On Monday, October 2nd, 2017 I had the privilege of participating in Barry Harris’ Masterclass at Manhattan School of Music as his ginny pig pianist. Barry is a bebop pioneer whose teaching has played an important part in the development of many jazz musicians. Here are 3 takeaways from what he showed me at this specific masterclass:

Diminished Scale is not simply the “whole half scale”, but rather a scale that is built off 4 Dominants.

How To Create Chords From Scales

Barry believes the major scale is missing a note, so he created what he calls the “6th Diminished Scale”, which he believes is the “real major scale”. His scale adds one extra note, the b6. So rather than a C Major Scale being: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. His 6th diminished scale would be C, D, E, F, G, Ab, A, B, C. This results in 2 underlying chords from the scale: C6 and Bdiminished as outlined below:

He applies this philosophy to be able to create chords from any scale, even this made-up scale of “C, C#, D, D#, E, G, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, D, C”. Yes, that’s not a typo – it’s a chromatic scale where every time you land on E you go up to G and when you get to B go up to D. This was the result of that experiment:

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How To Create Movement With Inner-Voices

Inner-voice movement allows for true voice-leading and seamless transition between chords. Here are a few various examples that Barry demonstrated of movements with inner-voice motion:

Watch Barry apply these concepts in context during a brief performance of “Round Midnight” at the masterclass:


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Bijan Taghavi is a pianist, composer, and educator currently based in New York, NY. For more information visit: BijanJazz.com.

Picture of Brenden Lowe

Brenden Lowe

9 Responses

  1. Barry is my all time favorite educator and stylist. I have his workbook, worth every dime. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Brenden:
    What a nice surprise to be with you in NYC at the Barry´s Masterclass. He is really my favorite jazz piano artist, specially for what he has been teaching to hundred of students around the world.
    Thanks to you and Mr. Taghavi for these takeaways! Let´s go to the piano to practice!!!

    1. haha I agree! Thanks for your inspiring comment! Barry is definitely a master in his craft and has provided a wealth of knowledge to the jazz community. I’m grateful for him.

  3. Hello Brenden !!!
    I read the Barry Harris Theory.
    I have a question about the dim. scale.
    If I take a dim scale (C D Eb F Gb Ab A B), can I make a chord from each step of the scale, like the major and other scales? Or that’s not the way we think on the dim scale? It’s a 8 steps scale! So, what are The 1,3,5,7 ?
    Thank you my friend !!!

  4. I have listenee to and worked with many of the Barry Harris materials and it has greatly improved my playing. My question is: his major sixth and minor sixth diminished scales as he calls them-I’m interested to know the practical application of those scales to chords- in other words, demonstrated in tunes, or over a specific chord or progression?

  5. Dude you have no idea yet how blessed you were to get to take part in such a workshop. The stuff Barry teaches is beyond anything I have ever come across in almost 30 years playing.

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