The melodic minor scale | Free guitar lesson, diagrams and theory

The melodic minor scale

jazz guitar scalesWhat's the melodic minor scale

The melodic minor scale is a minor type scale sometimes referred to as "minor jazz scale". It a must-know for every jazz guitar player who wants to explore new sonorities to play over minor family chords. This scale is made up of the same notes as the Dorian mode except the seventh that is major instead of minor.

C melodic minor scale C D Eb F G A B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
Intervals W H W W W W H

 

C Dorian mode C D Eb F G A Bb
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
C melodic minor scale C D Eb F G A B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

 

The melodic minor scale is generally played over minMaj7 chords, but it can also be used over minor chords like m6, m7, m9, m11, m6/9. Playing the minor melodic scale over a minor 7 chord creates a tension because of the major seventh present in it. You need to resolve you lick on a proper note to attenuate this tension.

Harmonization of the melodic minor scale

How to build chords from the melodic minor scale

Here are the seven chords built from each degree of the melodic minor scale. Triad chords are built with three notes stacked in thirds just as well quadrads chords are made of four notes stacked in thirds too. Let's take an example in the key of Cm : C minor(maj7), is built by stacking C, Eb, G and B respectively root (1), minor third (b3), perfect fifth (5) and major seventh (7).

Once you have harmonized the melodic minor scale you get two dominant 7th chords on four and fifth degree, two minor chords (which on as a major seventh) on first and second degree, one major seventh augmented chord (III) and two minor seventh flat fifth chords on degrees VI & VII.

Augmented chords are necessarily majors and diminished chords are minor.

Degrees

I II III IV V VI VII
C melodic minor scale C D Eb F G A B
Triad chords Cm Dm Ebaug F G Am7b5 Bdim
Quadrad chords C-maj7 D-7 EbMaj7#5 F7 G7 A-7b5 B-7b5

 

Chords formulas

Quadrad chords in the key of C minor.

Chords  Notes  Formulas
CmMaj7 C-Eb-G-B 1-b3-5-7
D-7 D-F-A-C 1-b3-5-b7
EbMaj7#5 Eb-G-B-D 1-3-#5-7
F7 F-A-C-Eb 1-3-5-b7
G7 G-B-D-F 1-3-5-b7
A-7b5 A-C-Eb-G 1-b3-b5-b7
B-7b5 B-D-F-A 1-b3-b5-b7

Other main minor scales

Here are some other minor scales that can be played over minor chords :

  • Modes of the major scale
    • The Dorian mode : 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7
    • The Phrygian mode : 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7
    • The Aeolian mode : 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7
  • Modes of the harmonic minor scale
    • The harmonic minor scale : 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7
    • The Dorian #11 : 1-2-b3-#4-5-6-b7

Melodic minor guitar position 1

How to play the melodic minor scale on guitar

Here are two recommended guitar positions to play the harmonic minor scale.

To understand and "hear" this scale it is important to play these patterns by starting with the root note"R".

For example, to play the C melodic minor scale using the first pattern you have to put your first finger on the sixth string at the eighth fret.

You have to learn these fingerings and transpose these patterns in twelve keys by moving the root "R" to the desired note keeping the same intervals.

Pattern 1 w/ intervals. Roots on the sixth, fourth and first string.
Melodic minor guitar position diagram 1

Pattern 1 w/fingerings

Melodic minor guitar position diagram 1 fingering

Melodic minor guitar position 2

To play the C melodic minor scale using the second pattern you have to put your first finger on the fifth string at the third fret.

Pattern 2 w/ intervals.Roots on the fifth and the third string.

Melodic minor guitar position diagram 2

Pattern 2 w/fingerings

Melodic minor guitar position diagram 2 fingering

D melodic minor jazz guitar lick

This short lick starts with a D minor ninth arpeggio (D-F-A-C-E) in bar one. In bar two we have notes from the D minor pentatonic scale with a major seventh (C#) that brings a melodic minor color. Remember that unlike the dorian mode has a minor seventh, the melodic minor scale has a major seventh.

This lick works well over a II-V-I chord progression Dm7 | G7 | CM7 or just over a G7 chord.

Minor lick jazz guitar lick with tab

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Last edited: 20/02/2018