bop scale

Recall that we defined scale as:
a group of notes within an octave (and any octaves of those notes) usually played one at a time.

We can describe (define) a scale in any of these ways:
- by letters (representing specific pitches)
- by numbers (representing specific intervals)
- by step pattern (describing intervals from note to note)

So for example the major scale (ionian mode) can be described/ defined as/by: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C (in the key of C), 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and W-W-1/2-W-W-W-1/2.

We define a major scale as a scale containing the notes (intervals) 1,3,5.
(In other words, using the notes in the scale we can construct a major chord off the root note)

From either Bop = W-W-1/2-W-W-1/2-1/2-1/2, or C-Bop = C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-B-C we can find the intervals (from the root note) to be 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,7.

Looking at the numbers, we can deduce that the Bop scale is a major scale (not THE major scale everyone talks about - that would be the ionian mode, but a major scale none-the-less). that is, it contains the notes 1,b3,5.

We also note that it is similar to THE major scale. The Ionian mode (THE major scale) has the intervals 1,2,3,4,5,6,7; and the Bop scale has the intervals 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,7. So we could view the Bop scale as an ionian scale with a minor seventh added. We also note that it is very similar to the mixolydian scale. The mixolydian scale has the intervals 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7; and the Bop scale has the intervals 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,7. So we could view the Bop scale as an Mixolydian scale with an added major seventh.This is actually closer to the case, as the bop scale was created to play in eighth notes, and have a chord tone (of a dominant seventh chord) on the down beats. We can use this idea as a stepping stone to learning the scale. If you already know the major scale, then you could play those patterns , adding the b7, or the mixolydian adding the 7.

So lets look at some patterns (moveable shapes) with which we can play the Bop scale.


Bop scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)


Bop scale "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)


Bop scale "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)


Bop scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)


Bop scale "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)


two adjacent strings:
Seperated by a P4


seperated by a M3


We recall, that we can derive chords by harmonizing scales. We've previously harmonized the major scale in thirds to get triads, and seventh chords (see August 19th's, and august 16th's lessons) We found for the major scale (ionian mode) The following triads:
and for the mixolydian scale/mode

Where/when does one usually decide to use Bop (dominant scale)?
- in jazz music , specifically Bop.
- some would use it over the V7 chord in the minor scale/key context (play V-Bop over V7). Use it for the dominant function.
- over the 2 chord in major/minor keys. In key of C/Am, play G-bop over Dm7, or in Am, play G-Bop over Bm7b5.

We can increase our familiarity by singing every note as we practice our scales/soloing. In previous lessons on scales i've given some basic pointers on starting to solo. Those things transfer here too. Just replace the scale in question with the gypsy minor scale (see lessons from May 24th, june 7th, july 5th, and august 2nd).

Try practicing the Bop scale both ascending and descending, and start from different chord tones (ex. practice playing the scale ascending and descending from the third, from the 5th, and from the 7th.)

Next weeks lesson is on the Hirojoshi scale.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated May 27, 2004
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