Chordscale Theory


Chords are scales and scales are chords. The reciprocal relationship of these two fundamental components of music is at the heart of jazz harmony. This series of lessons explores the connection between harmony and melody, the ways in which one informs the other and their impact on improvisation.

Chordscale theory describes the interdependent relationship of harmony and melody. It states that chords serve specific roles within a key which determine the scales that are associated with those chords which, in turn, represent a palette of available notes that can be used for improvisation. This theory is fundamental to learning how to improvise.

In this lesson, watch as the chordscales for major ii-V-I progressions are derived their component 13th chords and then see how they are used by Miles Davis in his improvised solo over the tune "It's Only A Paper Moon" from his 1951 Prestige release, "Dig."

The derivation of chordscales for minor ii-V-i progressions is less straightforward than with major ii-V-Is. Each minor key has three scales whereas each major key has just one. In this lesson, watch as the chordscales for minor ii-V-i progressions are derived from their component 13th chords and then see how the resulting chordscales are used by Miles Davis in his improvised solo over the tune "It Could Happen to You" from his 1956 release, "Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet."

While the mixolydian mode is the default dominant chordscale, there exists a whole world of dominant chordscale choices, each one possessing a unique palette of tensions. The Monkish whole tone, the tense altered scale and the evocative blues scale are just three of the eight dominant chordscales explored in this lesson. Learn how to derive the scales, how to build them and see how Clifford Brown, Kirk Lightsey and Thelonious Monk have used them in their solos.