Jazz scales and arpeggios

We are going to get familiar with jazz scales and arpeggios at today’s post. I will try to be efficient and practical to be most useful to the jazz student.

Jazz Scales:

We have talked about modes in my previous post titled introduction to diatonic harmony. We are going to continue with jazz scales today. Let’s start with c-major scale.


Frequently used c-major scale also includes d dorian and g mixolydian modes.


If we flatten the 3rd of the c-major scale, we find c melodic minor scale.


If we flatten both the 3rd and the 6th of c-major scale, we will have c-harmonic minor scale. If you are not familiar with the intervals like 3rd and 6th, please read my previous post titled building blocks of chords, intervals.

Be-bop scale is very similar to c mixolydian mode ( f-major scale ). It has one more added note which is b natural. Since it has 8 notes, it is rhythmically balanced when you play the whole scale with 8th notes up to the next down beat. It was invented by the be-bop players hence the name.


Altered scale is usually played over altered chords.

Now, let’s talk about synthetic scales ( diminished & whole-tone ).

Diminished scale is made of series of half + whole steps or vice versa. We only present the first example above but you can easily build the other with whole + half steps.


Wholetone scale consists of whole steps only and it has 6 notes.

Jazz arpeggios:

Arpeggios are chord tones that are played single note at a time.

C-major arpeggio.


D-minor 7 arpeggio is usually played over II-7 over c-major scale.


G 7 arpeggio is usually played over G dominant 7 chord.

E-minor 7 arpeggio could either be played over E-7 ( III-7 ) or Cmaj7 ( Imaj7 ) chords. When played over C-maj7, the d note inside E-7 arpeggio becomes the 9th of C-major chord.

Fmaj7 arpeggio can either be played over Fmaj7 or D-7 chords. E note becomes the 9th when played over D-7.


B-7b5 could either be played over B-7b5 or G7 chords.

Arpeggios are important basis for jass phrasing. If you know your arpeggios well, it will certainly help you become a stronger player.