Kumoi (Minor Pentatonic)

Pentatonic scales are a great tool for adding just the right notes to a chord. They are somewhere between being a scale and an arpeggio. Used in interesting ways, pentatonic scales can be the perfect choice to give you all the right colour notes for that perfect sound.

As you probably already know, a pentatonic scale is made up of 5 notes from any given scale. Most improvisers know the major pentatonic as being notes 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the major scale. Many of you already use this scale over a I major chord and just as often over a VI minor type chord. Sounds great but very inside and mostly uninteresting as far as giving your solos any kind of colour.

A more interesting use of a major pentatonic scale would be to do something like play a D major pentatonic over a Cmaj7(#11) chord. The notes you will end up with are the 9th, 3rd, #11, 6th and major 7th. That’s more like it! We have some beautiful colour notes which sound rich and spicy!

Of course there are many more examples of how to use a pentatonic scale over different kinds of chords to add great sounding colour tones to your solos. For now I’ll let you search around the web on your own for some of these other wonderful ways to use pentatonic scales.

There is another much overlooked pentatonic scale which has a rich beautiful sound. This scale is mostly referred to as the “Kumoi” scale. I like to call it the minor pentatonic but the problem is that many musicians will often play a major pentatonic scale starting on the 6th degree and call that a minor pentatonic. This is not the Kumoi scale.

The Kumoi scale follows the same rule as the major pentatonic scale except you will not use the major scale. For Kumoi, we need the melodic minor scale. Using the melodic minor scale, take the same notes, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Although in the case of the melodic minor scale, the 3rd will be a minor 3rd. All other notes will be the same. So then the easy way to think of Kumoi is to see it as a major pentatonic scale with a flatted 3rd.

Lets look at both the major scale and its pentatonic as well as the melodic minor scale and its pentatonic the Kumoi scale.

C Major Scale

If we take extract notes 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 we end up with a major pentatonic.

C Pentatonic Scale

Now let’s look at the Melodic Minor Scale.

C Melodic Minor Scale

Now let’s do the same thing and extract 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Keep in mind that our 3rd in now a flatted 3rd.


At this point it’s a good idea to try playing the Kumoi Scale in different positions on the guitar. Try to get a feel for fingerings and listen to hear what Kumoi sounds like.

Next we need to look at some of the places you can use the Kumoi scale. The most obvious place to look is the melodic minor scale and the chords generated by the melodic minor scale. Cm6 is the most obvious of chords where Kumoi can be used. It’s going to give you scale tones 1 (root), 2 (9th), b3 (minor 3rd), 5 (5th) and 6 (major 6th). Let’s have a listen.

In this example, the Kumoi scale is used over the Cm6 chord in a minor II – V – I progression.

Kumoi over Cm6

In this next example we have a C Kumoi scale being used over the F9 chord. F dominant is the IV chord of the C melodic minor scale.

Kumoi over F9

In this next example we will use the Kumoi scale in a modal context. Here we will use a C Kumoi scale over an Ebmaj7(#11) chord. Ebmaj7(#11) is the bIII chord of the C melodic minor scale. The Kumoi scale will give us the following notes as they relate to the Ebmaj7(#11) chord. Notes are as follows: 1 (root), 3 (3rd), #4 (#11), 6 (13) and 7 (major 7th). Nice, we are getting the important chord tones and 2 very nice colour tones; the #11 and the 13th.

For the Cmaj7(#11) we have the exact same scale only we use A Kumoi.

Kumoi over Ebmaj7(#11) and Cmaj7(#11)

These three example are only a small portion of the many possible ways to use Kumoi. There are of course many more creative and inspiring ways to use this scale. A good place to find more uses for this pentatonic scale would be to explore some of the other chords generated by the melodic minor scale.

Happy practicing and stay tuned for more free jazz guitar lessons!

