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JazzWorks ... Pass It On

Common Scales

In order to play jazz at a high level, it is necessary to be proficient playing in all twelve keys. Most instruments are designed in a way that makes it easier to play certain keys, and difficult to play others. Unfortunately, music can come in any key. And in jazz music, it is common for a chord progression to pass through many distant keys, even within the space of a few measures.

How can you become proficient in all keys? The only proven answer is practice.

This chart includes 4 of the most common scales (Major, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Blues) in all twelve keys. The first page has the scales in treble clef. The second page has the same scales in bass clef.

Use this scale chart in combination with the Circle of Fourths chart. Each new staff on the scale chart is a new key, and each key is a major fourth higher than the previous one, just like the circle of fourths chart. As you go play down the scale chart, you can move clockwise around the circle of fourths chart.

Please note that the major, Dorian, and Mixolydian scales are related. They are the I, ii, and V modes of the key. Because of this relationship, we group the scales by key. For example, C Major, D Dorian, and G Mixolydian are all scales members of the key of C.

The Blues scale is a special case. The blues scale is not closely related to the other three scales. The blues scale is a collection of notes that can be used throughout the 12-bar blues song. For example, the notes from the C Blues scale work well with all the chords normally encountered in a 12-bar blues in the key of C.

Scale practice is hard work, but it is necessary work.  Go to the Scale Practice page