Jazz Guitar Music For Real Men Part 1: Bebop Scale For Beginners

A look at jazz techniques that can be applied to any music style to add flair and dynamism to your playing.

Ultimate Guitar
Jazz, to many it is a very dirty word, it brings a sense of stuffy night clubs with old men listening to horn players shrouded in smoke. However, it really isn't like that at all, some of the untapped stylistic approaches that can be applied from Jazz into blues, rock and metal can really add to your arsenal and kick your playing into the next level, just ask Robben Ford or John Petrucci. In this first lesson we'll be looking at the bebop scale, but first some context... Preceding the Bebop era, jazz players (mainly horn players as the guitar was seen as more of a comping instrument, often not included in the band if a pianist was present) would treat notes that were 'between' the 'natural' notes of the major and minor scales, also known as chromatic notes, as passing tones, however when Bebop became more of a recognised style players began to improvise in mainly 8th notes in a linear fashion, i.e. a note on every beat. Now, if you look at a bar in 4/4, with a standard major scale only 7 out the 8 beats would contain a note, this is where the chromatic note is placed and this creates the bebop scale. As an example: C - Major Scale
C7 - Bebop Scale
As you can see above the notes in the scale there are numbers and these correspond to the intervals in the scale. The b7th note, which, in the context of C7 is Bb, is the extra chromatic note that creates the complete 8th note structure in the bar. So, to practice this, if you can record a C7 chord, either on guitar or piano, and loop it, then you can play these 8 notes to get the 'jazzy' context of the b7 note, and it is worth running this through all twelve keys to get the initial shape under your fingers. Arguably the most influential horn player from the Bebop era is Charlie Parker, and his technique was such that he had an innate ability to place chromatic tones on the 'and' of a beat, with the major and minor scale tones hitting on the stronger beats (where the bass drum hits), so it is well worth listening to Parker if you're looking to develop your chromatic technique further. In terms of guitarists a great player to look at is Mike Stern, who has a strong chromatic presence in both his arranging and improvisational style. In the next lesson we'll be looking at 'enclosures' and targeting notes within the scale to create the desired stylistic effect, with techniques such as side-slipping and using arpeggios to establish tonal centres as the key focus point. Thanks for reading UG members, Jake Jeremy Further Reading:
  • "Charlie Parker For Guitar" - Voelpel, M (2001), Music Sales,
  • "Signature Licks" - Charupakorn, J (2010), Hal Leonard Further Listening: Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane.
  • 16 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Jake Jeremy
      1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.... The 'stronger' notes hit on the numbered beats, the weaker scale notes hit on the ands, it's the way that Charlie Parker formed his lines....so it's good enough for me,....8
      subdivisions don't count as beats dude. Sorry but if you don't understand that, you've got no business teaching music lessons in any capacity.
      Jake Jeremy
      I'll bear that in mind next time I get a 5 star rated lesson, thanks for your comments
      rated by more people who don't know what they're talking about? Consider the source.
      Jake Jeremy
      Again, thanks for commenting, and rating it appears
      it's not personal dude. But your lessons kind of lose some credibility when they get the simple stuff wrong.
      Dude: haven't you heard of up-beats and down-beats? 8 beats is 4 down-beats and 4 up-beats. And now you've learned a new thing, and can stop being silly and post off-the-wall-wrong comments. Excellent lesson, btw.
      Like I said above, subdivisions DO NOT count as beats in an measure. That's why they're called "sub-divisions". A 4/4 bar has four beats, or divisions. Creating an 8th-note pattern over 1 beat of that measure (playing 2 notes in the space of one beat) is sub-dividing that beat, splitting the beat up into smaller parts, not creating a new beat. That's music theory 101 jackass. People who post lessons on this site need to understand that real musicians come on this site too, and if you're putting incorrect information out there, expect to hear it from people who actually know what the hell they're talking about.
      @jacob.otero I do not really care if you made a career on some particular way of writing music. What Jake writes is useful and it is a good explanation of the rythmic nature of the chromatic note. Maybe he uses his own way to explain the concept, but that is the art of expressing oneself; which is the backbone of music. On the other hand you just complain about his not being bound to the rythmic naming conventions, repeating, like a parrot, what you lerned by heart in your career. That makes Jake a musician and you, well... a parrot?
      Jake Jeremy
      I Know it isn't, that's why I'm spreading the good word, thanks for rating and commenting
      Appreciate the lesson very much. I am a not quite beginner, not quite intermediate player and I love blues and Jazz. I bought a flawless artcore semi hollow body Ibanez by impulse (and a wicked great deal) and really have had a hard time knowing where to start. Great lesson, love the background info and where to start at. Keep em coming. and sidenote 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and has always been 8 beats to me...lol