Using bebop scales and four-note groupings over minor two-five-one progressions

I've been experimenting with an approach to improvising over minor two-five-one progressions.

Common approaches

There are a handful of common approaches to this progression. Which I'll list here when I have time…

Bebop Scales

Bebop scales are eight (as opposed to seven) note scales which place chord-tones on the beat. See Wikipedia for background.

Bebop scale approach to minor two-five cadences
I was searching for something that would feel familiar to me. I like the symmetry of the eight-note bebop scales that place chord tones on the downbeats. I also like repetitive patterns when I'm practicing new things.

Which of the bebop scales would work well over minor two-fives? Let's look at the chords and scales I've selected in F minor. These are just some of the possibile scales we could apply. They are the ones I am working with. (Let me know what you think about them!)

G-7b5

A possible scale choice is the dominant bebop scale constructed from the note that is a major third below (or a minor sixth above) the root of our ii-7b5 chord. For G, this would be the Eb dominant bebop scale. Playing Eb mixolydian but beginning on it's third gives us a scale that fits over G-7b5.

Gm7b5 chord and scale

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Hey, big win! I learned that scale ages ago and it's way more familiar to me than locrian #2!

As you can the notes that fall on the beat are chord tones of G-7b5, with the exception of Eb. Eb won't clash with the chord–but you might not want to emphasize this note if you are going for a real "inside" sound.

C7b9

I got this scale from Jerry Bergonzi's Jazz Lines book.

C7b9 chord and scale

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I like the minor third between the second and third notes. When I first started using this scale I worried that the natural five in it was a poor choice. b9 chords are usually altered chords and usually have a b5 and a #5 but not a natural 5. This scale does include a #5, but it places it on the upbeat while the natural five gets more emphasis since it falls on the downbeat. I've talked to some professional musicians who tell me they use this scale over altered chords (as well as over plain dominant chords) and not to worry about it.

Fm7

Fm7 chord and scale

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In Jazz Lines Bergonzi suggests this scale either with a natural 6 on beat 4 and then either a b7 or natural 7 on the & of 4. It's good to know all variations. I like the b7 and natural 7 togehter because it makes the second 4 notes of this scale the same as the second 4 notes of the altered scale above. Less for my fingers and brain to have to do!

Etudes to get comfortable with these scales

  1. Start at the bottom most chord tone on your instrument and play the scale to the top most chord tone on your instrument. Play eigth notes and learn to always land the chord tones on the beat. Keep it slow at first. (All 12 keys!)
  2. 8 note groupings: Bottom to top again. Chord tones on the beat. On the minor 7 chord (for example) you'd play: 12b345b6b771,7b7b65432,b345…
  3. 4 note groupings. Same as 2.
  4. More to add later….

Four-note groupings

Using the 4 note grouping with these 8 note scales it's easy to compose shapes that move through the minor two-five cadence. Below are some possible etudes. I've tried to write line that use repetitive shapes and that don't jump more than a whole step when resolving between chords. When the lines have these qualities I find that my fingers quickly just know where to go when I'm in a new key.

Starting on the 1

4 bar etude starting on the 1

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Starting on the 3

4 bar etude starting on the 3

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Starting on the 5

4 bar etude starting on the 5

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Starting on the 7

4 bar etude starting on the 7

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(We've got to fudge a bit on ii-7b5, since the scale we're using doesn't put the b7 on the beat.)

Comments

Great stuff. Thanks. Off to the woodshed.