Do You Know These 3 Important Jazz Scales?

jazz scalesIn today’s lesson we’re going to explore 3 very important jazz scales. I’m also going to show you how to use these scales in your jazz improvisation.

It’s always a good idea to apply what we learn to real music. So, we’re also going to learn how to use these scales over the famous Miles Davis’ tune So What.

This is a classic tune and a great beginner jazz song to learn to improvise on.

If you need to improve your jazz improvisation or want to learn more scales you should hopefully find this lesson very useful! 🙂

I’ve included a video, notation, and tips to help you learn these jazz scales and incorporate them in your playing quickly.

jazz-piano-lessons-online(By the way, this is another small sample of one of the lessons in my brand new Premium Membership Course.)

If you want to explore another free sample of the powerful content that’s in there I highly recommend you also check out this All The Things You Are jazz piano lesson.)

So, let’s get started exploring these scales now….

Jazz Scales Video

Take a few minutes and watch this video. I’ll show you step by step how to play the 3 different scales and also show you how to jam with them.

(If you already know these scales and just want to hear me jam on So What you can fast forward to 4 minutes 55 seconds. You’ll hear me mix the scales all together in a real playing situation.)

Jazz Scales Notation

Here’s the notation for the scales in the video. Make sure you also scroll down and definitely check out the 8 extra tips. They’re important and will help you master the lesson!

jazz-scales-miles-davis-so-what(Click on the notation to expand and open in a new window. Feel free to share this online but please provide a link back to

8 Tips To Help You Master This Lesson

1. So What is a 32 bar jazz tune with an AABA form and it’s a modal jazz tune. This means that we stay on the same chord for long periods of time and there is less harmonic motion.

2. The chords are D minor for 8 bars (A section). Dminor for 8 bars (2nd A section). Ebminor for 8 bars (B section). Dminor for 8 bars (last A section).

3. There are countless approaches we can use to improvise over So What but in this lesson we focus on just 3 approaches and scales. Dorian, Melodic Minor, and the Blues Scale.

4. I specifically focused on these scales because Miles Davis actually uses them all over the place in his original solo on So What. If you’re not familiar with his solo I created a whole free lesson on it. You can check out the Miles Davis lesson right here.

5. If you want more of a bebop sound you could also superimpose some minor bebop licks over the top of these chords. Even though there are more chord changes they’ll still work as long as you resolve them properly. This can be thought of as a simple form of chord substitution 🙂

If you need some good licks for this you can check out this Red Garland Lick or this Bill Evans lick.

6. If you want to learn more about some basic concepts of chord substitutions you should also check out this lesson on jazz turnarounds.

7. As far as practice tips, I recommend you practice playing up and down each scale in several octaves. Getting your ears and hands comfortable with the sound and feel of these scales will go a long way.

8. Each scale has it’s own distinctive sound or ‘color’. You should play these scales enough times that you start to associate an emotion or a feeling with their sound.

There is no right or wrong answer for these emotions of course. Everybody’s answer will be a little different but forming these personal relationships can help you decide what scale to choose by the feeling you want to create.

So, please let me know in the comments area. What’s your favorite scale sound on this tune? Does dorian create a certain feeling for you? How about melodic minor? Blues Scale?

Leave a comment below and let me know. I read all of the comments.

P.S. If you haven’t explored the Premium Membership course you can check out all the course details right here


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