Bebop Scale emerged in the same context of Bebop Jazz.
If you want to learn how to play Jazz, we can be sure that you are taking a big step in reading this article!
We will show here a resource extremely used by Jazz musicians; and that can be also used in any other music style. Be ready to increase your versatility in all the contexts, because the application of this scale is really wide and useful to everybody!
So, before everything, let’s start with a little story about Bebop Jazz.
Bebop Jazz emerged among the 40’s and marked what we call Contemporary Jazz. The father of this style was the saxophonist Charlie Parker, and the propagation of Bebop all over the world has the help of many other musicians (like the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie).
Due to its complex harmonies and frenetic rhythms, this style called attention, because it wasn’t appropriate to dancing, nor to singing, being driven just to the improvisation and instrumental virtuosity. Bebop Music stood out because it was different from Popular Music, having fast rhythms and hard sequences of eighth tones. The improvisation used resources known from Jazz and also some alterations, like the augmented fifth. These characteristic alterations, after being really used and consecrated, gave origin to Bebop Scale that we will show.
The development of Bebop changed some approaches of accompaniment and solo. Drummers start to depend less on bass drum and more on drum plates (cymbal conduction). Bass players become more responsible for keeping the rhythmic pulsation, marking the harmonic cadences and playing the crotchets all the time. And the pianists were able to use a lighter touch, where the left hand was not obligated to mark the rhythmic pulsation or the fundamental note from the chords. With this, the standard shape of the Contemporary Jazz became universal and unmistakable.
Very well, as we are not talking to basic readers but with musicians, before going on with this reading, go to Youtube and search “Charlie Parker”.
Listen at least one song to be acclimatized a little bit before continuing this study.
Dominant Bebop Scale
Now that you have listened a little of Bebop, you should have noticed that chromaticism appears “without limits” in this style. A chromaticism that marked the Bebop was the use of the seventh major in a Mixolydian Mode. In other words, to improvise in dominant chords the Bebop musicians added one note to Mixolydian Mode, making a scale with 8 notes. This scale became known as Dominant Bebop Scale.
Let’s see how the scale of G dominant Bebop compared with G mixolydian was.
- Notes of the G Mixolydian Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F
- Notes of G Dominant Bebop scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, F#
Drawing of G Dominant Bebop
In G Dominant Bebop, there is a chromaticism among the notes F, F# e G.
As F# doesn’t belong to Diatonic Scale, we should avoid resting on it. This seventh major should be used just as a passing note. The interesting is that the scale of 8 notes allows a more accurate rhythmic subdivision than in a 7 notes scale. A scale of 8 notes fits in a compass 4/4 playing one note by each eight notes. With this, the passing note can have the same duration of the other notes.
Major Bebop Scale
There is also a Bebop Scale which is not dominant. This Bebop Scale, known as Major Bebop Scale, is used in major chords. It also has 8 notes, and the alteration is in the fifth degree (it has an augmented fifth).
Compare below the C major scale with C Bebop major scale:
- Notes of C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
- Notes of C Bebop major scale: C, D, E, F, G, G#, A, B
Drawing of C Bebop major
Observation: In the Dominant Bebop Scale, we saw that the “extra note” was F# (seventh degree of the dominant). This note, starting from C, is the flatted fifth. In other words, both scales (dominant and major scales) together represent two alterations (diminished fifth and augmented fifth, in relation to the tonic).
Bebop Scale Application
Bebop scale can be used in any tonal context, since these alterations in the fifth serve as passing notes! Of course that these passing notes tend to sound better in the tonic and in the dominant V7 (because the origin of these notes was based on these chords), but you don’t need to be afraid of using them in the other degrees of the tonality; it is all about good taste.
The difference is that the “blue note” everybody knows and uses it, while the Bebop Scale is unknown to almost everybody. So this could be your differential!
But, making the Bebop Scale sounds good requires training and practice, because these sonorities of augmented fifth and diminished fifth in the tonic are associated to a characteristic of the Jazz style.
Maybe you use well the blue note of the Pentatonic Scale now, but notice that this note sounds good in a peculiar style that you developed (this involves certain dynamic, accentuation, among other things that your brain is already “programmed” to do when it thinks in blue note).
In the same way, Bebop Scale sounds good when used with the right dynamic and accentuation. As everything in life, it is not in a blink of an eye that you acquire this ability. Calm down, we are here to speed up this process to the maximum! First of all, we will give you some exercises for you to practice. They are links and sentences using the Bebop Scale. Repeating a lot these exercises, many times a day, you will internalize the Bebop feeling and will pass to use this scale like a master in innumerous music contexts, even those far from the Jazz context.
Besides the exercises, we will show you some examples of application of these ideas in solo practices.
Just as observation, the Descending Bebop Scale generally works better than the Ascending, but this you will realize by you own. Besides playing, try to listen to Jazz Bebop. We will indicate in the end of this study some names for you to take as models.
Exercises of Jazz Bebop
Remember that the objective of these exercises is not gaining speed! We are not studying technique here, but musical vocabulary. So, forget the mechanic of the thing and start worrying about perception. Soon the results will appear!
Repeating the links bellow many times, the Bebop vocabulary will be in your fingers. Memorize it, understand it, feel it and practice a lot. This file of Guitar Pro has sentences built in C7 chord: BebopC7.gpro
This means that the tonality is F major and that the worked scale is C Dominant Bebop Scale. You can transpose this to the tonality you wish; our objective is just introducing you the idea. These links were taken from the book “How to Play Bebop”, from David Baker. Use of Bebop ideas in songs: Bebopapplication.gpro
This base is in C major tonality and has the chords Dm7 | G7 | C7M. Notice that the G Dominant Bebop Scale fits well with the G7 chord, but can also be used in other chords of this tonality, because the Dominant Bebop Scale is not restricted to the dominant chord alone, as we already emphasized. The same happens with C Bebop Major Scale, that doesn’t need to be played exclusively in C major chord. It is important that you understand that Bebop Scales can be used in any tonal context, since that the outside notes appear as passing notes. Practice the Bebop Scale downloading the file: Bebop scale exercise.gpro
This base is in E minor tonality. Listen carefully and practice the bebop sentences in this backing track.
Try to know some consecrated Bebop musicians to internalize this style once and for all:
Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Oscar Pettiford, Duke Jordan, Miles Davis, Tommy Potter, Al Haig, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, Lucky Thompson, Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, Kenny Clarke, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Roy Haynes, etc.
Go to: Whole tone scale
Back to: Module 10