Scales for Blues Improvisation

Question by Frank Maurer
(Donegal, Ireland)

I just started on the Improv1 Scales and I noted the following things:

1) In bar 8 of the F Blues, starting on the tonic of the scale, you land on the 3rd of D7 which gives a great momentum and really highlights this chord. When I start on the 3rd, 5th or 7th of the scale this momentum seems to get lost as I end on the 5th, 7th or 9th of the D7 chord, all of which are also notes in the F7 scale and so there is no feeling of the D7 chord.

2) When I play the scales from the root I land on a chord tone on beat 4 in the 1 bar phrase. This doesn’t happen when I play the scales from the 3rd, 5th or 7th so the phrases don’t sound that great but I suppose I just can ignore that?

BTW I’d love to take skype lessons of you but I’m only getting set5 up with broadband at the moment and I’m very busy over summer anyway but matbe in autumn is you still have slots available.

Frank Maurer

M-A’s Answer:

Hello Frank,

Thanks for your questions. I will try to be very brief, as too not lose “the whole point” of the exercise.

(see the Improvisation Article Series on here…)

First, you have to remember that all of this business of starting scales on different tones is just EXERCISES. The idea is nice, is easy to explain and fairly easy to get together and play … but it’s not flexible in the sense that… it’s just an exercise! (-:

It’s just ONE perspective on outlining chord changes with scales, as their exists numerous approaches, each with its own limitations. Now for the precise questions:

1) This is no coincidence, starting on the root and descending to D7 down to an F# note gives us a feeling of F# diminished something (which is equivalent to D7b9).

(Honestly, I would really like to hear some sort of Gm chord right after in bar 9, but for simplicity, I’ve kept the Gm7-C7 to its minimal essence by using just C7 scale… but I digress.)

If you want to convey MORE of the D7 sound when starting on different degrees, feel free to use another scale and adjust the exercise. For instance, F7 up from the A note, A Bb C D Eb F … then hit the F# note there and descend the D7b9 half-whole diminished scale: F# F Eb D C B A.

In fact, the only difference between the F7 and the D7b9 (in this case only) is to hear the B natural note, which could or couldn’t make sense in your ears.

2) Starting phrases on the 3rd, 5th etc. makes you play on extensions more…

Root to seventh, third to ninth, fifth to eleventh, seventh to thirteen, it’s all part of the scale sound, no issues there. It’s probably just a matter of getting used to those more “foreign” notes in regards to their distance to the tonic.

I hope this helps,

Marc-Andre Seguin
“Improve Your Jazz Guitar Playing with a REAL Teacher”

Was this page helpful? Let us know!