The Melodic Minor Scale | Guitar Lesson, Diagrams and Theory

What's The Melodic Minor Scale?

The melodic minor scale is sometimes referred to as minor jazz scale or Ionian b3. It has a particlar and unique sound, recognizable among all the other minor scales because of the mix of the minor third and the major seventh. The melodic minor scale is a very important scale for every jazz guitar player who wants to explore new minor sonorities.

The melodic minor scale is built this way : tonic (1), second (2), minor third (b3), fourth (4), fifth (5), sixth (6) and  seventh (7).

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

What's the Difference Between the Melodic Minor Scale and The Dorian Mode?

As you see in the chart below, the melodic minor scale contains the same notes as the Dorian mode except the seventh that is major instead of minor.

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
Difference melodic and dorian

What is the Difference Between Melodic Minor Scale and Harmonic Minor?

The melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale are very similar. The only difference is that there is a minor sixth (b6) in the harmonic minor scale whereas there is a major sixth (6) in the melodic minor scale.

C harmonic Minor C D Eb F G Ab B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
C melodic minor C D Eb F G A B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7


Difference melodic and harmonic

How To Use the Melodic Minor Scale?

Theoretically the melodic minor scale is related to minMaj7 chords but it can also be used over minor chords as m6, m7, m9, m11, m6/9.

You need to know that playing a 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.

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 correctly the melodic minor scale it is important to play these shapes starting from the tonic () represented in orange in the diagrams.

Dont' forget to play these patterns in twelve keys by moving the tonic to the desired note keeping the same intervals.

Melodic minor scale guitar

The two diagrams represent the Melodic minor scale on the guitar neck within the space of two octaves.

Melodic minor scale for guitar two octave shapes

Here are seven shapes starting on each step of the the G minor scale in order the cover the whole neck. Each shape contains 3 notes per string. 

Melodic minor scale shapes for guitar

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 that 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 the fourth and the fifth degree, two minor seventh chords (which on as a major seventh) on the 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 Adim Bdim
Seventh chords C-maj7 D-7 EbMaj7#5 F7 G7 A-7b5 B-7b5


Chord Formulas

Four-note chords in the key of C minor.

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

Melodic Minor Arpeggios

Arpeggios are chords whose notes are played individually. Arpeggios of the melodic minor scale are therefore built the in same way as the chords previously seen. The tab below show how to play them ascending.

Melodic minor arpeggios for guitar
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Last edited: 2021-05-17

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