i have studied (a little bit, anyway) the hal leonard be-bop piano book and cd. no mention of the specific be-bop scale.

however, i have seen this scale mentioned in passing in a few books and the scale is given for playing over minor 7th, maj 7th and dom 7th chords. the scale includes a passing chromatic tone but the point about this scale seems to be that it is eight notes. i am thinking so what?

what should i know about playing the bebop scale and what is the big deal about eight notes.

i guess i am saying, i have a scale but i don't know how to use it!

did bud powell use this scale? or is it some kind of quick fix to give a bebop sound?


There are 38 comments, leave a comment.
the deal with the eight note scales is that if you start on a chord tone and play an eighth note run for a measure you will end up on a chord tone, and if you start on a downbeat all your downbeats will be strong notes in the chord. i personally haven't practiced them that much, i seem to get a passable bebop sound by liberally applying chromatic passing tones, and my ear generally tells me whether it's ok to come to a rest on the note i'm on or if i should keep moving.
to me, scale tones are like colors on a palette....if you just paint them in order from left to right they're pretty boring - try to mix em up and create something cool:)

if you listen a lot, you'll start getting a better sense of it all
i think the commonest form of this scale includes a chromatic step between v and vi.  doesn't it feature in barry harris's system?  anyway, you can see an interesting consequence of this if you "harmonize the scale" - that is, make a chord of alternating notes from the scale on each step.  for example, the c major scale with the added bebop note (ab) gives you:
c e g a
d f ab b
e g a c
f ab b d
g a c e
ab b d f
a c e g
b d f ab

that is, you make alternately c6 (or inversions thereof) and ddim7 (and inversions) all the way up.  isn't that interesting?

here's something to experiment with - try adding a chromatic step between other degrees of the major (or minor for that matter) scale (eg between i and ii, or vi and vii) and see what happens when you harmonize the resulting scale.  gets quite freaky and opens up possibilities for unusual voicings and improvised lines.

a lot folks don't take to it because it's one of the hardest things for an improvisor to manage. it's a simple concept but very difficult to actualize within improvisation. parker seemed to manage it about half the time. it's harder to do incorporate than knowing multiple scales for every chord type (also recommended). many decent players are unskilled at incorporating the concept and therefore ignore or reject it. it may be part of what seperates them from the greats.

i am slowly practicing joining bebop scales together (at a chord change) by using an enclosure on beat 4 (surround tone) as a transition for landing onto the next chord tone on beat 1. or i just step back the interval of a second on beat 1.
the bebop scales that start on c, d, e, f, g, a can all be played with a very efficient and fast fingering of 1234 1234.  
it's easier than traditional 123,1234 fingerings.

could you give an example? just one would be fine.
c d e d c b bb ab a
it is intersting to note that if one uses only the chord tones in the following bebop progression and then "sums them all up" that it results in the major bebop scale!

| dm9 g7b9 | cmaj9 |

dm9 = d f a c e

g7b9 = g b d f ab

cmaj9 = c e g b d

c major bebop scale = c d e g ab a b c

this just might be a clue ...

it is interesting to note that if one uses only the chord tones in the following bebop progression and then "sums them all up" that it results in the major bebop scale!

| dm9 g7b9 | cmaj9 |

dm9 = d f a c e

g7b9 = g b d f ab

cmaj9 = c e g b d

c major bebop scale = c d e g ab a b c

this just might be a clue ...
if you think in terms of chord tones, you don't really need to think about scales (they're kinda the same thing)

c7 = cegbb, the notes in between are dfa = all together you get:

cdefgabb - which some folks call mixolydian.

if you want to add a b natural and give it a name like bebop or whatever, go ahead :)

how about c13#11?  (cegbbdf#a)

you get cdef#gabb...i'm guessing there's a name for that one too :)

i guess it boils down to whatever floats your boat
i think the last post misses the whole point.
heh heh - looks like you missed mine too - we never have understood each other :)
what's the big deal about this scale and that scale.  i learned all my scales when i was a kid and then had to play them in my freshman and sophomore years of theory and then never really thought about them.  i really learned to play on the gig by playing off chord tones and using a few pentatonics and whatever sounded good.
i give up.
jazz+, don't give up. guys, in this forum, search for hal galper or the book 'forward motion'. there's been a lot of discussions on this issue here. better yet, just buy the book forward motion at www.halgalper.com.

i don't have a lot of time right now but i have posted a whole lot of stuff on this topic and i can transfer it over (i don't want to retype it).

