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Bebop Scales: a good place to start and stay

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by flatback, Jun 26, 2004.

  1. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    After reading a bunch of posts here about theory and what to play over different kinds of changes and how to make walking thru modal tunes or minor blues interesting I wanted to offer something...
    When I was younger and voraciously trying to get the theory of jazz into my ears and brain, i went to the Berklee school of music (studying vibes at the time with Gary Burton) and then bass with Charlie haden and Dave Holland and a bunch of other cats in NY... What happens after a long time of thinking about how to play over changes is that you discover that pretty much all the 12 notes are usable and available at any given time over any given chord ( I realize this is no help...)
    but what you begin to notice when you really start listening and transcribing a lot, is that your favorite players are using simple strategies to create melodies.
    The basic strategy is play chord tones. If you play only chord tones you will never play a wrong note etc...
    But check this out, if you are playing jazz on any instrument but particularly bass, probably the single greatest facilitator ( the most useful strategy) of playing right notes at the right time and creating interesting moving lines (while keeping the music pulsing) is the use of the bebop scales ( chromatic tones added between the diatonic notes in specific places so that harmonic rhythm is kept on the strong beats) if you learn the bebop scales for each chord type and play (only) them when you practice and play jazz, you will quickly find that a lot of the dead end streets that your fingers find themselves walking into are automatically realigned, that your ability to solo in complete sentences and melodic ideas is greatly increased and that suddenly you are speaking the same language as the melodic instruments in the band.
    After a whole lotta years looking at harmony and chords and listening and transcribing, I hear the bebop scales and the simple elegance of using the right passing tones as the fundament of improvisational fluency.
    If you learn the bebop scales for every chord type and practice your scales and tunes using them (That is to say if you are practicing a major scale then always add the flat 6 tone as a passing tone between 6 and 5 etc.) You will quickly begin to eliminate awkward passages and replace them with smooth even phrasing and chord placement. Bebop scales enable pulse to happen without shifting the chord tones to the weak part of the beat, and are for the walking bassist the most essential elements. And weather it is called by this name or some other it is the essential language of jazz that everyone uses
    Playing bebop scales and listening to them and examining their logic is surely a quick way of learning the essence of the way this language is expressed.
    Anybody have any thoughts on the matter?
  2. ba$$88

    ba$$88 Guest

    Jun 13, 2004
    Wow. Great advice. I'm a classical guy who has been beating his brain for a year over what are "the right notes" to play in jazz changes. I'm definitely gonna learn my bebop scales. What kind of stuff do you play now? and what is your setup with basses and all? Thanks again for the advice. :)
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't know about 'stay' as too much of anything gets boring, but certainly mastering these will flesh out your pallette!
  4. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    yea what I mean by stay is to incorporate throughly the concept of using chromatic passing tones into ones playing so that eventually all the 12 tones can be thought of as available, as a means of expressing the melody.
    Bebop scales lay a certain way on the bass and when you get into playing them on different strings as well you begin to have sense of how to get around quickly without switching the pulse and chord to the weak beats (kind of a misnomer there...the weak beats 2&4 are emphasized..)
    Bebop scales are really just the beginning of a full sense of jazz progression but really learning them gives the developing bassist searching for a way to make his lines more cohesive a kind of quick guide to how the language is used.
  5. Josh McNutt

    Josh McNutt Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    Denton, Texas (UNT)
    I think someone should post the various bebop scales in this thread so that those unacquainted with them can understand without having to look it up. I'm only familiar with the dominant one, so I'm just going to use the Aebersold scales and names from the "Scale Syllabus" he puts in his handbooks and some play-alongs. Here we go:

    1 2 3 4 5 b6 6 7

    1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7

    1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7

    1 b2 b3 4 b5 5 b6 b7
    Since this one is pretty different from a major scale in the first place, I think using the major scale for the reference scale degrees is confusing. It can be thought of better (I think) as half-diminished with the flat and major fifths, or, if, for example you're talking about a C half-diminished, you could call the "appropriate" bebop scale a Db Major with both fifths.

