• Exposed: A Dozen Scales You Can Improvise Over The Major Seventh Chord With

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Improvisation,Jazz music,Piano,Scales

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    In this lesson, I’m taking you by the hand and showing you a dozen scales you can improvise over the major seventh chord with.

    The major seventh chord is one of the important seventh chords in jazz harmony and that’s because it’s usually the chord type of choice in for the “1 chord” in the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Consequently, it’s important for every serious pianist to know a variety of scales that are compatible with the major seventh chord.

    So, brace yourself because in the next 10 minutes or so, we’ll be covering a dozen scales that are compatible with the C major seventh chord.

    12 Scales You Can Improvise Over The C Major Seventh Chord With

    Attention: We’ll be using the C major seventh chord as a reference in this lesson so that everyone can understand. Feel free to transpose the idea to other major seventh chords as well.

    Scale #1 – C Ionian Scale

    The C ionian scale:

    …consists of the same notes in the C major scale:

    The C ionian scale:

    …is compatible with the C major seventh chord:

    …because the chord tones of the C major seventh chord are the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the C ionian scale.

    Scale #2 – E Phrygian Scale

    The E phrygian scale:

    …can be used to improvise over the C major seventh chord:

    …because E:

    …is the third tone of the C major seventh chord:

    So, if you’re searching for a scale that starts and ends on the third tone of the C major seventh chord, search no further, the E phrygian scale is a great option.

    Scale #3 – G Mixolydian Scale

    The G mixolydian scale:

    …consists of all the white notes on the piano from G:

    …to G:

    One of the reasons why the G mixolydian scale is a  great option is because it starts and ends on the fifth tone of the C major seventh chord.

    Scale #4 – B Locrian Scale

    The B locrian scale:

    …is another compatible scale for the C major seventh chord:

    …because it starts and ends on B:

    …which is the seventh tone of the C major seventh chord.

    Scale #5 – C Major Pentatonic Scale

    The C major pentatonic scale:

    …is another amazing scale option for the C major seventh chord because it has no avoid note. In the C major scale:

    …there’s and avoid note (which is F):

    …which is not a scale tone in the C major pentatonic scale:

    This makes the C major pentatonic scale a more useful scale option while improvising over the C major seventh chord.

    Scale #6 – F Major Pentatonic Scale

    The  F major pentatonic scale:

    …is the next scale option on the list.

    However, the F major pentatonic scale:

    …has an avoid note (F):

    …which is not a chord tone of the C major seventh chord:

    Consequently, the F major pentatonic scale should be used with subtlety.

    Scale #7 – G Major Pentatonic Scale

    The G major pentatonic scale:

    …is another scale option most top players improvise over the C major seventh chord with.

    Its tones are the fifth (G):

    …thirteenth (A):

    …seventh (B):

    …ninth (D):

    …and third (E):

    …tones in the key of C major:

    Scale #8 – C  Lydian Scale

    Using the C lydian scale:

    …over the C major seventh chord:

    …is one of the best scale options of most modern players. This is because in the C lydian scale:

    …the avoid note in the regular ionian scale (which is F):

    …is raised by a half-step (to F#):

    Scale #9 – E Aeolian Scale

    The E aeolian scale:

    …is one of the scale options for the C major seventh chord:

    The E aeolian scale is considered to be unique because it starts and ends on the third tone of the C major seventh chord:

    …which is E:

    Additionally, there’s also no avoid note (F):

    …in the E aeolian scale:

    Scale #10 – G Ionian Scale

    The G ionian scale:

    …starts and ends on the fifth tone of the C major seventh chord:

    …which is G:

    The G ionian scale is another compatible scale with the C major seventh chord that has no avoid note.

    Scale #11 – B Phrygian Scale

    The B phrygian scale:

    …starts and ends on the seventh tone of the C major seventh chord:

    …which is B:

    However, unlike the B locrian scale we covered earlier (as scale #4):

    …the fifth tone of the B phrygian scale:

    …is F#:

    …and that eliminates the avoid note (F):

    Scale #12 – D Major Pentatonic Scale

    The D major pentatonic scale:

    …is one of the rare major pentatonic scale types that can be played over the C major seventh chord:

    The third tone in the D major pentatonic scale:

    …which is F#:

    …bodes well for the C major seventh chord.

    Final Words

    From the 12 scales we’ve covered in this lesson, I have no doubt that you’ll improvise like never before.

    Shifting from one pentatonic scale to another, or from one modal scale to another with tons of tonal and rhythmic varieties would help you milk ecstasy out of the scales.

    Don’t forget to transpose the concept learned to other major seventh chords.

    All the best!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Essien nsikakabasi

    I’m blesses…thank you sir

    Reply

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