just to summarize:  playing 8 note scales relate to having strong chord tones (the 1,3,5,7 of the chord land on the downbeat). there's a long theory to this, the whole point being it is a characterstic of bebop and playing guys like charlie parker in particular. this approach is espoused by many leading educators in jazz and originated from parker's ability to phrase a line and handle tension and release. this is a phrasing tool. read the book and search threads here. it is mentioned often.
this is my post from a different forum discussing this approach.

per hal galper: he defines "strong" chord tones as 1, 3, 5, 7 of the chord. his definition of putting chord tones on downbeats is that one should hear the changes even when there is no rhythm section. there is no hierarchy among these tones other than they all strongly suggest the chord.

but here's where it is really not obvious. he's saying you can go way out on 6 of the 8 beats (assuming 4/4 and eight note lines). meaning even using non-chord tones or atonal choices. but as long as you return to a chord tone on beats 1 and 3, you will essentially "release".

so the traditional way to "start" out improvising is just to run through the notes of the chord on all the beats. this rule is saying, you really only need two of those notes to be from the chord. this description says: you can get as far out as you want, but if you stick to this rule, you will not sound unacceptably "outside'.

galper ties this approach to phrasing. since beat 1 and 3 are release beats, he recommends that one avoids starting lines on downbeats since that is where you end your phrase.  

for me, this one is hard to realize for most since if really sounds stilted to always start with a pickup. so one could stick some quarter notes on the downbeat and then pickup with eight notes from there to make the continuity flow.

so another way of restating this "rule" is to end your phrases on a downbeat with a chord tone.

as jazz+ says, it is indeed a struggle to think of this rule while playing. it's pretty hard for sure.  

if one is particularly lick based it is easier since you can work out the lick in advance and its release occurring on the downbeat. niacin above, referred to barry harris actually formulating licks around this rule.

charlie parker's licks can certainly be learned and they pretty much fit this as are many common bebop licks. i certainly am not able to think of this every moment (or most moments), but i recognize (a) the sound of a line that is mostly following changes, and (b) i can feel the release coming.

no one (not even galper) would suggest that this would be the only way to improvise. however, it describes a particularly satisfying sound, one that has a balance of tension and release.

in contrast, running through a constant line of 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, and their alterations is pure tension. where and when is the release coming? hal galper's answer is, it's coming -- on a downbeat.

by the way, this is a complete reinterpretation of galper. i suggest getting the original pdf book for the original words (without my side comments).
i'd like to give up too, but since i'm an obsessive-compulsive personality, my obsession with helping those along the road continually overrides my desire to say to hell with it all.

maybe i should start taking prozac ...

i have spent years learning not to think while i play - i simply have to stay our of my head in order to play music - especially jazz - that works for me, therefor it's possible it may work for others too.  it's important think while you're not playing, but when the gig starts, just let it happen and enjoy yourself

i do not mean to diss scales or hal galper or even jazz+ for that matter, i'm just offering my thoughts on the subject.  it's important to load your head with musical ideas.  you get these from listening, studying theory, scales, chords, compositions, birds, trees, clouds, water etc.

by "whatever floats your boat" i mean to relax, enjoy the process and use whatever methods you find helpful.
dr. whack, obviously that is the best approach when actually performing. the advice given here are woodshedding tools, allowing you to prepare  yourself.

specifically on the topic at hand, one could preconstruct certain licks to practice. but this approach is just saying that making a phrase is not just a stream of notes. where to position this stream of notes is in fact important to the idiom. the bebop scale is key to understanding the construction of lines in heads like donna lee. there's a logic to the rhythmic flow of notes and how they relate to changes. the masters did this successfully. what all this does is tell us how they did it.

now whether or not one wants to improvise by learning these tools is an individual choice. this simply explains why 8 note bebop scales came to be. suffice it to say that many leading educators in jazz teach this so it must be worth mentioning. (i was taught this).

reflect what you're practicing?
i'm assuming these are 8th notes and that one is going from c7 (or c7alt) to f7.

(2) does the ab to d reflect what you mean by "stepping back an interval of a 2nd on beat 1"?


sorry: does the ab to a reflect what you mean by "stepping back an interval of a 2nd on beat 1"?
"just to summarize:  playing 8 note scales relate to having strong chord tones (the 1,3,5,7 of the chord land on the downbeat). there's a long theory to this, the whole point being it is a characterstic of bebop and playing guys like charlie parker in particular"
what jazzwee said.
david baker has put out a whole bunch of bebop learning material using bebop scales.  lots of patterns and licks.
this is such an important concept to making lines sound good and removes the randomness to playing. one can approach this 'lick style' or just playing melodies. either way one has to be conscious about note choices.

if you don't do this, melodies seem to sound weak. there's quite a discipline to automatically thinking like this and the effect is impressive. in almost always brings quick maturity to improvisational lines.

