6 Jazz Guitar Scales Every Advanced Guitarist Must Know

Do you want to know how to play jazz guitar scales? This ultimate guide will show you everything you need to know!

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 5 jazz guitar scales which every advanced guitarist needs to know.
  • 2 quick and easy tips that will make you sound amazing!
  • 4 super easy jazz licks that will turn you into a virtuoso.
  • A top secret tip which will help you learn jazz guitar scales FAST.

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What are jazz guitar scales?

A scale is a group of musical notes which work well together.

Jazz guitar scales are musical scales which can be used specifically over jazz music.

A core element of jazz music is, improvisation. If you want to learn how to improvise in jazz, you must learn jazz guitar scales.

Want to learn how to improvise? Go here: How To Play Lead Guitar

Jazz guitar scales fall into two categories: major and minor.

Let’s take a look at some.

jazz guitar scales

Major Jazz Guitar Scales

There are hundreds of jazz guitar scales out there. However, it’s not essential to know every single one.

We’re going to learn two of the most popular major jazz guitar scales.

Those are the:

  • The Major Scale. (Ionian Mode.)
  • The Lydian Mode.

All of these jazz guitar scales can be used over a major chord progression or a major chord.

To learn more about major chord progressions and musical keys, check out these articles:

For the purpose of today’s lesson. We’re going to learn ALL of our jazz guitar scales in the key of C.


Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Major Jazz Guitar Scales – The Major Scale

The major scale is one of the most popular jazz guitar scales.

Some musicians often refer to this as  ‘The Ionian Mode’.

Great jazz musicians such as George Benson and Wes Montgomery are known for using this awesome jazz guitar scale.

It’s a great starting point for anyone who is a beginner jazz guitarist.

Here’s the tab:

jazz guitar scales

It should sound like this:

The major scale is made up of these intervals:

  • Root.
  • Major Second.
  • Major Third.
  • Perfect Fourth.
  • Perfect Fifth.
  • Major Sixth.
  • Major Seventh.

Major Jazz Guitar Scales – The Lydian Scale

The lydian scale shares a lot of the same notes as the major scale.

Only one note is different. That note is the 4th degree of the scale.

The major scale uses a perfect fourth. Where as the lydian scale, sharpens the 4th note of the scale.

This gives the scale more of an eastern vibe, but still sounds interesting and colourful over any major key or chord progression.

Here’s the notation and tab:

Here’s what it sounds like:

The lydian scale is made up of the following intervals:

  • Root.
  • Major Second.
  • Major Third.
  • Sharpened Fourth.
  • Perfect Fifth.
  • Major Sixth.
  • Major Seventh.

Dominant Jazz Guitar Scales – The Mixolydian Scale

One of the most common chord used in jazz music is a ‘7’ chord. This chord is usually used in a jazz blues or in funk music.

If you want to play blues music, you should use this scale.

You could also use it over any major chord progression to add interest to your jazz guitar solos.

Here’s the tab and notation:

Here’s what it sounds like:

The mixolydian scale uses a lot of the same notes as the major scale. However, one note is different. That note is the 7th.

To play the mixolydian scale, you must flatten the 7th degree of the major scale.

Here are the intervals for the mixolydian scale:

  • Root.
  • Major Second.
  • Major Third.
  • Perfect Fourth.
  • Perfect Fifth.
  • Major Sixth.
  • Flattened Seventh.

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Minor Jazz Guitar Scales

Now we’ve taken a look at major jazz guitar scales. The next type of scales you must learn are minor jazz guitar scales.

These scales can be used over any minor chord progression, or minor chord.

For the purpose of today’s example, we’re going to learn these jazz guitar scales in the key of C.

Minor Jazz Guitar Scales – The Dorian Scale

This jazz guitar scale is popular amongst latin and jazz guitarists. If you want to hear how this scale sounds in a musical context, listen to Carlos Santana.

This scale crops up in his guitar solos ALL the time.

Often, minor chord progression can sound a little sad. If you want to add a little brightness to your minor solos, try using this scale.

Here’s the tab and notation:

Here’s what it sounds like:

The dorian scale consists of the following intervals:

  • Root.
  • Major Second.
  • Minor Third.
  • Perfect Fourth.
  • Perfect Fifth.
  • Major Sixth.
  • Minor Seventh.
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