The Most Useful Scale In Jazz

by | Jazz Improvisation

If you had to pick just 1 scale to learn in order to use over most standards, what would it be? Some say the major scale or one of it modes such as the dorian or lydian. Others swear by the so called bebop scale. But if you had to use any of those scales exclusively over a sophisticated chord progression such as “Stella by Starlight” or say “My Funny Valentine”, I can assure you that you wouldn’t get away with it.

On the other hand, there is another single scale that can work over all the changes in such tunes! And in this lesson, I show you and prove to you how you can use this one scale alone to successfully solo over most jazz standards by simply moving it around the fretboard ! That said, I am not advising that you discard all the other available scales when improvising. Instead, I want to enrich your understanding of how powerful this scale is so you can learn to use it over dozens of chord changes you probably felt you couldn’t improvise over. So be sure to check out my lesson on this scale I like to call, “The Swiss Army Scale of Modern Jazz”!


The Most Useful Scale in Jazz (Mel Min Super-impositions) lesson files, can be downloaded for $8.50 . Your contribution is much appreciated, as it helps support the site and allows me to keep investing the long hours required to produce these lessons. The download includes the following files:  PDFs with both regular notation and TAB of 10 lines over II-V-Is, explanation of the theory, Leadsheets with applications to “Stella by Starlight” and “Girl from Ipanema”, MP3s of each example, and a 2 Band in a Box files.

For those that don’t use PayPal…when you click the button below, it will give you the option to pay with any major credit card without the need to sign up for PayPal.  Note that you must be logged in for the payment and download links to be visible!

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  1. Filomena Antunes

    I can’t seem to open the mgx files.
    Canyou help, please?
    Thank you

  2. Michel Petheram

    The payment buttons are not working for me.

    Michel Petheram

    • Richie Zellon

      Could you please write to me at and tell me what happens when you click on the PayPal button? Also tell me what platform you’re on and what browser you are using. Windows, Mac, Android or Apple? Nobody else is having this problem so I’m assuming it’s an antivirus or firewall associated with the browser you are using. I’m 99% sure that if you try it from a different device you won’t have this problem.

      • Michel Petheram

        Thanks, Richie. I’ve found another way and have downloaded fhe material.

        Keep up the good work.

  3. Duncan Herring

    I am really enjoying your lessons regarding the melodic minor.

    I began to pay some attention to the melodic minor back in the late 1980s in a lower-division music course that I took at Cabrillo College, a community college near Santa Cruz, California. At that time, I was an electrician, and I believe that I met the teacher of this music course when I was helping him with a new house that he was building in the Santa Cruz area. The course that I took was about introductory music theory as it applied to classical music. Nevertheless, this teacher spent some time with me and the melodic minor when he learned that I was interested in Jazz.

    I got more jazzed (pun intended) with the melodic minor in the mid 1990s after reading a thick, spiral-bound book by Mark Levine called ‘The Jazz Theory Book’ . Mark’s book contains an entire section on the melodic minor and it definitely mentions the interchangeability of melodic minor chords and lines that becomes available to us due to the fact that the most-popular melodic minor modes contain no avoid notes.

    Your presentations on the melodic minor are the best ones that I have seen. I especially like “The Single Most Useful Scale in Modern Jazz”. Thank you for taking the time to put together this work.

    • Richie Zellon

      Glad you enjoyed the lesson! Thanks for your feedback. I knew Mark personally and I was saddened to hear he passed on at the beginning of this year.

  4. Jim Suber

    I was looking for that elusive download button with card in hand but was unable to find it

    • Richie Zellon

      If you’re logged in you’ll see the download link (not button) is in red letters in every post, right under the PayPal credit card payment icon.

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