one of Jamey Aebersold's books on scales, especially the Bebop Scale. Let's talk about it.

The bebop scale contains one added tone to each of the four most used scales.

Dominant 7th,  C7 = C D E F G A Bb B C  (The red tone is the added tone.)

This scale is often played descending and would look like this:
C7 = C B Bb A G F E D C

Don't allow the B natural (added tone) to fall on a downbeat. The added tone must always come on the upbeat in order to give it the jazz sound we are used to hearing. This is also called the 7th scale.

Good notes to begin/start a phrase with are the chord tones: 1, 3, 5, and b7. When you begin a phrase with the 2nd, 4th, or 6th notes of the scale on a downbeat, you must use additional chromaticism somewhere in the phrase in order to make the B natural fall on the upbeat. 3rd's and 7th's like to fall on beats 1 and 3. This makes your phrases sound more natural.

There are also Bebop scales to be used over major, minor and half-diminished as well as the dominant 7th listed above.


D- = G7 = Bo
These 3 scales share the same bebop scale:
D E F F# G A B C D
G A b C D E F F# G
B C D E F F# G A B

Using the simple half-step chromaticism (which we are referring to as the bebop scale) allows your lines to have shape and contour which more closely resembles those of the jazz masters. Since the scale has 8 tones, it helps to naturally place the chord tones ON the beat rather than have them scattered all around. Most people notice an immediate uplift to their melodic lines when they begin using the bebop scale; especially if they are used to listening to jazz music. They can tell the similarities.

The dom. 7th bebop scale can act as a substitute for the minor ii chord. Example: C7 bebop scale (C D E F G A Bb B C) could also be played over the G- chord and vice versa. The chords are interchangeable over the scale. Often, while G- to C7 is being sounded the soloist will use the single bebop scale: C D E F G A Bb B C or you could think of it as a G- bebop scale: G A Bb B C D E F G. They're the same.

Learn this SOUND in different keys. You sing it without knowing what you're singing!

Look at transcribed solo books and label examples of bebop scale usage. I think you'll be surprised how often this scale SOUND is used in jazz.

Article Credit: Jamey Aebersold

For additional reading, check out:

How to Play Bebop - Volume 1
How to Play Bebop - Volume 2
How to Play Bebop - Volume 3

Happy 4th of July to all the folks in the U.S.


"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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