The JCOL (Jazz Carousel On Line) resources pages are intended for my regular students to support what we do in the various workshops. However, anyone is welcome to use these resources and to pass them on to others. If you're interested to find out more about the workshops then please email me
These resources are divided into two main sections
resources for the "one-scale-fits-all" approach - see below
resources for the "chord-by-chord" approach - click here
Click on each file to open it and use your 'back' button to return to this page. The files can be downloaded (right-click on PC or control-click on Mac).
resources for "one-scale-fits-all" approach (sometimes called "harmonic generalisation")
The one-scale-fits-all approach is where a musician improvises over a chord sequence using just one scale. Typical scales to use for this are the "blues scale", the "major scale" and the "harmonic minor scale" (also popular, is the "minor pentatonic scale" which is the same as the blues scale without the flat five). Notice that the major scale and harmonic minor scale contain seven notes, whereas the blues scale has six (and the minor pentatonic scale has just five).
blues, major, and harmonic minor scales (in all keys)
NB The idea of having just one scale with which to improvise is very much a starting point. It doesn't mean you should never use any other notes. In principal, any of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale may be used at any time. For a more detailed look at this, check out the following info sheets (click on a white box):
The one-scale-fits-all approach is widely used by improvisers, especially those who play mostly by ear. Many fine musicians don't read music and may not know very much about chords, but they are able to create wonderful melodic lines. They do this by listening to the sounds of the chords (ie using their ears) and then picking out melodies from in their head. Typically, they will use one of the above scales as a basis for their improviation.
Lots of the classic jazz tunes have melodies which are entirely in one scale ("diatonic"). My Romance and My Foolish Heart use major scale throughout. Harmonic minor is the basis for Bei Mir Bist Du Schon and the much of the A section of Caravan. There are countless blues tunes which use blues scale throughout such as Splanky, Blues Backstage and Birks Works or minor pentatonic scale such as Bags Groove or even Cantaloupe Island (not a blues as such).
NB Although many melodies are diatonic, the chords often contain notes outside of the scale or key (known as "non-diatonic" chords). However, there are some chord sequences which are completely diatonic and these are useful for beginner improvisers - they are friendly to play over ...
diatonic means "in the key"
non-diatonic means "not in the key"
USING MAJOR SCALE OR HARMONIC MINOR SCALE THROUGHOUT A SEQUENCE
Here are some chord sequences where you can use a single scale throughout. They are all either major scale or harmonic minor. Play along with the tracks and see if you can find a single scale which you think fits. You may like to use your voice first and then find the notes which you are singing. Click the arrow to play the track (select your transposition from the buttons below for a suggested answer).
USING BLUES SCALE (OR MINOR PENTATONIC) THROUGHOUT A SEQUENCE
Here are some chord sequences where you can use a single blues scale throughout. Play along with the tracks and see if you can find a blues scale which you think fits. Once again, you may like to use your voice first and then find the note you are singing on your instrument. Click the arrow to play the track (select your transposition from the buttons below for a suggested answer).
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN "MAJOR BLUES" AND "MINOR BLUES"
"Blues" as a musical form is very versatile. Blues pieces can be created with many different harmonic progressions. The first chord in a blues often reflects "the key" of the piece. It is usually a dominant seventh chord (eg C7) or a minor seventh chord (eg Cm7). In traditional harmony (ie non-blues harmony) C7 would be chord V in the key of F (or F minor). However, in blues harmony a dominant chord can be chord I. So a blues starting with C7 would be called "blues in C" (the term "major blues" is also sometimes used) and a blues starting with Cm7 would be called a "blues in C minor" ("minor blues"). Sometimes a blues will start with a simple three note chord, known as a "triad". If it's a major triad the blues will be "major" and if it's a minor triad the blues will be "minor". Occasionally a blues may start with a major seventh chord (eg Cmaj7) and this would also be called a "major blues".
When playing over a major blues there are actually two blues scales which are often used. One is from the root of the key (ie the root of chord I) and the other is from a minor third (three semitones) below this root.
eg blues in C (starts on C7) - C blues scale or A blues scale
When playing over a minor blues there is typically only one blues scale which is from the root of the key (ie the root of chord I).
eg blues in C minor (starts on Cm7) - C blues scale
NB If you rearrange the notes of the blues scale from a minor third below so they start from the root of the key this creates a new scale. This scale is known as the "major blues scale". By implication it means the other blues scale should really be called the "minor blues scale". In common practice most people just say "blues scale" to indicate "minor blues scale". Personally, I prefer to avoid the term "major blues scale" but some people may find it useful.
A C D Eb E G A = "A blues scale" (strictly speaking "A minor blues scale"
C D Eb E G A C = "C major blues scale"
On the following sheets you will find a selection of blues scale and minor pentatonic licks taken from the JCOL@NOON sessions.
Licks using C blues scale
Licks using D blues scale
Licks using F blues scale
Licks using G blues scale
And finally, here is the complete collection of blues scale and minor pentatonic licks from the JCOL@NOON sessions as they were originally used. They are just numbered chronologically in the order in which they occurred.