21 Bebop Scale Patterns for Guitar

One of the most widely used concepts in jazz improvisation; the Bebop Scale has long been a staple in the vocabulary of many of the genres great artists.

Therefore it is an essential sound to get under your fingers when learning how to play bebop jazz guitar.

When learning how to play jazz guitar,  many players study this scale, they often practice it descending only, or with its related Dominant 7th Arpeggio ascending on the front end, but few people work this scale with patterns and phrases as they would the Pentatonic Scale or Major Scale.

For this reason, I’ve compiled 21 different patterns that you can use to practice Bebop Scale fingerings on the guitar, most of which come from David Baker’s Bebop books, and all of which come from the jazz tradition and can be found in the solos of greats such as Wes Montgomery, Johnny Smith, Charlie Parker and many more.

Before you dive in to these patterns, check out my article on Bebop Scale fingerings.

I was turned on to this unique way of playing the Bebop Scale by the great L.A. guitarist Jon Bremen, who in turn learned them from jazz education legend David Baker, and if you can get these scale shapes under your fingers, then the following patterns will be easier to learn and internalize.

If you find that this approach to fingering the Bebop Scale is not your cup of tea, you can apply all of these patterns to any Bebop Scale fingering that you currently know or that you are working on in the practice room.

Though these patterns are all presented within the Dominant Bebop Scale, you can also apply them to the Major Bebop Scale as well as the Minor Bebop Scale.

Just grab the pattern or classic Bebop Jazz Guitar Lick that is unique to any particular example below and insert it into these other, lesser used, Bebop Scales and you’ll be able to expand your improvisations exponentially.

Learn Jazz Guitar Scales and Scale Patterns with the Matt Warnock Guitar Jazz Scales App

 

 

Have any questions or comments about this lesson? Visit the 21 Bebop Scale Lick thread at the MWG Forum. 

 

Bebop Scale Patterns for Guitar

 

1: Enclosed Root

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

In this first example you are going to use a very popular Bebop technique called an “enclosure.”

An enclosure is when you take a note (in this case the root) and play one note above that note, then one below, before finally settling on the note you were targeting in the first place.

There are several common notes that you can enclose so we’ll start on the root and explore more as you go.

Read more about this technique in my article “Bebop Vocabulary: Enclosures

 

 

 

2: Enclosed Fifth

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

You can now take the same approach and enclose the fifth of the scale.

The enclosure technique works particularly well with the root and 5th of any chord.

You can also use this approach on any note of the arpeggio or scale in your playing, but this is a good place to start.

As well, there are specific patterns that can only be applied to the 3rd and 7th, that we’ll see below, so enclosing the root and 5th is a great place to start at this point in time.

 

 

 

3: Enclosed Root and Fifth

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Since you’ve enclosed the root and 5th separately, you can now enclose both of them together.

Notice that by adding a simple idea, such as the enclosure(s), you’re extending your melodic ideas without getting complicated.

All you are doing is adding in the enclosure, or other Bebop techniques, as you descend the scale to make the scale last longer as you play down the fingering.

This is a great way to get more mileage out of any scale you are working on because all of a sudden 7 notes becomes 10 or 12 or more, allowing you to cover more ground with a simple scale or arpeggio fingering than you normally would without the pattern.

 

 

 

4: Enclosed Root with 3 to b9 Arpeggio

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Now you can add a pattern to the third note of the scale, in this case a Diminished 7th arpeggio off of the third of the chord.

Notice how by doing so, you are essentially “resetting” the scale back to the top of the fingering, allowing you to start over again and extend your melodic idea even further.

The notes in this arpeggio are the 3rd-5th-b7th-b9th, and so this arpeggio is often called a 3 to 9 or more specifically a 3 to b9 arpeggio.

 

 

 

5: Enclosed Fifth with 3 to b9 Arpeggio

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Here is a variation on that same concept, although instead of enclosing the root and adding the diminished arpeggio on the third, you will add the enclosure on the fifth, with the diminished arpeggio off of the third note in the scale.

Though I didn’t include it in this article, if you want to go further with this concept you can do an enclosure on the root and the fifth, while adding the diminished arpeggio to the third of the scale.

 

 

6: Enclosed 3rd With Double Chromatic Approach

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Up to this point, you’ve been enclosing the root and the fifth with one note above and one below each target note. Now, you can add one more note to that equation and do a double chromatic approach enclosure, this time with the third of the chord.

Here you have one note above, F, your target note, E, and two notes below, D and D#. Again, you are adding a simple melodic device to extend your scale, allowing you to cover more ground without getting too fancy melodically or moving into outside harmonic areas.

