The Melodic Minor Scale | Guitar Lesson, Diagrams and Theory

What's The Melodic Minor Scale?

The melodic minor scale is a minor type scale sometimes referred to as minor jazz scale or Ionian b3. The formula is 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7. It is a must-know for every jazz guitar player who wants to explore new minor sonorities.

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

 

Comparison With 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

 

How To Use the Melodic Minor Scale?

The melodic minor scale is generally played over minMaj7 chords (over the I chord of a minor II-V-I sequence for example) 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.

Melodic Minor Scale - One Octave Shapes

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

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

Melodic minor scale one octave shapes

Melodic Minor Scale - Two Octave Shapes

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

Melodic minor scale two octave shapes

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 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.

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 Adim Bdim
Seventh chords C-maj7 D-7 EbMaj7#5 F7 G7 A-7b5 B-7b5

 

The exercise below show how to play the melodic minor scale with drop 2 seventh chords.

Melodic minor scale harmonized in seventh chords

Chord 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
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Last edited: 10/30/2019