Lydian b7 Mode

Photo by: Thomas Kelley

The “Lydian b7” scale is the 4th mode of the Melodic Minor Scale. Its name aptly describes what it is and what it sounds like. The Lydian Mode is of course the 4th mode of the Major Scale whereas the Lydian b7 Scale is the 4th mode of the Melodic Minor Scale. As you know, the Major Scale and the Melodic Minor Scale differ by one note. Lydian and Lydian b7 also differ by one note. In this case, the Lydian b7 Mode will have a flatted 7th (min7) and the Lydian Mode will have a major seventh (maj7).

The Lydian Mode will be used over a Maj7 type chords whereas the Lydian b7 Mode will be used over Dom7 type chords. When we think “Lydian” we thing of #11 and this is true in the case of both modes. The Lydian Mode suggest Ma7(#11) whereas the Lydian b7 Mode suggest Dom7(#11).

If you are already comfortable with the Lydian Mode, visualizing the Lydian b7 Mode as a Lydian Mode with flatted 7th is a good approach.

Here is the “C” Lydian b7 Mode.

The C Lydian b7 Mode is the 4th Mode of the G Melodic Minor Scale. G Melodic Minor is its parent scale. As we can see from the example below, they share the exact same notes.

There are numerous possibilities as to where this mode can be used. We will look at some of the most common places the Lydian b7 Mode can be applied. Our first example is for a IV Dominant chord. This is a very common chord found in many standards and jazz originals including: “If You Could See Me Now” and “The Days of Wine and Roses.”

Ex. 1 Imaj7 – IV7 – Imaj7

In the example below, we have a Bb Major Scale for our I chord, an Eb Lydian b7 Mode for the IV Dominant chord and then back to Bb Major Scale. The Eb Lydian b7 Mode is the 4th Mode of the Bb Melodic Minor Scale. The C# note in the 4th bar is a chromatic passing tone and not part of either mode.

Audio Ex. 1

Another common place to use the Lydian b7 Mode is over a bVII Dominant chord. (bVII7)

Ex. 2 Imaj7 – bVII7 – Imaj7

In the example below we have Bb Major Scale for our I chord, an Ab Lydian b7 Mode for our Ab7 chord and we resolve back to our I chord using Bb Major Scale once again. The Ab Lydian b7 Mode is the 4th mode of the Eb Melodic Minor Scale.

Audio Ex. 2

Ex. 3 Imaj7 – II7 – II – V – I

Another nice place to use the Lydian b7 Mode is on a II Dominant chord. (II7) In the example below, we have G Major Scale for the I chord, an A Lydian b7 Mode for the II Dominant chord and then Dorian, Mixolydian (part of the 10 note scale) and Major Scale for the final II – V – I progression. The A Lydian b7 Mode is the 4th mode of the E Melodic Minor Scale.

Audio Ex. 3

10 Note Scale

I know what you’re thinking; what’s wrong with the old 7 note scales? Actually the 10 note scale is a variation of the 7th scale, which yes, has 8 notes. As you’ll remember from my post on the 7th scale, the 7th scale is a mixolydian mode with added notes. The extra note we added was the major 7th between the root and the flatted 7th degree. This gave us a series of chromatic notes from the root to the 6th degree.

For this next variation of the 7th scale, we will be starting our scale from the 3rd and we will descend to the root and all the way down until the next root. Along the way, there will be many chromatic notes. We will be adding chromatic notes between the 3rd and 2nd degrees; between the 2nd degree and the root and between the root and the flatted 7th degree.  Here are the notes of the scale over a G7 chord.

10 Note Scale

Yes there are 13 notes in the example above but there are in fact 10 different notes. I choose to continue the scale all the way to the root both because this is a “G” scale and because it’s also common to play play the scale in this way.

Let’s look at and listen to some examples of this scale in use. First let’s hear how it sounds over a G7 chord.

Now let’s use it in a II – V7 – I progression.

In the example above, notice how the 10 note scale starts in the second half of the Dm7 chord.

Here’s another example over a II – V7 – I progression.

In this example, the 10 note scale again starts over the Dm7 chord but only in the last beat. The scale now resolves to the B note (7th degree) of the Cmaj7 chord. Nice!