 

 

 

7: Enclosed 3rd with Double Chromatic Approach and 3 to b9 Arpeggio

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Here you are going to mix our double enclosure with the diminished arpeggio from the previous example to produce a longer melodic idea. This practice, of combining any or all of these patterns in your playing is totally acceptable.

Feel free to experiment with combining as many of these as you feel comfortable with. You might like to just use one per line, or if you’re like me, you might like to use as many as you can cram into an idea without going beyond the borders of good musical taste.

 

 

 

8: 3 to b9 Arpeggio (Diminished Arpeggio from 3rd)

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern 

 

Since you’ve been pairing it up with the enclosures, let’s just take a look at how the diminished arpeggio off of the third of the scale sounds on its own, with other melodic device used in the scale. Again, this is a great way to “reset” the scale back to the top, as well as accent the b9 of the chord, in this case Db, since that is the landing note at the top of the arpeggio.

 

 

 

9: 7(b9/b13) With b7 to b13 Arpeggio

 

You will now apply a Bebop pattern to an altered version of the Bebop scale. You are going to flatten the 9th and 13th of the scale, common alterations for dominant chords, on the way down. Then, on the way up the scale, which you haven’t seen yet, you will play a Bbm7b5 arpeggio to get yourself back to the top of fingering, with the Bebop note, B natural, added in for good measure.

If this altered sound is new to you, try just adding one outside note, the b9 or the b13, and then combine them in your playing. The key is to get these new sounds in your ears so that you can use them in your playing. If you just have the fingerings memorized it is a lot more difficult to solo with any idea until you can learn to hear that sound in the context of how your improvise.

 

 

 

10. Triplet with Enclosed Root

 

Click to view the YouTube video for this Bebop Scale Pattern

 

Since you’ve been looking at straight 8th-note patterns so far, let’s expand your rhythmic vocabulary by adding in a triplet at the start of the scale, then descending the fingering with an enclosed root for adding spice to the line.

You will have to alter your normal Bebop Scale fingering to get at the notes in the triplet, which extend above the upper tonic, so feel free to move your hand around on this lick. I would try to play the C with my middle finger, the D with my pinky, then jump back into the normal Bebop Scale fingering we have been using up until this point.

 

 

 

11: Triplet off Third with b9 Passing Note

 

Again, here is another triplet idea, this time starting on the 3rd of the scale, and instead of using an enclosure, you are adding in the b9 color tone, from the previous example. If you like this sound you can also add in the b13, or both the b9 and b13, whatever your ear find attractive as far as added color notes found outside of the diatonic scale.

 

 

 

12: Starting from b7

 

Up to this point you’ve descended the scale from the top note on down. Now, let’s add a little melodic twist by starting on the b7 of the scale and then ascend up to the root chromatically, before descending the scale to the lowest note.

This is a cool way to play the Bebop Scale without adding or altering any diatonic notes, just starting on a note that isn’t the tonic and adding a change in direction to our melodic phrase.

 

 

 

13: Chromatic Triplet from 3rd to 5th

 

Here is one of the most popular Bebop Scale patterns in any jazz guitarist’s vocabulary. Great players such as Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino have used this idea countless times in their solos over the decades.

The key is to get the chromatic triplets as smooth as possible, so feel free to experiment with adding slurs and slides to those six notes in order to get that “liquid” sound that you hear in the playing of these great guitarists.

 

 

 

14: Deflection

 

This next example contains a device that David Baker calls a “deflection.” Essentially, you are using a short, four-note pattern to “reset” the scale by a few notes, not as much as the diminished arpeggio did, but still producing the same effect.

Notice how the added note, the F#, functions as both an alteration, the #11 of the chord, as well as the lower-neighbor of the fifth, G, that you are using to deflect your line. Adding a harmonic color to your melodic phrase in this instance.

 

 

 

15: Chromatic Down from Third

 

Many players know about adding the natural 7th note to a Mixolydian Scale in order to build the Dominant Bebop Scale that you normally use in your playing. But, you can also add other chromatic notes to this scale, on the off-beats of the bar, in order to extend your melodic ideas.

Here, you are adding two more chromatic notes, between the 3rd and 2nd notes as well as between the 2nd and 1st notes of the scale. So now you have three added chromatic notes in your Bebop Scale, extending it even further than the normal 8 notes of the original form.

 

 

 

16: Ascending IIm7 Arpeggio

 

Since you apply the Bebop Scale to a 7th chord, the V7 chord in any key, you can also pair it up with its popular cousin the iim7 chord. So, in this case you will ascend a iim7 chord, Gm7, before beginning our descending Bebop Scale idea. You can also spice this idea up by adding in any of the scale patterns that we have learned up to this point in order to extent this ii-V idea even further.

