Sorry for the delay in posting this lesson, but finally, here it is. The melodic minor scale (also called the Jazz Minor) is a very useful one in jazz playing. Like the major scale, this scale spawns a host of modes that work with a variety of different chords. The scale itself is identical to a regular minor scale EXCEPT for the raised 6th and 7th degrees (You could also think of this scale as a major scale with a flatted 3rd). In classical theory, this is called the Ascending melodic minor, while the Descending scale is identical to the natural minor. This distinction is useless in jazz, so we will consider the ascending and descending scales to be the same. Here is the scale in C minor:

C Melodic Minor scale

Used by itself, the scale can be used over a Minor(maj7) chord. The chord is spelled: 1, b3, 5, 7. Like this:

C minor chord

If you want to hear this chord in a tune, the best one would be Horace Silver's Nica's Dream. The scale is also useful over augmented sounds, i.e., C melodic minor over B7aug. As for the modes of the melodic minor, there is an excellent discussion of the subject by Marc Sabatella here. But right now I'll just discuss two of them.

Mode 4: Lydian b7

The Lydian b7, or Lydian Dominant, starts on the 4th degree of the melodic minor scale. In our case, it would look like this:

Lydian b7

This mode is most useful over the 9(b5) or 9(#11) chord. An F9(#11) is spelled F, A, C, Eb, G, Cb. It has an interesting sound. The most famous use of this chord is in bars 3 and 4 of Take the "A" Train, by Billy Strayhorn.

Mode 7: Diminished/Wholetone

This mode has several names: altered, altered dominant, etc. I pick this name because I think it is the most accurate description of this scale. A Bdim/wt mode would look like this:



This mode can be used over almost any type of altered chord. In this case it could be: B7#9, B7(#5b9), etc. This sound is most useful in a ii-V progression in a minor key (remember Lesson 1?).

As you have seen, the Melodic Minor is a very versatile scale. This is one to spend a lot of time on.


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