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Essential Chord Scales for Guitar

Chords and comping are the lifeblood of any jazz guitarist. As much as you like to improvise you’ll spend the vast majority of your time comping behind melody lines and other soloists.

Because of the amount of time you’ll spend comping, it’s essential to develop a deep understanding of jazz chords and harmonic concepts in your playing.

 

 

After learning how to play jazz guitar chords, one of the most important next steps is to work those shapes in chord scales.

Chord scales are harmonized versions of jazz scales, played in horizontal fashion across the fretboard.

Not only do chord scales expand your understanding of jazz harmony and comping, they’ll also provide you with a new approach to playing over jazz chord changes.

By working out diatonic chord scales, you’ll always have 7 shapes under your fingers for each chord you’re comping over.

With each shape providing a different shade of harmonic color over the underlying chord change.

This can really open up your fretboard and create new avenues of exploration in your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody arrangements.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build and practice chord scales, as well as how to use them to play over common jazz chord progressions and chord qualities.

There are also two chord studies to help you practice applying chord scales to full jazz standards in your playing.

So, grab your guitar, crank your amp, and dig in to one of the most common and important harmonic devices in jazz, chord scales.

 

 

Free Jazz Guitar eBook: Download a free jazz guitar PDF that’ll teach you how to play jazz chord progressions, solo over jazz chords, and walk basslines.

 

 

 

Chord Scales Sections (Click to Skip Down)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Are Chord Scales

 

To begin your study of these important harmonic devices, you can start by learning what chord scales are, and how to build them in your practice routine.

In their simplest form, chord scales can be defined by the following statement.

 

Chord scales are built by harmonizing any scale or mode across a bass string on the guitar.

 

Here is an example of how to build a chord scales over the F major scale, in this case on the 6th string.

The first step is to play the notes of the scale you’re working on across one string, either the 6th, 5th, or 4th strings.

You can see how the F major scale sits on the 6th string in this example.

 

Click to hear chord scales 1

 

chord scales guitar 1

 

Then, you harmonize those notes by adding diatonic chords on top of each scale note on that single string.

That’s about it.

Here’s how that would look when you harmonize the F major scale on the 6th string using drop 3 chords.

As you’ll see in the example, each chord is in root position.

But, as you move forward in the lesson, you’ll learn how to apply any chord inversion to a chord scale in your guitar practice routine.

 

Click to hear chord scales 2

 

chord scales guitar 2

 

You can use any chord type you wish when harmonizing the single-string scale, and many common guitar chords will be applied to the examples in the lesson below.

As well, when playing single-string guitar scales, you’ll want to start on the lowest possible note in that scale to take advantage of the entire fretboard when you harmonize that scale in step two.

You’ll see examples of this approach, starting on the lowest possible note on any string, in the lesson below.

So, if that seems a bit difficult for you right now to work out, not to worry.

After working on the exercises in this lesson you’ll not only learn chord scales over various chord types, but you’ll practice these chords scales from the lowest note on each string.

This will help to clear up any issues that arise when mixing chords and single-string scales as you do when building chord scales on the guitar.

 

 

 

 

How to Practice Chord Scales

 

Now that you know what chord scales are, you can take a look at a few ways to practice chord scales on the guitar to ensure you maximize your time in the practice room.

Chord scales can be applied to any shape that you’re working on in your studies.

Example of common jazz chord shapes would be:

 

 

To begin your studies of the chord scales in this lesson, which are written using drop 2, drop 3, and drop 2 & 4 chords, learn them in the given key for each example.

From there you can work them in multiple keys are you bring them to different areas of the fretboard.

As well, each chord scale example, except ii V I lines and tune studies, are written in a steady half-note rhythm.

This is done to make it easy to get these shapes under your fingers in the beginning.

But, once you have any chord scale down, feel free to experiment with adding different rhythms to your chord scale exercises.

These rhythms could include:

 

  • Quarter Notes
  • 8th Notes
  • Triplet
  • Dotted Rhythms
  • Ties
  • Mixed Rhythms – e.g. Dotted Quarter + 8th Note

 

Once you’ve worked out the first three examples, m7, 7, and maj7 chord families, use the ii V I backing tracks provided to jam those chord scales in a musical situation.