The following solo is based on the changes to “All The Things You Are.” I have used the 10 note scale as much as possible. Please keep in mind that I probably wouldn’t play this scale as much as I have here. It’s mostly to illustrate how to use the scale and how it can sound in your solos.

As always, feel free to use as much as you like in your own solos.

“All The 10 Notes You Are”

Harmonic Minor

Improvising over songs that have a lot of chord progressions in minor is always so much fun. The thing I like most about playing tunes with a lot of progressions in minor is that you get to play harmonic and melodic minor scales. Both scales are very colourful. Minor is never dark. Minor is full of the some of the most beautiful musical possibilities available.

In this post, I’d like to look at the “Harmonic Minor” scale. There are a couple of ways one might visualize this scale.

  1. We can visualize the scale as being a natural minor scale with a raised 7th degree.
  2. Another way to visualize harmonic minor is to compare it to the major scale. I like to compare every scale and mode to the major scale. We all know the major scale well so comparing the notes of any mode or scale to the major scale will usually give us a pretty good idea what’s going on. The harmonic minor scale is then a major scale with a flatted 3rd and 6th.

A great standard with lots of minor progressions is “Alone Together.” In this post, I have included a solo over the chord changes to Alone Together and so to make our examples relevant, we will look at harmonic minor scales in D as the song is in D minor.

D Harmonic Minor Scale

Obviously it is possible to play the D harmonic minor scale over a Dm chord but that is not the most interesting and colourful way to use the scale. D harmonic minor is most often played over the IIm7(b5) – V7(b9) chords or the “minor two-five.”

Let’s look at D harmonic minor from E to E. If we look at the R, 3rd, 5th and 7th of the scale, and compare these notes to the chord tones of the IIm7(b5) chord, we see we have all the notes we need.

Now let’s spell our D harmonic minor scale from A to A for the V7 chord. I’ve used “alt” for a very specific reason. We’ll see why in a minute. First, look at the R, 3rd, 5th and 7th of the scale to make sure we have all the notes we need to spell our A7 chord. We have A, C# E and G notes so we are good.

At the beginning of the post I mentioned that harmonic minor was a colourful scale. If we look at the passing tones between our chord tones we see some very interesting notes. We have a b9, sus4 and a b13. The reason one would notate a 7th chord with the “alt” extension is to give the player the flexibility to chose the extensions she or he wants to play in their chord voicings. You can play a simple A7(b9) or an A7(b13) or some combination of b9 and sus4 or any other combination of the 3 possible extensions.

In terms of soloing, harmonic minor is going to allow you to play all of those beautiful passing tones over the dominant chords.

As always, (and this is quickly becoming my way of demonstrating the sound of whatever is being discussed) I’ve included a written solo over the chords to “Alone Together.” I’ve used harmonic minor as often as possible over IIm7(b5) and V7.

Listen to the recording, check out the lines I’ve played and feel free to use as much of it as you like in your own solos.

7th scales (Dom7 and Half-Diminished Chords)

Seventh scales (7th Scales) are basically descending mixolydian modes with added notes. The most common way of playing a 7th scales is to add the major 7th between the root and the flatted 7th scale degrees.

Adding this one notes gives you an 8 note scale which is important because it allows you, in this case, to start and end on the same note. This of course assumes you are playing 8th notes in a Bebop style.

As an example, let’s say we are playing a “C” 7th scale over a C7 chord and we are resolving to Fmaj7. If we are playing 8th notes and starting on the first beat of the bar we will end on the same note we start on. We start on a “C” note which means we will also end on a “C.” This is important because it allows us to end on the 5th of the Fmaj7 chord.

Now of course this is not all there is to 7th scales. It is possible to start on any note of the scale. Depending on which note we start on, chromatic notes are added in a way which ensures you will resolve nicely to your next chord. I will not go into every example in this post but will stick to just 2 examples for now. The first will be as described above and the second is as follows: Starting on the 3rd of the chord we will add chromatic notes between the 3rd and 2nd degrees, between the 2nd degree and the root of the chord and between the root of the chord and the flatted 7th degree. More information is also available in my book “Jazz Guitar Elements.”

