Melodic Minor

Hey Jazz Guy,

I got the major scale down well, but I keep hearing about melodic minor, can you give me some tips on how it works?? –Major in Minneapolis

Dear Major,

The mysterious melodic minor’s many magical modes have always presented a myriad of possibilities. The sound is unmistakable and some of the modes are particularly useful. Melodic minor can be thought of as a major scale with a b3 or a minor scale with a natural 6th and 7th [Ex 1]. The chordal realization of the scale is almost its own book, but the MinMaj7th chord is one of the main tonic sounds. In [Ex 2] we use A melodic minor to construct a line that ultimately resolves to A, but hits all the chord tones. It’s important to remember that since the 6th and 7th are what distinguishes the melodic minor from other parallel sounds, those notes are crucial. Melodic minor has a unique system of modes, some more common than others. The fourth mode from the fourth degree of the scale is called Lydian b7. Ex 3 shows F Lydian b7 (4th degree of C melodic minor) in a line with a repeating shape. Sequential techniques can highlight the sound of more exotic scales. In the final example we showcase another sound derived from melodic minor, the altered scale (shown as E7#5b9, but includes #9,b5). This comes from the 7th mode, so in this case F melodic minor becomes E Alt. Ex 4 shows a line using the unorthodox intervals that come from that sound. Melodic minor is a very deep study but it will add some very cool things to your playing. So shed hard, and major misery will mutate to melodic minor mastery.

In-Depth look at Melodic Minor:

Melodic Minor is one of those “lifetime” topics. The best way to study it extensively is to force yourself to use it all the time. Go through a song…write out every melodic minor scale option on every chord, then play through that song using only those melodic minor scales. Write out many solos, on different songs and forms using only melodic minor. After a while of doing this, you will begin to naturally hear it over any situation. Once that happens you know you’ve got it. At that point, continue to use it all the time until you can summon the melodic minor sound at will. Listen to some players that are experts of this sound (like Scofield, and Abercrombie).

Good luck Jazz Guy…Shed hard!

Link to PDF Example HJG – Melodic Minor

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Categories: Harmony

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