As well, you can take any of these chord scales to a full tune in your studies, either one of the examples below or another jazz standard that you’re working on in the woodshed.

As you can see, there are a number of ways to practice chord scales beyond memorizing these shapes on the guitar.

The main goal of any of these exercises should be to be able to create and use chord scales in the moment.

If you can memorize chord scales, then you can play them back on the guitar.

But, if you can learn how to build chord scales in the moment, then you can apply them to any chord, chord progression, or jazz standard in real time.

Building that skill will take time, but once you reach that point in your playing, you’ll be able to confidently and accurately apply chord scales to any musical situation.

And that’s when things become really fun on the bandstand.

 

 

 

 

Dorian Chord Scales

 

The first chord scale that you’ll learn is built by harmonizing the Dorian scale.

In the examples below, you’ll see how you can use Drop 3 chords from the 6th string to harmonize a D Dorian scale in your playing.

But, feel free to apply this chord scale to any key, any chord type, or any string set in your studies.

Before learning how to play this chord scale, let’s take a look at the chords in a harmonized Dorian scale.

 

  • Im7 – Dm7
  • iim7 – Em7
  • bIIImaj7 – Fmaj7
  • IV7 – G7
  • vm7 – Am7
  • vim7b5 – Bm7b5
  • bVIImaj7 – Cmaj7

 

As you can see, the D Dorian scale contains all the same chords as the C major scale, but with different Roman numerals as you’re building the chord scale from the note D, rather than C in the C major scale.

Here are those chords in root position to begin your study of chord scales on the fretboard.

As was mentioned earlier, you’ll want to start any chord scale with the lowest possible chord in that key, which is why this chord scale starts with Fmaj7 and not Dm7.

After you’ve learned this, or any, chord scale, put on the backing track below and practice comping over a static Dm7 chord with any shape in the D Dorian chord scale to hear how it sounds in a musical situation.

 

Dm7 Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 3

 

chord scales guitar 3

 

Moving on, here’s the same Dorian chord scale, only this time written out with the first inversion of each chord used to harmonize the scale.

 

Dm7 Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 4

 

chord scales guitar 4

 

In the next example, you’ll be playing 2nd inversion drop 3 chords in your D Dorian chord scale.

As you’re working on any inversions in your chord scales, make sure to visualize, or at least be able to find, the root in those inversions so that you keep track of which chord you’re on during the chord scale.

 

Dm7 Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 5

 

chord scales guitar 5

 

The final Dorian example uses 3rd inversion drop 3 chords to harmonize the chord scale from the 6th string.

When you can play all four variations of the Dorian chord scale, all four inversions, start combining them in your comping and chord soloing as you move between inversions in your playing.

 

Dm7 Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 6

 

chord scales guitar 6

 

 

 

Mixolydian Chord Scales

 

Now that you’ve learned m7 chord scales, using the Dorian scale, you can proceed to the harmonizing Mixolydian scales in your studies.

When doing so, you’ll be using the following chords, written here in Roman numerals and in the key of G Mixolydian for comparison.

 

  • I7 – G7
  • iim7 – Am7
  • iiim7b5 – Bm7b5
  • IVmaj7 – Cmaj7
  • vm7 – Dm7
  • vim7 – Em7
  • bVIImaj7 – Fmaj7

 

If you’ve worked out the D Dorian chord scales already, then you’ll notice that these chords are the same.

This is because D Dorian and G Mixolydian are both built from the parent C major scale.

Though they share the same chords, they have different functions, as you can see in the Roman numeral analysis.

When learning chord scales, memorize the Roman numerals for each mode you’re harmonizing.

This’ll allow you to quickly transpose any chord scale to another key, such as A Mixolydian or Bb Mixolydian, as you’re able to find the chords using the Roman numerals in any key.

To get you started, here is a root position G Mixolydian chord scale that uses drop 3 chords from the 5th string.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 7

 

chord scales guitar 7

 

You’ll now learn how to play a G Mixolydian chord scale using first inversion drop 3 chords on the 5th string.

