Category Archives: Jazz Piano Scales

Piano Scales: The Lydian Mode

Piano-ScalesOne of the piano scales enjoyed by the pros as an alternative to the major scale as most of us know it will be acknowledged here. This scale really can add some “juice” while improvising over those major 7th chords. What’s great, too, is if you’re already familiar with the traditional major scale, you’ll find this one easy to get used to.

The scale being referred to here is the Lydian mode. Let’s investigate…

We’ll start by illustrating the traditional major scale. The C Major scale will be used here:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
1   2  3  4   5  6   7  1

We have the foundation we need here. Look at the 4th degree of the scale. In this case, it is the F. Okay, play the C Major scale starting and ending on this note, as we have illustrated here:

F  G  A  B  C  D  E  F

Here we have the F Lydian scale (or mode). Again, this is one of those piano scales that you will use for added flavor when playing those major 7th chords. Let’s listen to this scale as you play it with your right hand while playing an Fmaj7 chord with your left.

You will notice that this scale varies from the traditional F Major scale in only one respect – that 4th of the scale is raised (the B is not flat in this case). So, an easy way to arrive at a Locrian scale is to play the traditional major scale that starts on the same root and simply raise the 4th degree a half step.

Play that scale again while playing the chord with your left hand. This time, pay particular attention to how that B natural sounds with the chord. How does it sound to you? However you describe this is right for you. Perhaps you might say that the raised 4th makes for a bit of a “mysterious” kind of effect.

An interesting characteristic of the Lydian mode is that there are no avoid notes. An “avoid” note is considered to be a tone in the scale that doesn’t really sound all that wonderful when held for a long duration while playing the chord. To confirm this for yourself, play the chord with your left hand and slowly play the traditional F Major scale (F  G  A  Bb  C  D  E  F). Notice that, when you arrive at the Bb, there is a certain dissonance that you may not consider all that pleasing to the ear. Next, play the Lydian mode (with that B natural) and listen to the difference!

Please consider exploring this very popular Lydian mode in other keys, too. You’ll find that it will very likely become one of your favorites!







12 Bar Blues Piano: The Mixolydian Scale

12-Bar-Blues-PianoAs a follow-up to our recent introduction to 12 bar blues piano, let’s take a look at another scale that you will want to be familiar with. We already mentioned one, which is the blues scale. The other scale that you will want to have a handle on when it comes to improvising over those dominant 7th chords is the Mixolydian scale.

Now, we acknowledged that when playing 12 bar blues piano that the key that you are in determines what blues scale you play. In other words, if you are playing the blues in the key of C, then the C blues scale will work well throughout the entire form. This means that the C blues scale will sound good over the C7, F7, and G7. That’s right. You don’t have to play the F blues scale for the F7 or the G blues scale for the G7. This is one of the interesting things about the blues scale. You see, each tone of the C blues scale has a different relationship with each of the other chords. For example, when you play the C, that tone is the 1 of the C7. However, when you play it over the the F7, it becomes the 5. Over the G7, it is the 4. Some of these relationships sound more consonant than others. Some sound dissonant. Since music really involves “tension and release,” this blues scale really serves us well! Explore the other tones of the C blues scale and see how they relate to each of these three chords. Of course, play and listen!

As mentioned above, another scale you will want to become confident playing is the Mixolydian scale. You’ll want to know this scale for each of the 7th chords you are playing, including the:

C Mixolydian scale C7

F Mixolydian scale for F7

G7 Mixolydian scale for G7

To arrive at any of these, simply play the major scale that corresponds to each root and then lower the 7th of the scale one half step. That gives you the Mixolydian scale for each of the 7th chords:

C7 = C  D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C

F7 = F  G  A  Bb  C  D  Eb  F

G7 = G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

Using this scale in conjunction with that blues scale really adds lots of interest to your soloing. You are highly encouraged to explore your potential creating ideas using all four of these scales, and as you do so, remember…







Piano Improvisation Tutorial: Pentatonic Scale Solos

Piano-Improvisation-Tutorial-Pentatonic-Scale-SolosIf you have an interest in developing some pentatonic scale solos, as a beginner this is a good choice since you can really come up with some impressive sounds with little effort. Who said it needed to be complex to be good, right? It certainly doesn’t. Actually, when it comes to creating simplistic solos that sound “pro,” the utilization of pentatonic scales is an excellent choice.

Let’s see how to come up with a pentatonic scale:

“Pentatonic” is derived from “penta,” which means “five” in Greek. Therefore, a pentatonic scale is a five note scale. Let’s first take a look at a G Major scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G
1   2   3  4  5   6   7    8

Let’s extract the following scale degrees from this major scale:

1, 2, 3, 5, and 6

Thus, this leaves us with the following, which is a G Major pentatonic scale:

G  A  B  D  E

Of course, we can repeat the 1 as we do with the major scale, resulting in:

G  A  B  D  E  G

An  interesting characteristic of the pentatonic scale is the unique flavor we get from simply playing it in either an ascending or descending fashion. However, some of the real magic can happen when using bits and pieces of this scale and creating patterns with it.
Here is one example of a descending pattern that can be used to create some interesting pentatonic scale solos:

G E D   E D B   D B A  BAG etc.

The use of the pentatonic scale is unlimited. The possibilities go way beyond the scope of this particular piano improvisation tutorial since this is simply an introduction. Below is a short video clip excerpted from Sneak Peeks #2, illustrating the G Major pentatonic scale. Of course, you will want to play this scale in other keys as well!

Once you know how to play a major pentatonic scale on a given root, it is very easy to also play a minor pentatonic scale as well. If we take a look at the G Major pentatonic once again and simply begin that scale on the 3rd note of that scale, which is B in this case, we instantly have the B Minor pentatonic scale:

B  D  E  G  A  B

So, you see, both of these pentatonic scales (G Major and B Minor) consist of exactly the same notes. You are highly encouraged to explore and have fun with both of these scales in as many keys as possible. Your confidence when it comes to improvising on piano will undoubtedly increase in a very short amount of time!