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Hey everyone,
I heard about the bebop scales the other day. I was wondering how to use them while improvising in jazz.
 

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Here's a link to get you started.
 

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In a very general sense , when you're playing through changes you'll want to place chord tones on the downbeats (beats 1,2, 3, or 4) Most scales have 7 notes which doesn't fit well in a bar of 4/4. 4/4 has 8 eighth notes in it. So, bebop scales add a chromatic passing note. This gives us 8 notes in a scale and now it becomes easier to line up your chord tones on downbeats.

They're a very cool sound and I think you'll like them :)
 

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What I find difficult is when you want to leave notes out or extend the length of some notes, the 'pattern' to me is then lost and the notes no longer fall on the beat. After all you don't want to play eighth notes all the time. Any advice on this?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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What I find difficult is when you want to leave notes out or extend the length of some notes, the 'pattern' to me is then lost and the notes no longer fall on the beat. After all you don't want to play eighth notes all the time. Any advice on this?
Well yes, then you play something else. The bebop scale is a formula for scale type patterns using 8th note runs. It does that very well, but that is only a small part of improvising and we are lucky in that such formulae exist for those moments when our brain needs a rest from constant creativity (that few of us are capable of).

But we can't expect formulae like that for everything, otherwise jazz would be a science, not an art. Sometimes we need to be creative and original, that's what I try to do but i can't do it 100% (even Bird relied on stock licks sometimes) so I might throw in an 8th note scale run with a bebop scale while my brain gets back in gear to think of something melodic or more meaningful.
 

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Well yes, then you play something else. The bebop scale is a formula for scale type patterns using 8th note runs. It does that very well, but that is only a small part of improvising and we are lucky in that such formulae exist for those moments when our brain needs a rest from constant creativity (that few of us are capable of).

But we can't expect formulae like that for everything, otherwise jazz would be a science, not an art. Sometimes we need to be creative and original, that's what I try to do but i can't do it 100% (even Bird relied on stock licks sometimes) so I might throw in an 8th note scale run with a bebop scale while my brain gets back in gear to think of something melodic or more meaningful.
Very well said Pete. If you wanted you could come up with a formula using the bebop scale for every rhythm, held note or chromatic note but for me it would become to weighted down with rules and formula. I mix the bebop scale up with other stuff like Pete is talking about. It is important to have a good sense of where the downbeats are when you are working with it so the scale lays right against the chords.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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It is important to have a good sense of where the downbeats are when you are working with it so the scale lays right against the chords.
Yes. If you use the bebop school on the wrong beat, it will not only be a bit ineffective as far as getting chord tones on the beats, you' actually get some pretty nasty dissonance 9as opposed to nice dissonance) when you have a major 7 over a flat 7.

Mmmm, not nice
 

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You'll find that Baker handles your question, Nobby, with several options and exercises in Book 1 of the series.
 

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Don't think about it too much. Just close your eyes and sorta play the chromatic scale. Do it with conviction (most important). Use your ears! Try playing a descending chromatic scale, if you feel like holding or repeating one of the notes then do it. Maybe you'll want to throw in a whole step hear and there. I would not advise trying put any particular notes on any particular beats. Just blow on that thing and move your fingers around, man! Close your eyes and think about your old lady or some babe who did you wrong. The goal is to make honest music. The real bebop guys, like Bird, weren't TRYING to do nothin'. He was simply playing from the heart. If a bebop scale or a mixolydian scale pops out then fine. That should be secondary, simply a result and the science of the sounds.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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The real bebop guys, like Bird, weren't TRYING to do nothin'. He was simply playing from the heart. If a bebop scale or a mixolydian scale pops out then fine. That should be secondary, simply a result and the science of the sounds.
I think Bird was well versed in music theory. I'm sure he played from the heart, the two things aren't mutually exclusive.
 

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I think Bird was well versed in music theory. I'm sure he played from the heart, the two things aren't mutually exclusive.
+1.

I hope I never have to listen to someone "just blowing on that thing and moving their fingers around," with no regard for the chord tones or rhythmic coherence. Nor does anyone want to listen to someone just play the changes with no feeling. You need both feel and knowledge of the harmony to play well.

Back to the question of having to play all eighth notes to use the bebop scale, you can actually vary the rhythm & leave notes out, or hold them, as long as you maintain a feel for where the upbeat vs downbeat is. Just be sure you place a chord tone on the downbeat, or a leading tone (leading to a chord tone) on the upbeat, and play the bebop scale from there. You do have to get a feel for this, so you can do it naturally without thinking about it. I'm not saying I can always do that, but it's the goal.

Of course, as Pete pointed out, the idea is not to play the bebop scale continuously, but rather use it to 'fill in' or when you want that scalar sound.
 
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