I have heard that you play different scales over different chords. Is this to be avoided when playing jazz with a blues form? When playing the blues form you only use the mixolydian mode and the minor/major blues scale?

And when a jazz musician say he will play a blues in C does that mean he will play in the style called jazz-blues?

Hello Andrew and thank you for contacting me through AllExperts.com.

Soloing is over tone centers not the actual chords. Tone centers are where the chord progression points to. Here are a couple examples:

F7, G7, C
- or -
Dm7, G7, C

In both the above examples, the progression points to the tone center C. So choose scales that work with C.

Helpful charts:




However it is important to understand that a good player does not actually use scales as solos. We use the scale as the alphabet to build the ideas and express ourselves in soloing.  A good solo should express the feeling and ideas of the player, not just a series of scales.

If you want your solo to sound "bluesy" then choose notes from the Blues scale, or the Dorian mode. The Mixolydian is also a good scale to draw from.

It is also very important to listen to other players and hear what they do.

Thanks for the interest,

D C DowDell
Professor of Music


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D C DowDell


D C DowDell will answer questions about Jazz improvisation, composition, chord voicing, scales and modes, practice techniques and ear training. Professor DowDell also enjoys discussions on Jazz musicology and the evolution of style.

D C DowDell is a professional Jazz pianist/composer who currently teaches online Jazz studies at A Passion for Jazz!. Professor DowDell has been teaching music for over 30 years at 2 major universities, several community colleges as well as accepting students for private study.


American Federation of Musicians
National Music Teachers Association
International Association of Jazz Educators

Bachelors of Music Education from UCLA
Masters of Music Composition from UNT

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