Once you can play the first two inversions, play them back to back to hear how they sound and sit on the fretboard when played back to back.

Eventually you’ll want to jump between inversions in your playing, so working on this skill in the woodshed can be helpful.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 8

 

chord scales guitar 8

 

Next you’ll learn the second inversion G Mixolydian chord scale that uses drop 3 chords from the 5th string.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 9

 

chord scales guitar 9

 

Lastly, here’s the G Mixolydian chord scale using third inversion shapes on the fretboard.

After you can play one or more of these G Mixolydian chord scales, put on a ii V backing track, Dm7-G7, and work on comping over those changes with the two chord scales you’ve learned up to this point in the lesson.

This’ll prepare you for the ii V I chord progression studies below.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 10

 

chord scales guitar 10

 

 

 

 

Lydian Dominant Chord Scales

 

As well as using a Mixolydian chord scale over 7th chords, a great second choice sound is the Lydian dominant chord scale.

When applying the Lydian dominant chord scale to 7th chords, you’ll be bringing out the 7#11 sound in your playing.

Here are all of the chords that you’ll be using when you harmonize any Lydian dominant scale, as well as the chord in G to use as a reference.

 

  • I7 – G7
  • II7 – A7
  • iiim7b5 – Bm7b5
  • #ivm7b5 – C#m7b5
  • vmMaj7 – DmMaj7
  • vim7 – Em7
  • bVIImaj7#5 – Fmaj7#5

 

You’ll notice that there are a few funky chords in there, such as mMaj7 and maj7#5.

This is because Lydian dominant is a mode of the melodic minor scale, and both mMaj7 and maj7#5 chords are diatonic to the melodic minor scale.

To begin, here’s a G Lydian dominant chord scale in root position to learn, using drop 2 chords on the middle four strings.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 11

 

chord scales guitar 11

 

In the next example you’ll learn first inversion drop 2 chords on the middle four strings, used to harmonize the G Lydian dominant scale.

After you have a few Lydian dominant chord scales under your fingers, put on a G7 backing track and move between the Mixolydian and lyd dom chords in your playing.

This will help get your ears around the difference between these two chord scales, allowing you to choose which one you want to use in the moment when it comes time to apply them to a jam or gig situation.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 12

 

chord scales guitar 12

 

Moving on, here’s the G Lydian dominant chord scale, built with second inversion drop 2 chords on the middle string set.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 13

 

chord scales guitar 13

 

The last Lydian dominant chord scale uses third inversion drop 2 chords to harmonize the underlying G scale.

After you’ve worked out these different Lydian dominant chord scales, put on a Dm7-G7 backing track and practice playing D Dorian and G Lydian dominant chord scales over those changes.

 

G7 Backing Track G7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 14

 

chord scales guitar 14

 

 

 

Major Chord Scales

 

As you’ve learned chord scales for the iim7 and V7 chords, it’s logical that you can now learn chord scales for the Imaj7 chord.

When doing so, you’ll have two options for modes to use to build Imaj7 chords scales, beginning with Ionian.

The second option will be explored in the next section of the lesson.

When harmonizing the Ionian mode, otherwise called the major scale, you produce the following Roman numerals.

Chords in C major have been added next to the Roman numerals as a reference.

 

  • Imaj7 – Cmaj7
  • iim7 – Dm7
  • iiim7 – Em7
  • IVmaj7 – Fmaj7
  • V7 – G7
  • vim7 – Am7
  • viim7b5 – Bm7b5

 

Again, these chords are the same as D Dorian and G Mixolydian, but they produce different Roman numerals because of their interval structure.

To begin taking these chords to the fretboard, here is a root position Cmaj7 chord scale on the top four strings, built with drop 2 chord shapes.

As is always the case, feel free to put on the Cmaj7 backing track and comp or chord solo with the chord scales in this section in order to take them further in your studies.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 15

 

chord scales guitar 15

 

The next examples features a first inversion Cmaj7 chord scale, built with drop 2 chords on the top-four strings.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 16

 

chord scales guitar 16

 

You’ll now move on to working the second inversion Cmaj7 chord scale on the top-four strings using drop 2 chord shapes.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 17

 

chord scales guitar 17

 

In this final example, you’ll be working out third-inversion drop 2 chords to build a Cmaj7 chord scale.

