• Jazz Improvisation: The “Avoid Note” And Scale Options That Keep Them Away

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

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    There are scale options I’ll be showing you in this lesson that will make you worry less about avoid notes.

    Attention: This lesson is written with the intermediate jazz keyboardist in mind. Therefore, beginners may not find it very beneficial.

    Although scales with avoid notes still have their place in jazz theory, it’s always better to improvise with scales that have no avoid notes because of the freedom that comes with the absence of avoid notes.

    So, if you’re interested in attaining that level of freedom, this lesson is for you.

    Quick Insights On The Avoid Note

    In the key of C major, when the C major scale is played over the 1-chord (the C major seventh chord):

    C major scale:

    C major seventh chord:

    All the notes of the scale seem to agree with the 1-chord save for the fourth tone. For a moment, I want you to play F over the C major seventh chord:

    F:

    C major seventh chord:

    …and listen out for the unpleasantness (aka – “dissonance”) produced by the note and the chord.

    The fourth tone of the major scale is the avoid note in the scale because of the dissonance produce when it’s played over the 1-chord in the key.

    Beyond the 1-chord in the major key, you’ll still have to worry about avoid notes while improvising over the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Avoid Notes In The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    The following scale are used over the 2-5-1 chord progression:

    The Dorian scale (over the 2-chord)

    The Mixolydian scale (over the 5-chord)

    The natural major scale (over the 1-chord)

    “Here’s A Classic Example In The Key Of C Major With The Avoid Notes…”

    Over the 2-chord is the Dorian scale:

    D Dorian scale:

    D minor ninth chord:

    …and the avoid note is B (the sixth tone of the D Dorian scale):

    Over the 5-chord is the Mixolydian scale:

    G Mixolydian scale:

    G dominant ninth chord:

    …and the avoid note is C (the fourth tone of the G Mixolydian scale):

    Over the 1-chord is the natural major scale:

    C natural major scale:

    C major ninth chord:

    …and the avoid note is F (the fourth tone of the C natural major scale):

    “Can I Show You Scale Options Without Avoid Notes?”

    There are scale options to improvise over the 2-5-1 chord progression with; I’m talking about scale options where you don’t have to worry about avoid notes.

    I’ll be showing you these scale options in the next segment.

    Scale Options (For The 2-5-1 Progression) Without Avoid Notes

    Improvising over the 2-5-1 chord progression and not having to worry about avoid notes is priceless.

    Using the following scale options:

    The melodic minor scale

    The Lydian dominant scale

    The Lydian scale

    …you can improvise over the 2-5-1 chord progression without avoid notes.

    Attention: Please note that all the examples will be given in the key of C major.

    Scale Option #1 — “The Melodic Minor Scale”

    The D melodic minor scale:

    …is one scale option for the 2-chord (D minor ninth):

    …that has no avoid note.

    Also note that raising the seventh tone of the D Dorian scale:

    …which is C:

    …by a half-step (to C#):

    …produces the D melodic minor scale:

    Scale Option #2 — “The Lydian Dominant Scale”

    The Lydian dominant scale is the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale.

    The fourth mode of the D melodic minor scale:

    …can be formed by playing the D melodic minor scale from G to G:

    The fourth mode of the D melodic minor scale is the G Lydian dominant scale:

    …and it’s a great scale option for the G dominant ninth chord (the 5-chord):

    Keep in mind that raising the fourth tone of the regular Mixolydian scale by a half-step produces the Lydian dominant scale.

    For example, raising the fourth tone of the G Mixolydian scale:

    …which is C:

    …by a half-step (to C#):

    …produces the G Lydian dominant scale:

    Scale Option #3 — “The Lydian Scale”

     

    Final Words

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be looking at licks and runs and how they can be developed from these scale options.

    I’ll also show you a handful of arpeggios and more.

    Till then.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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