Melodic Minor Scale
The melodic minor scale is the same as the major scale except it has a minor third. In classical music theory the descending melodic minor scale is different from the ascending. In jazz harmony only the ascending form of the scale is used because the descending form is the same as the Aeolian mode in major scale harmony.
The melodic minor scale has seven modes shown here on the scale of C melodic minor.
Each mode is the scale of C melodic minor starting on a different note of the scale.
Half diminished, altered and major-minor chords all come from the melodic minor scale.
THE MINOR MAJOR (FIRST) MODE
If you take the root, third, fifth and seventh (C, Eb, G and B) of the first (minor major) mode and play them as a chord you will have the chord of
C-∆ (or Cm+7) (C minor-major seventh). It is called a minor major chord because it has a minor third and a major seventh.
The minor major mode is used for improvising over minor major chords.
THE HALF DIMINISHED (SIXTH) MODE
The sixth mode (half diminished or locrian # 2) is the melodic minor scale starting on the sixth note. (In this case the scale of C melodic minor starting on A). If you take the root, third, fifth and seventh of of this scale (A,C,Eb and G) and play them as a chord you will have a chord of Aø or (A-7b5). A more complete chord symbol would be A-7b5b6 because the scale has a b5 (Eb) and a b6 (F). The standard notation of Aø or A-7b5 is much easier to read.
The half diminished mode is also known as the locrian #2 mode because it has the same notes as the locrian mode of the major scale except for the second note which is a whole step (whole tone) above the root as opposed to the locrian scale`s half step (semitone).
Although both scales are used when improvising over half diminished chords many musicians prefer the sound of the half diminished or locrian #2 scale because the second note (in this case B natural) sounds sweeter against the Aø chord.
THE ALTERED (SEVENTH) MODE
The seventh mode (altered) is the melodic minor scale starting on the seventh note. (In this case the scale of C melodic minor starting on B). This scale gives you a B dominant seventh chord because it has a major third (Eb) and a minor seventh (A). It also gives you every possible alteration to the B7 chord.
It has a flattened ninth, a sharpened ninth, a sharpened eleventh and a flattened thirteenth.
The eleventh can`t be flattened because it would then be a third and the thirteenth can`t be raised because that would give you a minor seventh.
You can`t alter the root, third or seventh (B,Eb or A) because these notes define the chord as a B7. The complete chord symbol showing all of these alterations would be B7b9 +9 +11 b13. The commonly accepted (shorthand) chord symbol of B7alt is obviously much easier to read!
The altered mode is used for improvising on altered dominant seventh chords.
Here is a common chord sequence in the key of C minor. The Dø, G7alt,
C-∆ chord progression is known as a minor II-V-I. As you can see, the “improvisation” line in the right hand draws its notes directly from the melodic minor scales of the chords underneath.
The notes above the Dø chord are from the F melodic minor scale, the notes above the G7alt chord are from the Ab melodic minor scale and the notes over the C-∆ chord are from the C melodic minor scale.
It's a good idea to practice the scales over each chord of the minor II-V-I in every key. This will familiarise you with the various “scale shapes” of each key. It`s also important to have fun and make up melodic lines based on the notes from the scales.
SECOND MODE (susb9)
The second mode of the melodic minor scale gives you a kind of sus chord similar to the phrygian chord.
(See sus chords)
THE LYDIAN AUGMENTED (THIRD) MODE
The lydian augmented mode is the melodic minor scale starting on the third note. (In this case the scale of C melodic minor starting on Eb).
As you can see this mode gives you a major seventh chord because it has a major third (G) and a major seventh (D). It also has a raised fourth and fifth (A natural and B natural). The full chord symbol would be Eb∆ +4 +5. The commonly accepted chord symbol is Eb∆+5. This scale and chord are called lydian because of the raised fourth and augmented because of the raised fifth.
The lydian augmented mode is used for improvising over major seventh +5 chords.
THE LYDIAN DOMINANT (FOURTH) MODE
The lydian dominant mode is the melodic minor scale starting on the fourth note. (In this case the scale of C melodic minor starting on F).
This mode gives you a type of dominant seventh chord because it has a major third (A) and a minor seventh (Eb) it also has a raised fourth or eleventh B natural. (The fourth and eleventh are the same note). This scale and chord are called lydian because of the raised fourth and dominant because of the minor seventh. They differ from the mixolydian mode and chord (the fifth mode of the major scale which is normally associated with dominant seventh chords) by one note, the raised fourth (in this case B natural).
The lydian dominant mode is used when improvising over dominant seventh +11 or +4 chords.
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