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An Introduction to the Bebop Scale | Guitarworld 3/25/19, 11)00 PM


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An Introduction to the Bebop Scale

By Matt Warnock December 04, 2018 Lesson

A quick review of the Bebop scale, how it’s built and where you can
use it in your solos.
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When learning how to play jazz guitar, we can often get bogged down with
learning scales and arpeggios and find ourselves not spending time learning the
vocabulary that makes up the traditional and modern jazz language.

One of the best ways to build your jazz vocabulary, and your scale knowledge, is
to work on both at the same time, by running common jazz patterns through the
scales that you will need to outline chord changes when soloing over tunes.

In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at one of the most important scales in the jazz
repertoire, the Bebop scale, as well as three must-know patterns that you can
work through the scale and bring into your solos in order to bring a sense of
Bebop vocabulary into your lines and phrases.

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An Introduction to the Bebop Scale | Guitarworld 3/25/19, 11)00 PM

Before we begin with the licks themselves, let’s do a quick review of the Bebop
scale, how it’s built and where you can use it in your solos.

The Bebop Scale

The Dominant Bebop Scale (often just referred to as simply the Bebop Scale), is
built by taking the fifth mode of the major scale, the Mixolydian mode, and
adding in a natural 7 interval, producing the 8-note scale you see below.

Since it is built from the Mixolydian mode, you can use it to solo in the same way,
over 7th chords on their own, or over both the iim7 and 7th chord in a ii-V
progression, where you would “ignore” the iim7 chord and play the Bebop Scale
over both of these changes.

Here is one fingering I like to use with this scale that spans two octaves and
includes a shift between the first and second octaves. If you are new to this
scale, try running it in all 12 keys across the neck so that you get used to this
important melodic device before moving on to the licks themselves.

If you have this scale comfortably under your fingers, adding the licks will be
easy. But if you don’t have a good grasp of this scale, it will be much tougher to
work the licks in the lesson below.

It would also be a good idea to pop on a backing track, or record yourself coming
a C7 chord, or any dominant 7th chord, and soloing over it using only the Bebop
scale to build your lines in order to get a feel for how this scale fits into an
improvisational situation as well as seeing it across the fretboard.

Lick 1: Honeysuckle

The first lick we’ll check out over the Bebop scale is sometimes nicknamed the
“Honeysuckle” riff, as it sounds like a chromatic version of the opening line to
Fats Waller’s classic jazz tune, “Honeysuckle Rose.”

As you can see below, the lick starts on the root of the scale, in this case C,
moves down the scale by three notes, but before reaching the fourth note of the
scale it is “interrupted” by a Dm triad that breaks up the scale-wise motion of the
line. Mixing step-wise scale notes with the larger intervals of a triad within that
scale, such as you see here, is a great way to bring a sense of variety to your
lines that you won’t get if you just focus on one or the other.

Practice running this lick with a metronome in all keys around the neck to get it
under your fingers and into your ears. Then put on a C7 vamp, a ii-V-I vamp,
modal tune or jazz standard, and practice soloing over those changes using the
Honeysuckle lick as much as possible so that you get a sense of how it fits into a
soloing situation as well as a technical one.

This is a great sounding lick, and one that many legendary players use in there
solos, and so it is worth checking out this week in the practice room.

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An Introduction to the Bebop Scale | Guitarworld 3/25/19, 11)00 PM

Lick 2: Diminished Arpeggio

The second Bebop scale lick we’ll check out is a diminished arpeggio from the
3rd of the scale, the note E in the example below.
With this lick, you play down the scale and when you reach the 3rd of the
scale, you simply play an ascending diminished 7 arpeggio that brings you back
to the top of the scale, via the b9.

By playing a dim7 arpeggio from the 3rd of the scale, you are outlining the 3rd,
5th, b7th and b9th of the underlying 7th chord, creating a sense of tension with
the b9 interval that you resolve into the root of the scale with your next note.

Again, this is a classic lick that can quickly bring that Bebop “tension-release”
sound into your lines, so work it in all 12 keys and then take it to a tune or
progression you are working on in order to explore it in a technical and
improvisational context in the woodshed.

Lick 3: Enclosures

The last lick we’ll look at is called an enclosure. This technique involves picking a
target note. I used the root and 5th in the example below, but you can pick just
about any note and make this technique work.

Once you have your target note picked out, you play one fret above that note,
one fret below that note, and then resolve into the target note from there. This
lick creates a good amount of tension, which is then resolved into your target

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An Introduction to the Bebop Scale | Guitarworld 3/25/19, 11)00 PM

note, and it is one of the most commonly used pieces of vocabulary by jazz
musicians across the eras.

Work this idea over the root and fifth of the scale the begin with, in all keys and
by using it to solo over vamps and tunes, and then experiment with enclosing
other notes of the scale as you move forward with it in the practice room and on
the bandstand.

If you enjoyed this lick and want to explore these concepts further, check out my
article “21 Bebop Scale Patterns for Jazz Guitar.”

Working on licks and patterns through the Bebop scale is a great way to expand
your vocabulary and to dig deeper into the language used by great jazz
musicians when blowing over standards and Bebop-inspired tunes.

Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that

provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all
experience levels meet their practice and performance goals. Matt lives in the
UK, where he is a senior lecturer at the Leeds College of Music and an examiner
for the London College of Music (Registry of Guitar Tutors).


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