Working the Boogie Woogie scale

A while back I commented on some of the scales that have seen a lot of use in the past hundred years but don’t seem to have been incorporated into scale practice routines – yet. Maybe this is a good thing, I can’t say. But one person I could swear must have spent long hours taking the Czerny approach to working on oriental and blues scales is the late lamented Alice Coltrane, whose solos are some of the most underrated jewels of jazz of the 60’s. Anyone who says they are rambling needs to chill out and listen again.

Here is another scale you must all be familiar with, though I don’t know if it even has a name. I’ll call it the Boogie Woogie Scale, but I stand to be corrected if someone knows its “official name”. There are two forms which I give below, with or without the D natural.


The second of these happens to be the first mode (or relative major) of the 3 2 1 1 3 2 minor Blues scale:


So maybe we should call it the major Blues scale. Unlike its relative minor however, we tend to hear this as an ascending scale. If the gentle reader can find any examples of it descending I would be interested to hear from them. And likewise, I can’t think of an example of the minor Blues scale ascending all the way either. Which is why you will be more likely to see the note wedged between the two halfsteps spelt as a sharp in the major mode and as a flat in the minor version.

Here are two examples, showing both forms of the Boogie Woogie scale:


The first form (without the major second) appears in the second bridge or “trio” section of Egberto Gismonti’s frevo Karatê in a rollicking series of chromatically ascending chords at 1:02 in the video below. You may find it an eccentric way to harmonize the scales, but that’s all part of Gismonti’s game.


If we write it out as an exercise in MOVES notation it comes out as:

{+1 +3 +1 +3 +2 +3 +1 -3 -2 -3 -1 -3} 

Don’t be mystified by the +1 move at the beginning. It’s there to chain up when you cycle back to the start. (It’s called a chaining move for those who want to use MOVES jargon). So that is one way to work this scale to death, but with the added bonus that you’ll end up halfway to being able to play the bridge of Egberto’s off-the-wall tune, which you can listen to here:

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About jazzpanflute

jazz panpipe pioneer and designer
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