 

 

 

17: Descending IIm7 Arpeggio

 

This pattern features the same idea, adding in a iim7 chord to the Bebop Scale, but this time you will descend the iim7 arpeggio before jumping into the Bebop scale.

 

 

 

18: Ascending Diversion from Flat Seven

 

Here is another pattern that uses a diversion, including the added #11 note from the previous example, to extend our melodic ideas. Check out the first five notes in this pattern as well, this mini-motive is a very common phrase used by Bebop and Hardbop players, and it is worth checking out further, both in the context of this line and working on it separately as well.

 

 

 

19: Ascending Diversion from Third

 

Here is another diversion, this time starting on the third of the scale and using both the #11 and #5 alterations to the scale. For good measure, we’ll go ahead and add in the chromatic passing notes from the 3rd down to the root from the previous example, which extends the line even further.

Remember that it is very important to be able to let your ears grow accustom to these new and highly chromatic sounds, so practice these ideas slowly and in all 12 keys across the neck in order to fully ingrain them into your playing.

 

 

 

20: 1-2-3-5 From Flat Seven

 

In this example you are going to apply a very common Bebop technique called the 3 to 9 Arpeggio.

What you are doing here, is adding in a iim7 chord at the start of the phrase. But, instead of playing the iim7 arpeggio from the root to the 7th of the chord, you are leaving the root out and playing the arpeggio from the 3rd to the 9th of the chord.

To take the idea even further, you are using an alteration of the 3 to 9 concept here by using the 1-2-3-5 arpeggio pattern, something that John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner both favored in their soloing.

This kind of “rootless” arpeggio is very common in the playing of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and many other Bebopers. Check it out, this is a great melodic idea and one that every Bebop guitarist should have under their fingers.

 

 

 

21. Honeysuckle

 

To finish off our 21 Bebop Scale Patterns you will apply a variation of the melody to “Honeysuckle Rose” to the Bebop scale. The idea is to take a four note chromatic pattern, C-B-Bb-A, and use an triad starting on the 9th, Dm, to break up that pattern and extend your melodic idea from four notes to six.

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite Bebop Scale Fingering or Bebop Scale Pattern? If so, please share it in the comments section below.

44 Responses to "21 Bebop Scale Patterns for Guitar"

  1. Drew Engman says:

    Nice set of exercises and variations, very usable right out of the box. Thank you!

    1. José Arboleda says:

      Excelent lesson.,great man…

      1. Matthew Warnock says:

        Thanks Jose, glad you dug it!

  2. Matt Warnock says:

    Thanks Drew, yeah once you get the fingering down for the scale you can apply them right away, or you can apply each little pattern to any bebop scale fingering, or any scale fingering like the major modes if you want, they’re good all around

  3. Olmon says:

    Thanks, I’m a bassist looking to expand my jazz vocabulary, great stuff. Question, Im know that Cmajor works over Dm7 but what other minor scales can you use Cmajor over? Thanks. Also does this formula work in reverse (playing Dm7 over CMajor)?

  4. Matt Warnock says:

    Hey,
    You can technically use Cmajor over any minor chord in the key, so Dm7 (iim7), Em7 (iiim7) and Am7 (vim7), and vice versa, you can use D Dorian, E Phrygian and A Aeolian over Cmajor7 if you want, they all share the same notes and key centers. What I would probably do though, is focus on outlining the arpeggio for each chord, and then add bebop lines in using arpeggios, and the bebop scale over the iim7 and V7 chord. Check out this lesson on arpeggios with bebop vocabulary, might help out as well:

    http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com/instant-bebop-adding-chromatics-to-basic-arpeggios

    1. Ben says:

      Why bother with modes ? I mean, modes are related to a chord, not a scale. ” on Cmaj7 you can play D dorian” is completely nonsense. On all degrees you can play Cmaj scale, this is way easier for a student to understand.

      This said, modes are very practical to work to hear the colours of each of them.

      1. Matt Warnock says:

        Ben,
        Modes are good for adding colors to chords, yes you can play Cmajor over any chord in the C major scale, Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7 etc, but the cool stuff happens when you play different modes over each chord, like C Lydian over Cmaj7, or C phrygian over Cm7 instead of Dorian, that sort of coloring can be a very cool way to extend ideas and add different colors to one’s playing.

  5. David Henderson says:

    is there a link somewhere to Jon Bremen’s Bebop scale fingerings?

