by Russ Nolan

Teaching Jazz As A Language: Using the Bebop Scale for Longer Phrases

If the students show a basic understanding of the Blues Scale, I will move on to the Bebop Scale. One of the dividing lines between high school jazz students and college jazz students is the use of this scale. Outside of transcribing, most of my own practicing and concepts of the Bebop Scale come from David Baker’s series entitled, ‘How To Play Bebop’ (volumes 1-3). I site his books in my clinic reference materials. This scale is the basic tool used by advanced improvisers to smooth out their lines and land on chord tones on the strong beats (if they so choose—but that’s another discussion).

The Bebop Scale and Use over Blues Changes

The Bebop Scale is typically played in a descending fashion. By adding a half step in between the root and the b7, the root, 3rd, 5th, and b7th land on the beats.

Teaching Jazz As A Language Bebop Scale






Practice this scale from the root, 3rd, 5th, and b7th in descending fashion, keeping the original two half-steps (F-E-Eb) in place.

Now we can apply our new scale to the Blues Progression:

Teaching Jazz As A Language Bebop Scale over Blues



Part 1

Part 3


Russ Nolan Jazz Educator and Clinician

Russ Nolan Jazz Blog

  1. Hello M. Russ,
    first, thank you for your precious advices about improvisation.
    I have a question regarding the D7(b9) bebop scale, I haven’t succeeded yet to understand where the Bb comes from. Thank you for your help.

    • Cecile,
      Great question! The Bb comes from the G harmonic minor scale spelled G A Bb C D Eb F# (G). The 5th Mode of G harmonic minor is D Eb F# G A Bb C (D). This 5th Mode can be used over D7b9 as it voice leads directly into the G-7 (a V of ii Chord). In descending order, the scale then reads D (Db-the passing tone) C Bb A G F# Eb D. I will dig up some exercises on this and post. Thank you for your interest!

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