to start with a simple approach of applying this is to always start your line with a pickup, on beat 4+, then hit the chord tone on beat 1. then follow the scale for a little bit (in any direction), or apreggiate the chord tones. breath at the end of the line, and eye the next chord tone for the next chord and start with a pickup again on 4+ to target that next tone. in preparation for this, one must clearly visualize the 1,3,5, 7 of each chord (adjusting each for chord quality -- e.g. b3, b7, b5 as needed). one must also visualize the scale for each chord. i find that you really only need to plan the pickup on 4+ and the chord tone. everything after that will automatically (usually) land on a chord tone and the whole phrasing just is so improved.

there are other things to expand on this so everything doesn't sound like a pickup, such as mixing in quarter notes before a pickup. nothing changes about how to pick what notes to play, i.e. improvise on the melody, create a story, develop your ideas, etc. this is just a layer you put on top of all that.

this is applicable with both bebop scales or non-bebop scales, although you can move stepwise very quickly in a bebop scale and never lose a chord tone on a downbeat since that is the design of the scale. very useful for the very fast bebop style.
i tend to agree with the dr., that just seems like thinking about it way too much. phrasing and articulation have never been my weak points, and they shouldn't be for anyone who has listened to a lot of jazz. i know how to treat an offbeat differently from a downbeat intuitively, that's not "randomness," my ear hears it and my phrases follow. i probably do start most of my phrases on offbeats, but i've never once actually thought about it while i was doing it, not while improvising.

also i disagree with the premise, that 1-3-5-7 are always the stronger tones to resolve to, or to end a phrase on. while they do clearly outline the progression, which is how a horn player might think about it, think about it like an arranger. if you are playing a maj7 chord, say you are using a rudimentary voicing in your left hand of 1-3-7, you most definately do not want to end your phrase on 1, you will have a minor 9 clash with the 7 in your left hand and it will not sound good. it's a fine note to use if you're a bass player, but not in your solo. if you're playing a min7 chord and using a voicing in your left hand that has the 9th in it then you would not want to end a phrase on the 3, again a min9 clash with the 9th of the chord in your left hand. if you voice a dominant 7 chord in your left with a 13th in the chord then 7 is going to sound off.
just know that this information, which i think is priceless, is applied by the top jazz musicians. this is not a "basic" level advice and it requires a lot of practice to internalize. suffice it to say that i've been told this directly and personally by (multiple) cats that command a lot of respect in the world of jazz. i can listen to their records and i can clearly hear that they practice what they preach.

i'm happy to say that hal galper makes this same information available to all in his book. what i've just written above is to provide a concrete way to practice this.

while we are able to learn primarily via recordings, the greats, like charlie parker, understood how to use this rule internally and fully and thus are able to create their own distinct sounds.

do you have evidence of that?   i'm pretty sure the "bebop scale" was something theorists/educators  came up with long after the music had been created as a way of possibly explaining to lay people what those folks were doing.  (i would love to be proven wrong since i take teaching very seriously  - and i promise to eat crow and read more  about it if i am:)  like all theory: the music came first, the theory came later - as a way of defining stylistic conventions

i was born in the 50s, the son of a jazz pianist, i played for a living for about 30 years and i had never heard of the bebop scale until i popped in here.  i also never heard of a and b form voicings until i popped in here. i'm not saying those are not a helpful teaching aids, i just think it is important to put things in the proper perspective.
...also...i can't think of any bebop heads that use that scale, can you?  it would be interesting to take a look at some of those if you can find some.
dr. whack, i'm not speaking of bebop scales per se. i'm speaking of the attention placed to placing strong chord tones on downbeats.  

bebop scales, which are typically documented as adding a maj7 on a major/dominant chord and adding a b13 on a minor chord, simply make landing on a strong chord tone automatic due their 8 note structure. i'm guessing you could probably invent any passing tone in a 7 note scale to create your own 8 note structure. to my ears, which note it is isn't so important. i'm not even sure talking about bebop scales per se is nearly as important as beat placement of notes.

charlie parker heads (donna lee, confirmation) are almost dense solos. that should tell the story right there. just in this thread alone several names where given of people that have documented this and have been mentioned by myself and others: hal galper, david baker, barry harris. some other jazz educators who have written this i have read or have this referred to are bob ligon, shelly berg, neal olmstead. these are the book writers. apparently, bach followed this rule too!

however, i did not learn this from any of the above mentioned.  

