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?

  • 4
    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 Mar 23 '16 at 16:48

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." – Everett Steed Mar 23 '16 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. – Everett Steed Mar 23 '16 at 18:31

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