After you’ve worked any of these Cmaj7 chord scales, you can skip down and jam over the ii V I backing tracks in the ii V I section below.

Use the D Dorian, G Mixolydian or Lydian Dominant, and C Ionian chord scales to jam over those changes as you bring this concept to a popular jazz chord progression.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 18

 

chord scales guitar 18

 

 

 

Lydian Chord Scales

 

As was the case with 7th chords, you have two common choices for modes when it comes to building maj7 chord scales.

The second choice to explore over maj7 chords is the Lydian chord scale.

When applying the Lydian mode to your maj7 chord scales, you’ll be bringing out the maj7#11 sound in your comping and chord soloing phrases.

Here are the chords that are sounded when you build a Lydian chord scale, with the C Lydian chords included as a reference.

 

  • Imaj7 – Cmaj7
  • II7 – D7
  • iiim7 – Em7
  • #ivm7b5 – F#m7b5
  • Vmaj7 – Gmaj7
  • vim7 – Am7
  • viim7 – Bm7

 

To help you get started with your Lydian chord scales, here is a root position C Lydian chord scale built with Drop 3 chords from the 6th string.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 19

 

chord scales guitar 19

 

In the next example, you’ll use drop 3 chords in first inversion to build a C Lydian chord scale.

After you’ve worked out a few Lydian examples on the fretboard, put on the Cmaj7 backing track and jam over that chord as you move between C Ionian and C Lydian.

This’ll get your ears used to the differences between each maj7 chord scale, allowing you to apply them to your playing over tunes with confidence.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 20

 

chord scales guitar 20

 

The next example uses second inversion drop 3 chords to build a C Lydian chord scale from the 6th string.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 21

 

chord scales guitar 21

 

In the final example of this section, you’ll use drop 3 chords in 3rd inversion to build a C Lydian chord scale from the 6th string.

When you have a few of these chord scales under your fingers, skip ahead and jam over the ii V I tracks below.

When doing so, you can use the following chord options for each change.

 

  • Dm7 – D Dorian
  • G7 – G Mixolydian
  • G7 – G Lydian Dominant
  • Cmaj7 – C Ionian
  • Cmaj7 – C Lydian

 

As you can see, even with just a handful of chord scales under your fingers, you’ll be able to outline any ii V I with confidence and creativity.

 

Cmaj7 Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 22

 

chord scales guitar 22

 

 

 

Major ii V I Chord Scales

 

To help you get started in taking the previous five chord scales to musical situations, here are five examples of using chord scales to play over the major ii V I chord progression.

After learning the given examples, feel free to take them to other keys in your studies.

As well, you can put the jam tracks on and practice comping and chord soloing over the Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 chord progression in your studies.

Though the examples are played at a medium tempo, it can be tricky to get some of them up to speed with the sample audio track.

So, go slow, use a metronome, and work the tempo up over time as you tackle these five chord scale licks in the woodshed.

As well, each of these examples uses root-position chords to help introduce you to these concepts over a ii V I progression.

The tune studies will expand upon those shapes and use inversions to allow you to take these ideas further in your studies.

This first example used the following chord scales over each change.

 

  • Am7 = A Dorian
  • D7 = D Mixolydian
  • Gmaj7 = G Ionian

 

As you can see, all of these three chord scales use the same chords; they’re all from the G major parent scale.

But, it’s the underlying chord that makes an F#m7b5 sound different when played over Am7 compared to D7.

This is a good lesson to learn when studying jazz guitar.

The underlying harmony is what defines the sound of the shape you’re playing, chord-scale-arpeggio, not the shape itself.

 

Major ii V I Backing Track G ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 23

 

chord scales guitar 23

 

In the following example, you’ll bring a bit of tension to the V7 chord as you use the following chord scales over each chord change.

