Watch the Altered State online guitar lesson by James Hogan from 50 Jazz Rock Licks You MUST Know
The altered scale is one of the most common scale sounds in fusion. While it’s a scale that’s been around for along time, it first came into common usage in the 1940‘s when alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker unleashed it on the jazz world. "Bird" is widely considered as the father of bebop and one of the most influential musicians the jazz world has ever seen. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check him out! Many of the important building blocks found in modern jazz and fusion are rooted in the genius of Bird’s playing. Including this lick!
This altered scale lick is based on the 7th degree of the jazz melodic minor scale. The scale’s intervallic structure is (1 - b2 - b3 - b4 - b5 - b6 - b7.) It’s most commonly used on altered dominant chords. Altered dominant chords feature a Root, 3rd and b7 along with altered 5ths and 9ths (b5,#5,b9,#9). A good classic example of an altered dominant chord is E7#9. You know, the good old Jimi Hendrix chord!
This lick sounds great, lays nicely under the fingers and is really fun to play. I "borrowed" it from the late great tenor saxophonist Bob Berg. Also, for the record this scale is also known by a few other names; "altered dominant and super locrian" come to mind.