    I typically think of these scales in the above manner; i.e., I think of the dominant one as "Major with both 7's" or the minor one as "Dorian with a major third." Even though those two don't actually follow the same pattern, I think my thinking is still basically conveyed. If the second were to follow the same lines as the first, it would be more like (when referring to a D-7) "C major with an F# too."
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Nice improv teacher! :eek:
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Did you do the correspondence studies with Charlie Banacos, or did you actually get lessons in person?
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Me too. I'm not scared of much in this world, but from what I've heard from those who've studied with him, he's pretty hardcore. Probably just what I need...I might give it a go next year.
  10. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    a good friend of mine has studied with him for five years through correspondence. I was really interested in the material and checked alot of the excercises out. part of his method stems from the bebop scale material then taken to its natural extensions... there was a lot of emphases on building lines around interesting chordal shapes using chromatic surround notes and patterns. My friends playing was transformed by his experience with Charlie Banacos (he is a pianist)
  11. Shornick

    Shornick Scot Hornick

    Dec 18, 2001
    I've been doing the correspondence lessons with Banocos for just over a year and I would highly recommend them to anyone. The exercises take a lot of time and can seem tedious as all of the approach note things we should already know, Charlie puts them in a logical order and practice method. It's good structured practice time, I know having to actually play all of the approach methods, tensions and chord tone angular lines I feel more confident on my bass. Maybe not with the material, that will take a long time, but it really has helped me getting around the bass. The methods opened my ears up to a lot more color than I was used to hearing and made all of my playing better from walking to soloing. He will definetly help get you away from "this scale with this chord" which was something I needed to get away from big time. He expects a lot from his students, but he makes that clear up front. I don't think he will overload you with too much to do in two weeks. He lets you know it takes years to get it all under your hands. I am in between weeks right now having just sent the last one in, I love having this week to go over the older material. I put it off for too long, now I can't imagine stopping.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The combination of Banacos and Bergonzi had me thinking Berklee in the late 70s....
  13. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Since I'm gonna be in this island for another 6 months or so, I was thinking of doing correspondence lessons; I'm dying for a good teacher. Any more thoughts on Banacos? and What does he charge? Does anybody else offer a similar service?
  14. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    I think Dave Bakers series of books are the most thorough (and perhaps the first) analysis of bebop scales. It also brought to light the discovery of how jazz players systematically seemed to add these #7/#3/#5 (dom/min/maj) notes to scales. At the time it was necessary to shed light on those notes that fell out of the scale because students often become perplexed on how to best use scales correctly. I think in recent times—people are running amok with the ideas. Adding them to any and all 7note scales. I’m not sure the additional ones have any basis in actual practice—of consistent use. For example this one. F GbA Bb C Db Eb E. It has some type of high fallutin name I can’t recall. It’s fifth mode Bb harmonic minor with a chromatic E thrown in to conform the the #7 F bebop dominant mold. I don’t use it unless you want to send me subliminal messages

    BTW—the half diminished example used before 1 b2 b3 4 b5 5 b6 b7 is referring really to the same passing tone as in the II/V . I consider the #3 and #7 to be the same one because the II-V phrase it is used in is identical. For example this phrase is really the same implication: F E Eb G D C. It’s C-7 or F7. The half diminished related chord in this case is A-7b5. The phrase works over that too. Or B7#9

    Flatback’s original assertion—that learning this chromatic helped him put it all together is correct. I think bebop scales should get the credit they deserve. They helped take the guess work out of scale adds that jazz players had been consistently doing by ear but were not written in books. But looking beyond this I think you can’t too caught up in a hyper regimen because then you might lose sight of the big picture.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    That's the "Lawrence of Arabia" scale, otherwise known as "SuperduperLocraeolian". I usually just call it "Larry" for short.