 

  • Am7 = A Dorian
  • D7 = D Lydian Dominant
  • Gmaj7 = G Ionian

 

Notice how the D7#11 sound created by the Lydian Dominant chord scale brings out a sense of added tension in the second bar.

This tension is then resolved to the G Ionian chord scale in the following measure.

Using tension in your comping is perfectly cool in jazz; you just have to make sure to resolve that tension so you don’t leave it hanging in your playing.

 

Major ii V I Backing Track G ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 24

 

chord scales guitar 24

 

In the following sample ii V I chord scale phrase, you’ll mix in a few drop 2 & 4 chords to the line.

You haven’t seen these shapes yet in the lesson, but they’ll be introduced in the next section.

So, this line is a bit of a taster of things to come in the article.

As well, you’ll be adding some tension to the Gmaj7 chord as you use the following chord scales over each chord change.

 

  • Am7 = A Dorian
  • D7 = D Mixolydian
  • Gmaj7 = G Lydian

 

You may or may not like the sound of Lydian over a Imaj7 chord, it’s different for every playing.

Try it out and see what you think.

If you dig it, you can use it in your playing.

If not, come back to it later on in your development to see if your ears have changed and warmed to the sound of the Imaj7#11 chord in your comping.

 

Major ii V I Backing Track G ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 25

 

chord scales guitar 25

 

In this steady quarter-note comping example, you’ll be creating tension over both the V7 and Imaj7 chords during the progression.

You’ll be doing this by using the following chord scales.

 

  • Am7 = A Dorian
  • D7 = D Lydian Dominant
  • Gmaj7 = G Lydian

 

Again, these sounds may or may not be for you at this stage in the game.

But, they’re worth experimenting with in order to see how and where you want to use them in your comping if you decide to adopt them into your harmonic language.

 

Major ii V I Backing Track G ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 26

 

chord scales guitar 26

 

The last lick mixes drop 2 and drop 3 chords, as well as uses tension, to create interest in the line.

Often times you’ll isolate one type of chord in your studies.

This is a great way to work on new chord shapes.

But, you want to make sure you integrate those chords into your overall harmonic concept.

This line is an example of mixing various chord types as you build your vocabulary and chord scale knowledge at the same time.

The chord scales used in this lick are.

 

  • Am7 = A Dorian
  • D7 = D Lydian Dominant
  • Gmaj7 = G Lydian

 

Once you’ve worked on these sample lines, practice jamming over the backing track and build your own chord scale lines over these ii V I changes.

As well, you can write out some sample phrases of your own as this can be a helpful tool when working new jazz guitar concepts such as chord scales.

 

Major ii V I Backing Track G ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 27

 

chord scales guitar 27

 

 

 

Watermelon Man Chords

 

Now that you’ve worked on chord scales over single chord changes and a major ii V I progression, you can take this concept to a full tune.

In this study, you’ll apply chord scales to Watermelon Man as you mix drop 2, drop 3, and drop 2 & 4 shapes over each chord in the progression.

Go slow with this study, learning it in four-bar phrases, as you work through the 16-bar etude.

From there, bring the phrases together to jam the study as a whole.

As well as playing along with the sample track, there is also a Watermelon Man backing track (bass-drums) that you can use to practice this etude, and comping in general, over this jazz standard progression.

 

Watermelon Man Backing Track Watermelon Man Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 28

 

chord scales guitar 28

 

 

 

Locrian Chord Scales

 

Now that you’ve worked out the three chord scales for major ii V I progressions, you can move on the minor ii V I chord scales.

The first chord scale in a minor key that you’ll explore is based on the Locrian scale.

When building a Locrian chord scale, you create the following Roman numeral chords.

The diatonic chords for B Locrian are included as a reference.

 

  • im7b5 – Bm7b5
  • bIImaj7 – Cmaj7
  • biiim7 – Dm7
  • ivm7 – Em7
  • bVmaj7 – Fmaj7
  • bVI7 – G7
  • bviim7 – Am7

 

Often times, comping over m7b5 chords will invoice running through inversions across the fretboard.

But, with the chord scale approach, you’ll expand your m7b5 harmonic colors by adding different extensions to your comping over this common jazz chord.

