• How To Use The Altered Scale Over Different Chords

    in Scales

    bandbig.jpgI’m back!

    Things have been so hectic. From the launch of GMTC to server problems and Thanksgiving, I’ve had enough to keep me busy indeed.

    But now, my head is clear and I’m ready to go full force!

    Recall, the other day, I taught you the altered scale (a.k.a. – the ‘super locrian‘ mode)

    You’ll really want to check out this past post if you haven’t already. You’ll be lost if you don’t.

    You learned, step-by-step, how to play the altered scale.

    It’s basically any melodic minor scale played from the 7th tone to the 7th tone (… in other words, instead of starting and ending on the first tone of the scale like you’d normally do, you start and end on the 7th tone of the SAME scale. It gives it a totally different feel). So in essence, we’re mixing together two past ideas you’ve already learned: 1) the melodic minor scale and, 2) modes.

    So here’s the “B Super Locrian” scale you learned from my previous post:

    Now, let’s take it a step further and show you how to multiply your usage of scales, modes, and “runs.”

    In my last lesson, I explained that you can play this scale pretty much over any of these types of chords:

    B7 #9#5
    B7 b9 #5
    B7 b9
    B7 #9
    B7 #5

    …Basically, any chord with a sharp or flat 9 or a sharp or flat 5… essentially, some of the most commonly used “altered” chords (thus the name, “altered scale”).

    Why? Because those are the tones represented in the scale (if you write the scale degree numbers out)…

    Altered / Super Locrian scale = 1, b9, #9, 3, b5, #5, b7

    But these aren’t the only chords you can use this scale with…

    Remember the concept of “tritones?” I taught this a few months back.

    Every note has another note that’s a “tritone” away in distance. I told you to memorize these “pairs” as if your music career depended on it — because they’re used EVERYWHERE!

    I don’t have enough space to talk about tritones in depth but check out this past lesson and similar ones in my archives.

    So in order to find out where else you can use this “B super locrian” (a.k.a – “B altered scale”), among many places, ask yourself this question…

    “What is a tritone away from B?”

    Hint: A tritone is either 3 whole steps up or 3 whole steps down… you’ll arrive at the same place!

    The answer is: F

    F is a tritone away from B and they collectively create a tritone if you play them together (“B + F”).

    So that means you can play the same scale over an F dominant chord (or even altered chord but you may have to omit some “avoid notes.”). I personally prefer a dominant 13 chord or some type of extended dominant chord (9th, 11th, 13th, etc).


    F9 (add 13)

    (F not shown but play it on your bass)

    And you can use the same “B altered / super locrian” scale from above to solo over it:

    Why does this work so well?

    Because if you simply keep the chord the same and only change your bass from “F” to “B,” you’ll be back to a “B7 #9#5” altered chord and as you know from the list of chords above, it’s one of the ones the work really well with the altered scale.

    B7 (#9#5)
    (B not shown but play it on your bass)

    Note: This is actually how all dominant chords work. If you just keep your right-hand chord the same and switch your bass to a "tritone" away, you'll have two chords that can be substituted for each other! Works most of the time… like a charm! We call this idea… "tritone substitutions.”

    See… I told you this post would be detailed! Just making up for a few MIA days!

    Take it slowly. Repeat it if you have to.

    Until next time —

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 19 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Pete

    this is some awesome stuff JG!


    2 Missie

    I like the combination of the ideas between tritones, melodic minor, and using modes. Yoou always have a way of bringing hard things together. I’m loving the application! Keep it coming!




    You defintly know how to keep these wheels turning in our heads…good looking out!!!


    4 Richard

    I’m confused. The example above shows an F9(add 13) chord=F-Eb-G-A-D and you are supposed to solo with the super locrian scale. Problem is that left hand chord, there is no way I am gonna stretch to reach all those notes.(F-Eb-G-A-D) or am I missing something. I’m sure I am but can’t figure it out.


    5 Chiqt

    Hi honey.I’m a guitar pylear of 8 months, and the key is practice and practice.There is no secret ingredient that will make you switch chords faster, except practicing.Practice first your strumming. practice practice till you can go EXTREMELY FAST.than practice your fingers(A good excercise is the one where you strum the first three notes of each chords, like a scale, and you go up, and down, up and down, until it flows with no mistake)Have fun, and good luck


    6 Jermaine


    Oops I should have been more clear…

    This is one of those chords where you either:

    1) Hit F real quick, then follow through with the chord on your left


    2) You have a bass player taking care of it.

    But you can even do the chord without F… you can make it “rootless” and it will still serve its purpose when put in the correct place.

    I hope this clarifies


    7 David Jones

    What happened to the C (5th of F) which is neither in B Super locrian nor in B7#9#5?


    8 Jermaine


    NOt sure if I understand your comment.

    This scale covers the #9 #5 and the b9 b5. It has all of these intervals in its scale and it works great over any of these scales. “C” in this scale is the b9.

    Please clarify…


    9 Ed. Keifer

    Jermaine Sir,

    Your explanation of the altered B scale is the best explanation of this topic I have ever seen.

    I thank you for offering us the true professional knowledge we need to sound like the BIG BOYS & GIRLS sound.

    There has to be hundreds of piano lesson websites and I have visited most of them and your site tells us exactly what we need to learn and know to sound like a PRO and that is so fabulous.

    I took my first guitar lesson 52 years ago. In all the 52 years of searching and finding music books and teachers, I only found one guitar player who could legitimately teach me jazz and I played the part of the idiot and did not invest in lessons.

    I have been on your site for less than one month and have learned things like, tritone, ditones, neighboring tones which I was taught note to use two tones 1/2 step apart because this was dissonant and NO GOOD, beautiful chord voicings, the 7,3,6,2,5,1,4 chord progression I never played this progression in 52 years of playing guitar, Just to name a few of the things I have learned.

    God Bless You with another several million dollars of HIS wealth,

    Ed. Keifer

    PS- as soon as I have sufficient funds, retired 66 years old living on fixed income, going thru a divorce, I intend to purchase your 300 page course and other related DVD’s.


    10 Ed. Keifer

    Happy Days to Everyone @ Hear and Play all over 200,000 of you. This is the best piano website I have ever visited.

    It really does show everyone what has to be done and learned to play like the professional musicians play.

    This website and course offerings are the best on the internet as far as I am concerned.



    11 Hyman Waltman

    nice work thanks for the put up


    12 Wilfred

    Great stuff mr griggs,i nw play like a pro:-)


    13 Rishabh

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    15 James

    I, personally, I can not say extlcay what? Silent in his t? As you rightly too, but a relationship? CN / D, which is to? Place by a Dm chord now easier than ever to? Be appealed? a Dm9sus. G? r? solve? Up? an F, E (the new one? me) s? Can get one? Type? a cat? category? A, D and C? A. Although I personally pr? F? Re t think? Conditions? Sounded pleased t cool, I’m going to play? new XD


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