As you can see on bar 16 the fifth chord from the minor Aeolian, uses the Phrygian scale, but we can also borrow the fifth from the Melodic minor scale or the Harmonic minor (bar 18) and that gives a different chord colour. Now it sounds a more major and dominant chord.

So, when a jazz player improvises, composes or arranges a song, they have the option to give every chord the scale they choose providing it does not clash with the melody. 

Model interchange chords and their chord changes are “borrowed” from the parallel tonality (having the same pitch axis) for use in the primary tonality.


Here is my hand written guide map for all the scales in C and the chords option to use in the degree order :

The above example is taken from Levine. (1995). We also have the option to borrow chords from another scale. For example, from the C minor scale. It’s actually like taking the sixth degree from the major scale that it is-  A minor eolian scale, so the same intervals in between starting with C as our tonic. 1,1/2,1,1,1/2,1,1:


After acquiring jazz, the theory, the musicians have a lot of freedom in their performance, they learn through listening what works and what moods and sounds they prefer. For some the #11 on a major tonic chord sounds off and they avoid these notes, but some jazz composers and improvisers like this sound and will add this intentionally even though the theory books will say it is a note to be avoided.


Jazz improvisation is actually a composition to be composed while on stage, Jazz is freedom as the famous composer and pianist Thelonious Monk says. You can say what you want to say in your way, to play with your dynamics and make your own phrasing.    You can play close to the melody or make something new, the most important factor is that your improvisation will go together with the harmony. In this case, learning the theory and knowing why certain notes will work and others won't work on different chords, actually opens you to more possibilities when you improvise. 


“The GOAL of every jazz musician is to play on their instrument (or vocally sing) what is heard in their mind. Practicing scales, chords (arpeggios), exercises in all keys will help gain facility which will help unlock the ideas that are now being held prisoner in your mind. As soon as possible, try playing what you HEAR mentally in your head! In other words, sing a short melody mentally, or sing with your mouth, and then play those exact pitches and rhythms on your instrument. This is the same procedure the jazz player uses when improvising. (Aebersold, 2010)


Jazz is about practicing, opening your ears and surprising options in music as well as harmony options. The other important component is the rhythm. It's that laid back feeling, allowing you to opt for different phrasing, triplet and swing. As Jussi Kannaste, Head of the jazz department, Sibelius Academy said in our interview-  

 “Practice the unknown, the goal is not to think while you improvise.  To be in the moment not to follow the same groove. Laid back, rhythmic resolution. three dimension, vibrating the rhythm. The more aware I am of the heart of the rhythmic feel the more control and freedom I have in the song.”  

The same applies with the minor chord scales, every chord has its own  scale with its own identity colour.

(the same scales we met before, but with different tonality and order to the main tonic- the minor aeolian scale.) 

From every note we add the 3rd interval on top and the 3rd on top of that and so on until we come to 4 notes which make it a 7th chord. Here are all the chords that come from the major scale:

Each chord has its own scale, its own sound. So in jazz improvisation I can play the chord notes but if I want to play more than these 4 notes I can play all the major scale but some notes will sound off the harmony because they won't match the colour of the chord, even though they all stem from the major. When we play the chord, we are actually playing a new scale and each scale has different options of tension notes that adds richness. 


6.   Implementing basic jazz harmony and improvisation using scales and chords:



The written jazz standards are never played exactly as they are written. Although the notes are written down, it can be interpreted with a rhythm swing feel or with a different feel, for example. Whoever plays the melody has the freedom and license to play it as they wish in their own style of phrasing and interpretation. Next comes the solo improvisation part, usually over the same chord changes as in the song. The soloist has the freedom to play the notes he or she wants and to compose his or her own melody on top of the given chords. 

Therefore, in jazz the theory and harmony is very important. Each chord has its own scale from which the musicians can develop and expand through improvising and choosing notes that will sound good and notes that will sound different or off the harmony.


The basic step is the 1,3,5,7, notes of the chord then you can add more notes from the scale, to add tension notes and colour 9,13 or b9,b13 and 11 or #11 according to the scale notes. 

Here are a few examples in chords and scale thinking. In order to understand the harmony in jazz theory. here is an example from the C major scale: The interval in the major scale is- 1 ,1,1/2,1,1,1,1/2