To help you take the Locrian chord scale to the fretboard, here’s an example of drop 2 & 4 root position chords from the 6th string.

If you’re new to drop 2 & 4 chords, these shapes might pose a bit of a technical challenge for your picking hand.

You’ll have to play them with a hybrid picking style, pick and fingers, or fingerstyle as strumming these shapes will usually cause you to hit unwanted open strings.

 

Bm7b5 Backing Track Bm7b5 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 29

 

chord scales guitar 29

 

Here’s the B Locrian chord scale from the 6th string, built with drop 2 & 4 chords in first inversion.

 

Bm7b5 Backing Track Bm7b5 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 30

 

chord scales guitar 30

 

Moving on, here are 2nd inversion Drop 2 & 4 chords used to build a B Locrian chord scale from the 6th string.

After working out a few of these inversions, make sure to begin mixing them together as you begin to comp over the backing tracks in your jazz guitar studies.

 

Bm7b5 Backing Track Bm7b5 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 31

 

chord scales guitar 31

 

The final Locrian example uses 3rd inversion drop 2 & 4 shapes from the 6th string in its construction.

After learning how to play each of these four chord scale inversions separately, practice playing them back to back as you work on developing your memory alongside your harmonic practice routine.

 

Bm7b5 Backing Track Bm7b5 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 32

 

chord scales guitar 32

 

 

 

Phrygian Dominant Chord Scales

 

With the iim7b5 chord scale under your belt, you can move on to apply chord scale techniques to the V7alt chord.

Now, if you’re studied 7alt chords before, you’ll know that you have a number of options when it comes to choosing scales over that chord.

These scales include 3 common choices:

 

 

In this lesson, you’ll explore examples that are based off of the Phrygian dominant scale.

This scale is commonly heard in the soloing of legendary players such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Johnny Smith.

As well, because the altered scale is so popular among beginning jazz guitarists, this will expand your harmonic vocabulary if you’re new to this scale in your playing.

When harmonizing the Phrygian dominant scale you produce the following chords, with chords for E7b9 included as a reference.

 

  • I7 – E7
  • bIImaj7 – Fmaj7
  • iiidim7 – G#dim7
  • ivmMaj7 – AmMaj7
  • vm7b5 – Bm7b5
  • bVImaj7#5 – Cmaj7#5
  • bviim7 – Dm7

 

To get you started with this scale on the fretboard, here’s a root position E Phrygian dominant chord scale that is built with drop 2 chords on the middle four strings.

 

E7b9 Backing Track E7b9 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 33

 

chord scales guitar 33

 

The second example moves on to the first-inversion chord scale.

If you’re new to this sound, put on a 7th-chord backing track and practice comping between Mixolydian and Phrygian dominant chord scales.

This might not be something you’d do in a jam situation, though it might be, but it’ll begin to teach your ears the differences between each harmonized scale.

Being able to hear this difference will allow you to add these chord scales into your playing with confidence.

 

E7b9 Backing Track E7b9 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 34

 

chord scales guitar 34

 

The next example features second inversion drop 2 chords used to build an E Phrygian dominant chord scale on the middle four strings.

 

E7b9 Backing Track E7b9 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 35

 

chord scales guitar 35

 

The final example moves on to 3rd inversion drop 2 chords when building an E Phrygian dominant chord scale.

After you’ve worked one or more of these chord scales out on the guitar, put on a iim7b5 V7alt backing track and begin comping over those changes using the Locrian and Phrygian dominant chord scales.

This’ll set you up for moving on to the full ii V I minor key progression as you further your chord scale practicing and application.

 

E7b9 Backing Track E7b9 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 36

 

chord scales guitar 36

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Chord Scales

 

The final chord scale in this lesson will be built by harmonizing the melodic minor scale.

When doing so, you produce the following chords, with the A melodic minor changes included as a reference.

