The Melodic Minor Scale | Guitar Lesson, Diagrams and Theory

The melodic minor scale

What'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.


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

Four-note 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

  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This downloadable eBook in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
  • 25 pentatonic licks

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 20 II-V-I jazz guitar licks

    This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 20 II-V-I jazz guitar lines with tabs and audio files both in major and minor keys
  • 5 Jazz blues arpeggio studies

    A printable PDF eBook with tabs and standard notation containing five jazz blues guitar studies. Learn how to use arpeggios over a jazz blues progression.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    Jazz guitar comping. How to play II-V-I chord progressions on guitar with drop 2, drop 3 chords, rootless and inverted voicings. This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 50 exercises with analysis, tabs & standard notation.
  • 11 blues jazz studies

    This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
  • Mastering the altered scale

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis and scale charts.
  • 25 soul jazz guitar licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks with tabs and standard notation in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson.These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 dominant diminished licks

    This eBook PDF contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 25 minor jazz guitar licks

    This printable PDF eBook contains 25 minor jazz guitar licks with tabs, video links, analysis. How to play modes, scales & arpeggios over minor chords.
  • 5 Tritone substitution licks

    The tritone substitution is explained through 5 jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video links and backing track links. Printable PDF eBook

Last edited: 25/05/2018