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Scales and Modes with Joshua Barnhart – Bebop Scales

One of the great challenges I find with improvising is finding ways to smoothly transition from being inside the box harmonically and sounding out. I hear some people do it seamlessly and wonder how they get so far away from the tonality without really going anywhere. And if you think about mathematically, there are 7 notes in each scale, which only leaves 5 notes left to sound ‘Out’. This month we’re going to look at how to start introducing those 5 notes with a look into Bebop Scales.


The origin of Bebop scales is a rhythmic concept. They’re all 8 note scales, so that when you play them as 8th notes the root of the scale will always land on 1. Now the reasoning behind the placement of each of these added notes are to ensure that if the scale is played ascending or descending that the chord tones will land on the beats and the other notes will be treated like approach tones on the weaker up beats of the scale.

So here are 4 you can use.


These scales can be used as stepping-stones in order to massage a note into your solo. The next step would be to delve into the Melodic Minor mode that would also exploit that same note. Such as Lydian Augmented instead of the Maj6 Bebop where not it has the Ab/G# note and also the F# you can start working in as well.

You can make up your own synthetic Bebop scales as long keep in mind the root on 1 and the chord tones on the beats.



  1. Arran

    March 2, 2012 at 3:43 am

    These exercises are written in treble clef, NOT bass clef…

  2. Denson Angulo

    March 2, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Nifty article, however the musical examples seem to be needing a treble clef, or if they remain in bass clef, moved up to the C space. As written in bass, the examples start on e and don’t work.

  3. Joshua Barnhart

    Joshua Barnhart

    March 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Sorry for the confusion. I wrote the scales in treble clef instead of bass clef like its indicated.

  4. Valery Amador

    March 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for the feedback! Joshua just updated with the correct information 🙂

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