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Yeah you can find them here for major, dominant and minor

      http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com/guitar-resources/scales/bebop-scale

  6. magerlab says:

    It seems to sound good if i mix C and F# patterns:) one after another
    For example root and fifth enclosures.

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      For sure! I talk about this in my article on Tritone Division Soloing, check it out.

      http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com/modern-jazz-guitar-techniques-tritone-division-soloing

  7. Taura says:

    Great article Matt. I really like the way you introduce just one concept at a time. I haven’t had any Jazz Guitar students for over five years so I haven’t stayed current with the genre, especially bebop (which my lids replaced with hip-hop in our house). Your step by step illustration of Bebop conventions is excellent Matt. In this lesson, bebop is a great way to incrementally melodize scales where rhythm is relatively predictable if not constant and contours are relatively uniform.
    I did some bebop workshops with David Baker years ago. This has been a great updater. Thanks for all your work. (BTW, it would be cool if I could not just LIKE your article but also post a comment to my FB wall)

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Thanks Taura, glad you liked the article. Yeah I feel that breaking things down and working on them step by step is the easiest and best way to internalize these, or any musical concepts.

      Feel free to copy and past the address to your FB page or any other site you want to post it on, spread the word!

  8. Russell says:

    thanks a million for this Matt,it cleared up a lot for me,it’s a lot of info so it’ll take a while to sink in,but thanks for this!!!!!.

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      No problem, have fun with these patterns!

  9. Eric says:

    Great set of exercises Matt. It’s nice to have these written out rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with my students. I have a few that I am going to direct here.

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      Thanks Eric, glad you’re able to use the licks with your students, thanks for checking out the article!

  10. Jeff says:

    Matt,

    From example 4, bar 2. You didn’t enclose the root after ascending the 3 to b9 arp. Was that deliberate? I’m pretty sure in example 5 you enclosed the root every time, even after you played the ascending arp.

    I realize these are just exercises, but is the main idea to enclose the root *every* time, or just on the initial pass down the scale, but not after reascending from the arp?

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      Hey Jeff, for that lick, the 3 to b9 arpeggio, when I use the arpeggio in bar 2 I just use the arpeggio not the enclosure on the root in that bar, so I use the enclosure in bars where there is no 3 to 9 arpeggio but when there is that arp I just use it and not in combination with the enclosure in this lick. Hope that helps

  11. Jeff says:

    Okay, thanks, Matt. The only reason I asked was because in example 5 you enclosed the 5th before and after the arp, regardless. I guess, like anything else, there are no hard and fast rules. Thanks!

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      For sure, you can add as many of these into your lines as you want, when I’m blowing over tunes I combine any/all of them throughout my solos. These exercises are just to separate them to practice, once you get them down go for it, mix and match as your ears please. It’s all good!

  12. Tom L says:

    I don’t suppose you could do bass clef version of this lesson could you? would be massively appreciated!

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      Hey i haven’t done any hass stuff on my site yet, might have to check that out.

      1. Tom L says:

        Well what your doing is useful and insightful, I may not be a solo/virtuoso bass player but it’d be nice not to read your lessons a 3rd away ;)

  13. Stush says:

    Thanks Matt for that lesson, I have homework to do now and I look forward to it. I am definitely fascinated by what I call the mystery of bebop. I have struggled real hard to find get this sound and I think you have put me on the right track.
    For the most part I was just playing by ear which was more of a miss and hit affair. This has been with its frustrations (more) and joys (few). Of the few joys, I sort of realized, or even “felt” that when I use let me call it a motif of four consecutive notes starting from any point of the scale. Say I start from E to F,Gb,G, something “bebopish”, something sweet happens -though I hasten to add that the sweetness is augmented when I descend. So I took to “injecting” this four notes anywhere and wherever, even as I play freely. At times I would sound nice but deep down I know its guess work. Thats why your lesson here is so liberating for me.
    However this leads me to my question. Why is it that the bebop scale “sweetens” when you descend? Must one always play the bebop scale descending?
    Pardon my english and thanks so much for the lesson. I`ll let you know of my progress.
    Shalom.

    Stush, The Gambia.

  14. AJ Green says:

    Head spinning! Could be enough stuff here for this years practice. Thanks Matt!

  15. Bill Sargeant says:

    Thanks for your article. It is very helpful. Just to be clear: the reason all the patterns are descending (other than ascending arpeggios) is because that’s part of the style?

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      That’s right. After you get them under your fingers, you can apply them ascending as well as descending. But to start off, working on each pattern descending gets the right sound and feel of each line under your fingers and into your ears.

