Jazz Scalechart

I always hesitate before recommending the study of scales for improvising jazz. Although it can be very useful to know the some of the scales which “fit” a certain type of chord, you should always bear in mind that scales are there to help you create melodic lines, not just to be the lines. Playing a scale over a chord will often get you out of trouble if you can’t think of what else to play, but always try to keep the actual scale content of your solos balanced with arpeggios and interval leaps to create interesting original improvisation. It’s better to think of scales as a pool of notes from which to construct melodic lines.

The following table is not complete and does not necessarily represent my own views on this, but it should be useful for anyone starting off learning to improvise jazz with chord changes.

Chord Scale Chromatic notes
Ima7 (-IVma7) Major none
Major bebop #5 (b6)
Lydian #4 (#11)
IIm7 Dorian none
Dorian bebop #3
IIø7 Locrian none
Locrian with # 2nd none
Locrian with # 2nd none
V7 Mixolydian (continuation of II m7 Dorian) none
Mixolydian bebop (continuation of Dorian) bebop) major 7
Whole tone b5 (#4, #11) #5 (b13)
Melodic minor* starting on 5th of chord V (Lydian dominant) #4 (#11)
Harmonic minor starting on 4th of chord V b9, b13
Diminished scale starting on b9, 3rd, 5th or 7th b9, b10, #11
Diminished whole tone (altered scale) b9, b10, #11, b13
Im maj7 (Im6) Melodic minor none
Im maj7 Harmonic minor none
Dim Diminished scale none
I7, IV7, V7 of blues Blues scale depends on chord

* = Melodic minor = major 6th and 7th descending as well as ascending.

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