A “C” 7th Scale (C Mixolydian with added note) is played over a C7 chord.

Next, let’s look at how we can use 7th scales over Half-Diminished chords. The first thing you should do is look at my post on “Chord Substitution.” In this post, we saw how a G9 chord with no root is the same as a Bm7(b5). If these 2 chords are in fact the same, then it stands to reason we can play a “G” 7th scale over a Bm7(b5) chord.

Here is an example of a “G” 7th scale used over a Bm7(b5) chord in a II – V – I chord progression in A minor.

Next let’s look at a standard. Below is a solo on the chord changes to “Stella By Starlight.” I’ve used 7th scales over some of the Dom7 and m7(b5) chords. At times I’ve used the entire scale and sometimes just fragments of the scale. (As in the first couple of notes only) Take a look and listen at how I’ve used 7th scales on both chord types. (Audio track is at the bottom of the post)

  • John Roney:piano
  • Dave Watts: bass
  • Claude Lavergne: drums
  • Michael Berard: guitar

Getting Started with Jazz Scales on the Guitar

A Poor Man’s Guide to Jazz Guitar Scales

A Guest Post by Marc-Andre Seguin

Hello and welcome to a little “crash course” on jazz guitar scales, and many thanks to Michael, who has had an big impact on my life and my playing (more than he knows!)

The whole point of this lesson is to:

  • learn scales;
  • apply them on the guitar fretboard;
  • … in a jazz context. (Yikes!)

Improvising blues licks and rock solos can be done relatively easy on the guitar (“Hey, look at that 5th fret pentatonic fierce AC/DC lead!”) … but trying to make sense of scales as chords go by (fast) in a jazz context is a totally different ball game.

Remember your first jam session, the moment the bandleader pointed to you and went “Guitar solo!” on a blues in F or even Autumn Leaves?!? Yeah, me too. I was embarrassed enough already, struggling through complicated chords for strumming, I didn’t need the spotlight!

Ok, enough with the bad memories: let’s cover the M.E.D (minimum effective dose) so you can start walking before you run, without getting inundated with music theory. At the end of this post you’ll know exactly which scales to practice and how to master them.

Materials: Three Scales

To make things simple here, we will focus on three types of scales to fit with the three most common chord types in jazz. Our scales of choice are the major scale, the Dorian mode and the Mixolydian mode. The fit the major chords (or maj7), the minor chords (or min7) and the dominant chords (“plain” 7th) respectively.

For now, each scale will only be conceived of on the fretboard with one fingering. No need to stress out with positions and alternative “boxes” on the instrument. You’ll learn that *one* fingering and then go up on the next string with the same fingering. This will yield more or less the same digits patterns (which is very practical for playing without thinking later on).

It goes without saying, anything and everything you learn here can (and should) be applied in different keys. The guitar is wonderful this way: just learned something in C major and want to play it in D major instead? No problem! Move up two frets!

The Major Scale

Here’s the fingering for the major scale, in the key of C. Notice how we are starting with the 2nd (middle) finger of our fretting hand.

For now, only play the scale up to the 7th degree (sounding: DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI) and back down slowly until it sounds good. Repeat with the three starting string we’ve provided in the TABS, always starting the C note with your 2nd finger. Then see if you can play around in different keys.

It is extremely important that you only play to the 7th degree and NOT attempt to relate this back to any known scale position. You can always do that later. Continue reading “Getting Started with Jazz Scales on the Guitar”

3 Octave Scales

In this lesson, we will combine 3 scale forms to produce fingerings to play scales across 3 octaves. The scale forms are standard fingerings used to play major scales. First we will look at 3 major scale fingerings.

*Note: White notes are the roots of the scale.

Root 3rd fret

Root 10th fret

Root 15th fret

Visualizing all 3 scales at the same time on the fingerboard, we end up with the following.

Continue reading “3 Octave Scales”