In typical blues using V7 IV7 I7 the blues scale can be used - and as I understand - without concern for avoid tones.

Can I do something similar over jazz iim7 V7 Imaj7?

I made this chart of chord tones for minor and major blues scales...


                           R   3   5   7
1 ♭3 4 ♯4 5 ♭7 1    iim7 : -  E♭   -   B♭
B♭ D♭ E♭ E♮ F A♭ B♭  V7   : F (A♭)  -   E♭
                    IΔ7  : B♭ (D♭)  F   A


                           R   3   5   7
1 2 ♭3 ♮3 5 6 1     iim7 : C   -   G   B♭
B♭ C D♭ D♮ F G B♭    V7   : F   -   C   -
                    IΔ7  : B♭  D   F   (G)


...and my thought is that I should be able to use the blues scale by using the matching chord tones as starting/target notes.

When I tried this last night, it seemed OK to me.

Is this approach used in jazz?

Is there another approach that is more typical from a jazz perspective?

  • I think there is some misunderstanding in your statements. It is not the case that the blues is played "without concern for avoid tones", many blues players synchronize their licks to "avoid" certain tones except in passing. Also, it is customary to modulate with the changes (adding the maj 3rd on I7, then flattening it on IV7, etc). As for Jazz (and music in general) anything is possible. There is no need to justify choice of mode using theory. If it sounds good it is good. Jazz players use all sorts of embellishments in their improv.
    – user50691
    Nov 15, 2018 at 20:06
  • @ggcg, I agree with what you say about 'avoid tones' there are surely avoid tones, the #4 seems the most obvious case, yet I've seen many 'methods' says any note of the blues scale can be used any time... or words to that effect. Nov 15, 2018 at 20:55
  • @ggcg I disagree that "it is customary to modulate with the changes" when using the blues scales. The blues scale tends to be used to created a "bluesy" sound that comes from it's particular melodic contour. Do you have any examples?
    – Peter
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:41
  • Just because people say it doesn't make it true. Statements like that are too broad to be useful. I think what they mean is that if you're playing licks you don't need to check that the 4th is missing from the lick (but that's true of any music, classical too). Really, the 4th is to be avoided as a strong note in a melody. And blues players respect that most of the time too.
    – user50691
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:41
  • @Peter, What I'm saying is that is is customary to modulate with the changes using the Mixolydian mode that matches the chord. This is one of many possible choices. The Blues scale can be melded with Mixolydian to create exotic melodies. There are plenty of players who move the "blues scale" from one chord to the next to add more to their improv.
    – user50691
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


Of course you can use the major blues scale when improvising over a II-V-I progression in major, because the notes are simply a subset of the major scale, plus the b3, which makes for the bluesy character. Over the I and II chords, the b3 is dissonant but if used with care, it can give a bluesy feel to your lines. Over the V chord, it is actually a nice altered tension, namely the b13.

The minor blues scale is a bit more problematic, and I would only use it over the V chord, where it gives you a few (altered) tensions that you don't get from the major (blues) scale:

scale tone      tension over V
  b3                b13
   4                  7
  b7                 #9 (b10)

The answer to your question

Is there another approach that is more typical from a jazz perspective?

is 'yes', but whole books have been written about that topic, so I don't see how I can even start to answer it here.

  • Sorry for the late accept. Major blues seems the way to go. Dec 4, 2018 at 20:18

Because the blues scale has such a unique melodic character, it is generally used to skate over without specific regard to the harmonic motion underneath it.

As an example, check out this transcription/analysis of Herbie Hancock's solo on his tune Driftin: http://www.actualproofblog.com/2016/11/driftin_14.html At the start of his second chorus, he plays exclusively on the Eb major blues scale (or C minor blues scale) for the first two A sections. The chords move around quiet a bit underneath him, but he just sticks to the scale with most of his lines ending on the note Eb. Once he gets to the bridge he goes back to a more harmonic style of improve.

There are definitely other ways to do it, but that's the first example that came to my mind.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.