  16. Bill Sargeant says:

    Matt,

    Would if be possible for you to post of video of you blowing over some standards or blues with some of these patterns? I would really like to see how the “finished product” comes out so that I might better bridge the gap between practicing the patterns as written (in all keys) and applying them to actual playing. Thanks again for this important lesson.

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      HI Bill, thanks for checking out the site. I am adding more videos to this page so stay tuned for future links as I post them.

      Cheers.

  17. Joe says:

    I was looking for some patterns and licks with the bebop scale and ran into your website. I’m a piano player, but couldn’t find what I was looking for on any piano sights. Most of their stuff is geared for the beginner. I like your explanations, not too long or too short, just right! Examples are great! I’ve had problems playing a tune like Speak Low but I think this page is the answer I’ve been looking for. Thanks Matt

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      That’s great Joe, glad the article is helpful and translates well to the piano. Enjoy the site!

  18. Vitor Guerreiro says:

    Hi Matt. Greetings from Portugal.
    First off, great site. Tons of info, technical and theory based exercises, very clear…excellent work.
    My question is regarding bebop scales in general. I´ve read somewhere that when using the bebop scale the chord tone must fall on downbeats. Is this always applied? I mean, sometimes, when i practice bebop scale with arpeggios and enclosures, the chord tones fall on the upbeat. Is this a thing that i must correct right away or is something that is going to correct it self?
    Thanks!

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Hey, I think you might want to think that way to begin with, but it can be a bit tricky and sound forced if you always do that. So maybe try it out and see how it fits your playing, but for me it would be more important to work out common phrases from the Bebop Scale, and to get those sounding organically in your playing than worrying about where you put chord tones and non-chord tones. As long as it sounds good and fits it should be cool, but if you find the chord tones on down beats to be helpful in the learning process than try it for a while and go from there. Cheers

      1. David says:

        I see some places that say the diminished and bebop scale can also be pentatonic. A little confused as there are 8 notes in those scales. Can they somehow be used as pentatonics?? Seems like they can.

  19. Michael Rudolph says:

    Hi Matt, I have yet to work through these exercises, but from eyeballing them they seem very related to the info in this pdf i came across from a university. Can you shed any light on the two approaches? hae you heard reference to “rotations” and “connectors” in other sources?

    http://www.snow.edu/music/Juilliard/PDF'swithCopyright/BebopScaleBasics.pdf

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Hey thanks for checking out my lessons. Glad you dig them. The patterns in the pdf are similar to the ones in this lesson. Just different variations. I use rhose ones a lot as well so I would definitely check them out. Maybe start with one and then work it through a scale or over a tune and then move on from there to the others. Cheers.

  20. Dale says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the exercises several times over utilizing the suggested fingerings. It’s nice to have a couple of fingers left over when you need them!

  21. walfrido says:

    gracias por tu colaboración. lo explicas todo de manera sencilla, thanks Matt

  22. Johnny says:

    Hey Matt, thanks for the great lessons. I just had a question about the execution of these licks. Someone like Pat Martino alternate picks most notes and someone like Scofield mixes picking and legato. If I was to attempt the licks more in a Scofield approach would I attemp to start the pull off on each off beat. I find this a bit elusive. I don’t know if it’s possible to answer here or it might be worthwhile in a future lesson. The techniques would probably apply across the board to and be applied to all kinds of your previous lessons which would be cool.

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Thanks, yeah I think over time you develop a bit of both the Pat and Sco approach to picking in order to use them at different tempos and over different grooves, at least that’s what I did.

      If you are looking for that Sco approach, check out this lesson for some ideas on how to practice that.

      http://www.guitarworld.com/jazz-guitar-corner-how-swing-guitar-scales-horn-player

  23. Joe says:

    Many thanks for the lessons, I am enjoying these! I have an observation and a (possibly related!) question.

    Observation – the examples of “enclosure” on the dominant bebop scale all enclose the target note with a semitone above and a semitone below. This means the example is not strictly based on the eight notes of the dominant bebop scale as at least one other note has been added.

    Question – I’d like to try building some similar lines but using the major and minor bebop scales, but not sure if exactly the same rules will apply for enclosures – e.g. if I want to enclose the root in a major bebop scale, do I add a semitone above and below, or maybe add a whole tone above and a semitone below i.e. strictly use the notes from the scale? The reason I think the rules might need to be modified is, if you’re soloing over a M7 the harmony may be less forgiving of alterations than when soloing over a dominant?

    Thanks again!

    1. Matt Warnock says:

      Hey, glad you dug the lesson. Yeah you can add enclosures to any note in any scale if you like, and you can alter them to fit different situations. Check out this lesson, you might find it helpful.


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