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Scales and Modes with Joshua Barnhart: 23 Most Common Jazz Chords

Meet Joshua Barnhart –

Very recently I complied a list of the 23 most common Jazz chords.

Maj6 Maj7 Maj9 Maj#11 Maj13

Min6 Min7 Min9 Min11 Minmaj7

Dom7 Domb9 and/or b13 Dom9 Dom#9 Dom#11 Domb13 Dom13

min7b5
7Sus4
Alt(b9#9#11b13)

Dim7
Aug7 Augmaj7

Now there are oodles of scales you could use, and generally depending on the context of each chord, i.e. what chord did you come from what chord are you going to and what the melody at that point is, will tell you what scale you should or shouldn’t use, and all those things should be considered before you commit to a scale.

Ok so with all that in mind lets dig a bit deeper.  Chord symbols are meant to be as accurate and concise as possible.  But there are some things that are meant to be implied when you use or read these symbols. When you see a symbol like Maj9, the 9 implies all the chord tones below it, which would be a major 7th. So when you se Maj#11, the 9th and 7th are implied. So if you’re using a Maj13 chord in any other context than Imaj13, you could be talking about an all out Lydian voicing which would imply  1 3 5 7 9 #11 and 13.  In that voicing your allowing all of what are called available tensions to be implied. That’s when chord scale context becomes really important to understand.

Out of the 23 chords listed above a few of them listed have very specific scales that are designated to them.

Maj#11 – Lydian
Minmaj7 – Melodic Minor
Domb9 and/or b13 – 5th degree of Harmonic Minor Myxob9b13
Dom#9 – Altered or Symmetrical Dominant
Dom#11 – Lydian Dominant
Domb13 – 5th degree of Melodic Minor myxob13

min7b5 – 6th degree of Melodic Minor Locrian nat9

7Sus4 – Myxo or Dorian

 

Altb9#9#11b13 – Altered or Symmetrical Dominant Half Whole
Dim7 – Symmetrical Diminished Whole Half
Aug7 – Whole Tone
Augmaj7 – 3rd degree of Melodic Minor Lydian Augmented.

If you’re ever not sure a general rule of thumb is as follows:

Available tensions are 1 whole step above a chord tone.

Now with that said there are exceptions to dominant chords. Clearly a b9 isn’t not a whole step above the root. That’s because dominant chords are part of the tensions and release system in a cadencies pattern. They have harsh tones that are meant to be resolved.

With all that said there are other options that you can play over every chord. Such as pentatonic, hexatonics, and the blues scale patterns. They, including other scales, can be implied over the top of these chords while starting on various positions, chord tones and tensions. But all of those different patterns are based on the chord scales. So learn you chord scale and chisel away what you feel I useful for your situation.

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