Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Scales for Jazz Playing


Hello Professor,

Are there certain scales that jazz players use a lot, or is it more in how they use regular scales. And could you name them or show me examples? Thanks in advance.

Hello Hugh and thank you for contacting me through

There's really no such thing as a "jazz scale" and yes you are correct, it is how the player uses normal musical scales that achieves their goal, to be expressive.

Here is a helpful chart for the most common scales used in music today:

However, there are certain scales that are used most often by jazz players. Here is a helpful chart:

And here is a chart to determine which scales work best with different chords and chord groups:

Remember, a good solo is reflective  of the material you're soloing on, so get your inspiration from the tune itself. How does it make you feel? What do you want to say?

Thanks for the interest,

D C DowDell
Professor of Music
A Passion for Jazz!
studio: (619) 855-2069

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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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