I know there are avoid notes for the diatonic scale and the melodic minor scale. I am not familiar with exotic scale avoid notes (if they really exist in jazz music), for example, there is the enigmatic scale, hungarian scale and the double harmonic scale. Do exotic scales have avoid notes in jazz music (contemporary or bebop) or are there any artists in jazz music that intend to use the idea of exotic scale avoid notes?

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    Avoid note is an unfortunate term. Any note can and has been used, even if someone decides it needs to be called an 'avoid note'. Ears tell better, and even 'avoid notes' will feature in emphasised places in a bar. Particularly in jazz!
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 16:48
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    @Tim, I love this term as a teaching tool. Many beginner jazz musicians learning to improvise don't think at all about which notes a melodic line emphasizes, and they often don't think about chords tones when improvising from a scale. The notion of avoid notes are great reinforcement of other concepts like tension/resolution and chord tones. The concept here certainly isn't that they are "always avoid notes"--and it would be unfortunate indeed if they were taught that way. But I think the concept is really helpful to new musicians who haven't yet internalized the styles they want to play.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


The definition of an avoid note is independent of the type of scale you use. What you need to define an avoid note is a (chord) scale and its related chord. If you define the basic chord of a scale as the seventh chord constructed in thirds starting from the root then an avoid note is

[T]he pitch or pitches of a chord scale which are not used harmonically because they will destabilize the sound of the chord.

(B. Nettles, R. Graf, The Chord Scale Theory & Jazz Harmony).

Usually non-chord tones a half-step above a chord-tone are perceived as destabilizing, so they are the ones considered avoid notes.

E.g., for the enigmatic scale (with root C)


the basic chord would be C E G# B or Cmaj7(#5). The only avoid note is Db because it is a half-step above the chord tone C.

The double harmonic scale


is full of avoid notes: Db, F, Ab are all avoid notes, if we define Cmaj7 as the basic chord of this scale.

In this way you can derive avoid notes for any scale. However, the question remains what the consequence is of a note being an avoid note. It is avoided harmonically, but many pieces using exotic scales do not use standard four-part chords. Sometimes you just have a drone or a simple chord, where the concept of avoid note loses its importance.

I think it's important to understand the concept of avoid note, but never forget that there is no implied rule as to how to use any note. As usually, let your ears decide.

If you want to read more about avoid notes, check out this article.

  • It seems the usefulness of teaching/learning avoid tones is to guide beginners who haven't yet mastered "improvisation based on arpeggiation." Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 18:18
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    A very concise yet accessible article in the link. However, the author of the link omits the most glaring exception to avoid tones: avoid tones vary by style. Example: the 4th scale degree is taught as an avoid tone in Major/Ionian and Mixolydian keys, yet in a blues-styled composition favoring the 4th scale degree (of both the I and IV chords) imparts that idiomatic "bluesy" feel. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 18:31
  • @EverettSteed, the major blues scale does not have the 4th (C-E-Eb-D-G-A in C), and the minor blues scale does have the 4th (C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb in C). To me, this distinction supports the principles described in the linked article. Just to clarify, when you say idiomatic, do you mean that blues musicians will emphasize the 4th (end phrases on the 4th, hold out the 4th, accent the 4th while occurring on strong beats, etc) when playing scales containing the major 3rd (and not the minor 3rd)? I tend to think that this emphasis of the 4th is more common in blues when playing scales using the minor 3rd
    – jdjazz
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 18:57
  • @jdjazz You bring up an important distinction, so I will clarify: when I said "the blues scale" (with no major/minor indicator) that is an abbreviation for "the minor blues scale" (Key of C: C, Eb, F, F#/Gb, G, Bb) which is by far the most common usage of the term "the blues scale." I have studied theory texts which differentiate between the major blues scale and the minor blues scale, and I can think of 3 which give different defintions of "blues scales" and, to further complicate matters, different defintions of "the blue note." Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 4:13
  • @jdjazz As you correctly said, a plausible definition of the major blues scale is the major pentatonic scale plus the b5 scale degree (Key of C: C, D, D#/Eb, E, G, A) also known as the C69(#11) arpeggio. Also you are correct that this "spelling" of the major blues scale does in fact omit the 4th scale degree. Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 4:15

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