Bebop scales (also known simply as bop scales) are modified versions of the traditional seven note scales we all use, such as the major scale, the harmonic minor scale etc. and the various modes derived from them. These scales are very common in jazz improvisation and if you want to really sound authentic in your jazz soloing, then they are essential to learn in my view.
Most commonly, these scales are constructed by adding an extra chromatic note to the original scale, thereby creating an eight note (rather than a seven note) scale. There are quite a number of different bop scales available, but the most common ones I employ are; the bebop major, the mixolydian bebop (or dominant bebop) and the dominant 7th b9,b13 bebop scale.
In this series of lessons, I’ll be exploring how these scales are constructed, how to practice them and finally how to use them in your soloing.
The Bebop Dominant Scale
The first bop scale we are going to examine is the dominant scale. This scale is based upon a Mixolydian mode (Mode V from the major scale) and is usually employed over a dominant 7th chord (although it can be used over other chord types as well – more on this in later lessons)
The scale has an extra (chromatic) note added between the b7 of scale and the root/tonic. This extra note is used as a passing note only in bop style lines.
In the musical example below, you will first see the bebop dominant scale written out for G7 (G dominant bop scale) in one octave. Following the full scale (bar 2) are a series of short exercises using five note sequences drawn from the scale (bars 4 – 11) These are very important to practice as they help you gradually incorporate the scale into your playing. I would suggest practicing these in several fretboard locations eventually.
Arpeggios for use with the Bebop Dominant Scale
In bars 12 – 14 you’ll see three arpeggios that work particularly well with the G7 dominant bop scale. They are: Dmin7, Fmaj7 and Bm7b5. You can play these arpeggios in any note combinations you’d like, but one combination that is particularly common is where the root is taken up one octave. You can see this in bars 15 – 17.
The final eight bars in the sheet give you some sample lines which combine arpeggios and the dominant bop scale. These should give you an idea of how the scale can be mixed with the arpeggios to create authentic sounding jazz lines.
Here is a link to download the above the musical examples as a PDF file so that you can print it out for your practice sessions, or view at a higher magnification on your chosen screen type.
Take your time learning this first bop scale, as it will help considerably when you move onto the other types. In the next lesson we’ll examine more ways to use the bop scales and build longer lines with them.