hal galper's book has many quotes in it. he refers to these concepts as "jazz proverbs"; something passed by oral tradition from the masters. a printed book is more believable than any anonymous poster, no matter what i say, even if i'm referring to some oral jazz proverb. ;-)
thank you for not being offended by my questioning this and for taking the time to share your thoughts - that's what education is supposed to be about.  for concepts like these, there is no right or wrong, just different tools and view points.  that's what makes the world go around  

no problem dr. whack. it's ok if not everyone agrees with this. music is an art, not a science of course. i'm just happy to share it to those looking for a specific approach to improving their phrasing. hopefully it will benefit someone.

i just want to share that this is something that is very hard to do. it takes a lot of work to get right.
thanks for answering my question guys

i am really a chord tone man and i am getting a bebop sound by:

1. listening to bud powell and listening again and again and again.
2. playing and finding i am creating a bebop sound (liberal use of chromatic passing notes and tri-tone substition).

the scales i have looked at seem to find there way into my playing as fragments of scales here and there. but i am really thinking in terms of chord tones.

i feel so inadequate that i don't know all those scales - but i still make music!!!!


dr. whack, i do indeed hear "bebop scales" played all the time in bebop solos.  even now.  charlie parker et al, did indeed invent the bebop scales.  they just didn't name them that.  of course they didn't.  they didn't even call it "bebop".  
theoreticians don't invent the scales, the musicians do.  theoreticians merely name and categorize them later on.
gee - thanks!
it's one of the hardest things to manage, that alignment of chord tones on the beats.
after analyzing the enitire omnibook, it seems parker did it less than half the tme. i suppose you could argue that he pushed the alignment half a beat ahead sometimes(forward motion), but then almost evrything qualifies.
louis armstrong played the bebop scale when parker was still a kid. the early history of bebop is difficult to document because of a strike by the american federation of musicians which meant that there were no official recordings in most of 1942 and 1943.
a srike by the union in '42 & '43?

i had always heard that the reason there were no recordings in those two years was because the government banned the use of vinyl by the reocrding industry to make phonograph records because the material (a pertoleum byproduct) was needed for the war effort.
from wikipedia

1942-43 musicians' strike

on august 1, 1942, the american federation of musicians organized a strike against the major recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. the strike lasted through the end of 1942 and into 1943, forcing the companies to record without orchestral backups to the popular songs of the day and to release earlier recordings that had not been already released, as well as to reissue records from their back catalogue, and during this period, recordings from as far back as the mid-1920s (the dawn of the electrical recording era) were reissued. (for some recording companies, the strike lasted into 1944, but decca records settled in september, 1943.)

some of the recordings made during this strike, with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras, included:

"goodbye sue" by perry como  
"have i stayed away too long?" by perry como  
"lili marlene" by perry como  
"long ago and far away" by perry como  
"sunday, monday, or always"  
by bing crosby  
by frank sinatra  
"you'll never know"  
by frank sinatra  
by dick haymes  

external references
reproduction of down beat magazine article on the strike
Please sign in to post.

Jazz Piano Notebook Series
Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 1 - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version - videos

Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 2 - jazz piano tricks of the trade you can use today

Volume 2 has 14 jazz piano exercises and tricks of the trade, and quite a bit of it is Calypso jazz piano related material, including some Monty Alexander and Michel Camilo style grooves. Jazz piano education is through the ears, but books like this can help.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Tim Richards' Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.

Tim wrote the well known "Exploring Jazz Piano" and "Improvising Blues Piano" books and has several others to his name.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 4 is by Jeff Brent, a jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author of "Modalogy" and other acclaimed jazz theory and education books. In this book Jeff shares detailed analysis of transcriptions of live performances. He covers everything from the shape of the songs to the tricks and licks he uses in improvised lines to the ideas behind his lush chord voicings.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Most Recent Discussions
Volume 5 of Scot Ranney's "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is up and running!
How to Develop Your Improvisation from Beginner to Advanced
Big Chief
How to Play Bossa Nova
Best Pianos for Beginners
How to Reharmonise a song

Volume 5 of the "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is Available!
LearnJazzPiano.com File Downloads News
One Hour of Relaxing Piano Music
Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook
Fundamentos Físicos del Sonido
Aprendiendo a tocar PIANO gratis con partitura

Top Sheetmusic Picks

Jazzy Christmas Arrangements
Cocktail Piano
Best Songs Ever, 6th Edition
Christmas Medley
Moana Songbook
Late Night Jazz Piano

Jazz piano education is cool.

be the main character in your own story

Rock on. Follow your passion.

Sign In

privacy policyterms of serviceabout • 50,656 messages 63,069 accounts 53,779 logins
LearnJazzPiano.com Copyright © 1995-2019 by Scot Ranney • website software and design by scot's scripts
LearnJazzPiano.com is For Sale - Serious Inquiries Only