 

  • ImMaj7 – AmMaj7
  • iim7 – Bm7
  • bIIImaj7#5 – Cmaj7#5
  • IV7 – D7
  • V7 – E7
  • vim7b5 – F#m7b5
  • viim7b5 – G#m7b5

 

To begin taking these chords to the fretboard, preparing you to use them over a Im7 chord in a minor ii V I progression, here’s the root position melodic minor scale.

This chord scale, and each example in this section, will use drop 2 chords on the top four strings.

But, as is the case with every chord scale in this lesson, make sure to work the melodic minor chord scale through other chord types and string sets in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

AmMaj7 Backing Track Am7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 37

 

chord scales guitar 37

 

Moving on to the next example, here’s the A melodic minor chord scale written in first inversion on the top-four strings.

 

AmMaj7 Backing Track Am7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 38

 

chord scales guitar 38

 

The next example brings second inversions to your guitar workout as you expand on the melodic minor chord scale.

After you’ve worked out a few melodic minor chord scales, put on a m7 backing track and switch between Dorian and melodic minor chord scales in your comping.

This’ll help you learn to hear the difference between these two harmonic devices when learning how to play jazz guitar.

 

AmMaj7 Backing Track Am7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 39

 

chord scales guitar 39

 

The final example in this section features third inversion drop 2 chords on the top four strings to build an A melodic minor chord scale.

Now that you’ve explore these four mMaj7 variations, you’re ready to move on to comping over the full minor ii V I progression.

You can put on any backing track below and begin experimenting with your own comping patterns, or move on to studying the samples written for you in the next section.

 

AmMaj7 Backing Track Am7 Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 40

 

chord scales guitar 40

 

 

 

Minor ii V I Chord Scales

 

To finish your study of these three minor-key chord scales, you can now bring them all together over the minor ii V I chord progression.

Each phrase is written out over the key of D minor, which is the first place to start in your study of these lines.

From there, you can work them in other keys around the fretboard, as well as write out a few sample minor ii V I phrases of your own.

Often times writing out lines can be helpful when organizing your thoughts around a new jazz guitar concept such as chord scales.

From there, you can jam over the backing tracks below, using the chord scales you learned in this section of the lesson.

Each line uses the following chords scales in their construction.

 

  • Em7b5 – E Locrian
  • A7alt – A Phrygian Dominant
  • Dm7 – D Melodic Minor

 

To begin, here’s a chord scale built on the top-four strings, using drop 2 chords to create a four bar phrase in D minor.

 

Minor ii V I Backing Track Dm ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 41

 

chord scales guitar 41

 

The next minor ii V I line uses drop 3 chord scales on various string sets to outline these chord changes in the key of D minor.

 

Minor ii V I Backing Track Dm ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 42

 

chord scales guitar 42

 

In the next sample phrase, you’ll use drop 3 and drop 2 & 4 shapes to create a D minor ii V I phrase over four bars in your studies.

 

Minor ii V I Backing Track Dm ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 43

 

chord scales guitar 43

 

In the next line, drop 2 chords are used to build a chord scale phrase on the middle and top-four string sets.

To take things a bit further with this line, you’ll now be introducing inversions to your chord scale lines.

 

Minor ii V I Backing Track Dm ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 44

 

chord scales guitar 44

 

In this final ii V I sample line, you’ll outline the changes in D minor using drop 2 chords as you navigate this four-bar phrase.

As was the case with the previous lick, you’ll be using a few inversions in this line as you outline the changes.

 

Minor ii V I Backing Track Dm ii V I Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 45

 

chord scales guitar 45

 

 

 

Blue Bossa Chord Scales

 

To finish your study of chord scales, here’s a chord etude written over the changes to Blue Bossa.

When working on this Brazilian jazz song, you’ll be using a typical Samba rhythm applied to each chord in the progression.

As always, when learning a chord study break it down to smaller phrases as you get the shapes and rhythms under your fingers.

Then, when you’re comfortable, you can bring the phrases together and play the study as a whole.

To help you practice these Blue Bossa chords, and to practice comping over the tune in general, there’s also a backing track provided as a practice aid.

 

Blue Bossa Backing Track Blue Bossa Backing Track No Piano

 

Click to hear chord scales 46

 

chord scales guitar 46

 

 



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