Song 16

  1. Semitone - Tone Symmetry
  2. Blues for Dreamers
  3. Phrasing - Articulation
  4. Articulation P-a-L Exercise
  5. Phrasing - Function and Colour
  6. Practice - 8-note Symmetric scales
  7. Session Materials


Song | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ?? |

Down - Top - Links)

S 16.1 : Semitone - Tone Symmetry

Whole-tone symmetry and semitone symmetry are examples of simple symmetry where a single musical interval is used as the symmetric element.
In compound symmetry two or more intervals are used to form the symmetric element.

The most common form of compound symmetry combines a semitone with a whole tone. This produces two different tonalities.

1. The 8-note dominant scale.
This scale alternates semitones and whole tones, commencing with a semitone.

Audio 16.1

In Jazz this scale is used for improvisation over dominant 7th chords.
It not only contains all its chord tones but also the commonly used altered notes b9, #9 and the #11.

Audio 16.2

2. The 8-note diminished scale.
This scale alternates whole tones and semitones, commencing with a whole tone.

Audio 16.3

In Jazz this scale is used for improvisation over diminished chords.
It contains all the chord tones of the diminished 7th chord. Most importantly, unlike the 8-note dominant scale, it does not include the major 3rd (E) or perfect 5th (G) which would reduce the diminished sound of the scale.

Audio 16.4

The 8-note dominant and 8-note diminished scales are modes of the same group of notes.
You could consider this group of 8 notes as a combination of two diminished 7th chords spaced a semitone apart.
For example C D# F# A and C# E G A#. This combination forms four 8-note dominant scales (for the tonic notes C, D#, F# and A ) and also four 8-note diminished scales (for the tonic notes C#, E, G and A#).

Three different combinations of diminished 7th chords form in this way the 8-note dominant and 8 -note diminished scales in all twelve keys.


The Impressionist Classical composers of the early 20th Century were the first to introduce the various symmetric scales into their compositions.
The 8-note dominant and 8-note diminished scales were two of six fundamental modes defined and used by the French composer Olivier Messiaen.

In some prominent Jazz improvisation manuals these two scales are lumped together under the one name '8-note diminished scale'.
This is most unfortunate. Not only does it ignore 2000 years of common practice, identifying different modes from the same group of notes with different names, it also invites confusion as to which of the two scales to use for a dominant or for a diminished chord.

Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.2 - Blues for Dreamers

Blues for Dreamers is a Jazz waltz using the embellished blues chord progression.
This blues has a typical 6/8 rhythmic pulse (1 2 3 - 2 2 3), very similar to All Blues by Miles Davis (probably the most famous blues waltz in the entire Jazz repertoire).
However for easier reading I have written the notation in 3/4 time which makes it a 24 bar (rather than a 12 bar) blues.


Use the appropriate Mixolydian modes for improvisation over this blues, except over the V7 and IV7 (F7 and Eb7) chords in bars 17 to 20. Here I suggest you use the two 8-note dominant scales shown below.

Audio 16.5

Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.3 - Phrasing : Articulation

The 4 bar line 1a (below) shows several features of a good melodic phrase.

  • variation of activity levels

  • long notes are interesting chord tones (3rds and 5th)

  • rhythmically it consists of three separate phrase segments which together form a

    'call' - repeated 'call' - 'response' pattern.

Audio 16.6

In the broader context of the whole melody (or improvisation) this may be a perfectly good phrase. However taken on its own it lacks a degree of excitement and energy.
Why ?
There is no variation in articulation.
All notes of the 4 bar phrase are articulated in smooth legato.

Audio 16.6

By simply altering the articulation of a single note into a short aggressive staccato (like in 1b and 1c below) the whole phrase takes on a new life.

Audio 16.7

You can vary the articulation anywhere in a phrase, but the beginning and end of a phrase or a phrase segment are especially good places to do this. Below some examples (1d, 1e, 1f).

Audio 16.8

Note that the articulation of each repeated 2nd bar is in each case the same as the articulation in the 1st bar.
The articulation in the last phrase segment (bars 3 and 4) is different however, providing extra contrast between the 'calls' and the 'response'.

Experiment with various articulations in your improvisations and also on IIm7-V7-Imaj7 phrases.

(Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.4 - Articulation P-a-L Exercise

Play-a-Long track jf16st1 (of swapping twos) consists entirely of a succession of 4 bar long progressions of :

Dm7 (1 bar) - G7 (1 bar) - Cmaj7 (2 bars)

  • Each odd numbered 4 bar phrase : I play the first 2 bars, you play the second 2 bars with complementing or contrasting articulation.

  • Each following even numbered 4 bar phrase is a repeat of the previous 4 bars.

A second Play-a-Long jf16st2 (of swapping fours) is the same as the first track, but :

  • Each odd numbered 4 bar phrase : I play the complete 4-bar phrase.

  • Each following even numbered 4 bar phrase is left blank for you to repeat the previous 4 bar phrase or play your own phrase.
    The main objective is to create interest through your articulation.

You can use track
jf16st2 also as an alternative exercise on starting and ending notes.
In the Table below each number indicates the chord tone (1 = root, 3 = 3rd, etc.) used as my starting and ending note for each phrase on track jf16st2.
The corresponding Concert key notes are shown in black.
The corresponding Bb instruments notes are shown in red.
The corresponding Eb instruments notes are shown in blue.

Phrase No.Starting note (of Dm7)Ending note (of Cmaj7)
Phrase 1 1 = D -- E -- B 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 3 1 = D -- E -- B 7 = B -- C# -- G#
Phrase 5 1 = D -- E -- B 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 7 3 = F -- G -- D 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 9 3 = F -- G -- D 5 = G -- A -- E
Phrase 11 3 = F -- G -- D 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 13 3 = F -- G -- D 7 = B -- C# -- G#
Phrase 15 5 = A -- B -- F# 5 = G -- A -- E
Phrase 17 5 = A -- B -- F# 5 = G -- A -- E
Phrase 19 5 = A -- B -- F# 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 21 5 = A -- B -- F# 7 = B -- C# -- G#
Phrase 23 7 = C -- D -- A 7 = B -- C# -- G#
Phrase 25 7 = C -- D -- A 9 = D -- E -- B
Phrase 27 7 = C -- D -- A 3 = E -- F# -- C#
Phrase 29 9 = E -- F# -- C# 5 = G -- A -- E
Phrase 31 9 = E -- F# -- C# 5 = G -- A -- E

Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.5 - Phrasing : Function and Colour

The dominant 7th chord (V7) is by nature a tension building chord. This tension is released when the harmony moves to the (major or minor) I chord a perfect 5th down (for example : C7 ---> F).

In Jazz the tension of the V7 chord is often further increased by including additional notes (b9, #9, #11, b13) to the chord.
These notes do not change the chord's quality, they only add more colour and tension.

Below a diagram showing all 12 notes of the Western music system in relation to the C7 chord.

Going from left to right the functionality of each note decreases while at the same time the colour it adds to the chord increases.

Audio 16.9

  • The natural 11th is not used in the dominant 7th (and major 7th) chord as it does not sound good.
    The #11 is used instead.

  • The 11th (or 4th) also clashes with the chord's 3rd, and the 7th with the chord's b7.
    Avoid these notes as starting- or ending- or long notes, but you can of course use them as passing notes in your improvisation.

  • All other notes can create great musical interest in improvisations over the dominant chord.

Experiment with these various chord tones in your improvisation and become more aware of their relationship to the dominant chord.

(Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.6 - Practice : 8-note Symmetric scales

Practise the 8-note dominant and the 8-note diminished scales in all twelve keys over a 2-octave range.

Audio 16.10

Also combine the dominant and diminished chords with their appropriate scales over a 1-octave range.

Audio 16.11

The music notation provided includes fingerings for the keyboard. Numbers above the staff are fingerings for the right hand, numbers below the staff are fingerings for the left hand.

Down - Up - Top - Links)

S 16.7 - Session Materials

ItemMidi fileSheet music
Blues for DreamersDemo P-a-L C instr.Bb instr.Eb instr.
Easy Key for C instr. (C)E-PalBb instr. score
Articulation P-a-L jf16st1jf16st2
Symmetric scales p.1

(Up - Top - Links)

© 2003 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)