Jazz improvisation with scale substitutions


Jazz improvisation or soloing is certainly one of the biggest challenges for musicians. You need to listen carefully and understand what the other musicians play for reacting to their impulses and to create an artistic tension. In addition, your own orientation is needed: the position in song schema, which chord is currently played and in which cadence it is embedded. Finally, the musician needs to decide a rhythm and melody on the flow and play it in the right timing. When it comes to the selection of a melody scales provides a basic tool for building up improvisation lines. This is where the jazz scale tool comes into play. The jazz scale tool of jazz-scales.com helps you to explore scales and to find interesting scale alternatives that can be used as substitution. 


Modal scales

A scale can be seen from another starting point as the original root note. This will lead to another scale name while the tones are exactly the same as in the original scale. A classic example is the church mode (Gregorian mode). The ionic major scale taken from the second mode will lead to the Dorian minor scale. 

Example modal scales derived from the ionic scale with root C:

Ionic C D E F G A B
Dorian D E F G A B C
Phrygian E F G A B C D
Lydian F G A B C D E
Mixolydian G A B C D E F
Aeolian A B C D E F G
Locrian B C D E F G A

In Jazz Music the modes of the melodic and harmonic minor scales are often used. For example, the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale is the "altered scale". The 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale is called "HM5".

Literatury for Chord Scale theory as taught at the Berklee College of Music:



Because of the same tones of the basic scale and of the derived mode the scales can be substituted. Instead of playing the altered scale (G alt) the melodic minor scale in the 2th mode (Ab melodic minor) can be used. Both scales have exactly the same tones. The big advantage of the substitution approach is that not all scales in all modes are equally common for musicians. The altered scale itself is not very intuitive when you want to build up chords on it but so is the melodic minor scale. Arpeggios and licks can be "transferred" to other scales and gives a complete new Color although the tones are the same. But most musicians Play different licks on CMaj7 as on Am6.

If you are looking for new Impulses for your Improvisation it can be very helpful to look for scale Substitution since it changes the perspective on the underlying chords. The purpose of the jazz scale tool is to explore jazz scales and possible substitutions and to enhance the Improvisation skills.


Literature for Jazz Improvisation and harmonics