Melodic Minor Primer

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DISCLAIMER This is just one use of the Melodic Minor scale, and is just an introduction to the 'sound' of this particular application.

This deals with the basic idea behind playing a Melodic Minor scale a half step above the root of a dominant 7 chord.

In this case playing a Ab Melodic Minor scale over a G7 chord.

Example 1: (audio)

G7

--x--
--x--
--4--
--3--
--x--
--3--

Ab Melodic Minor scale

------------------------------------------3-4----
------------------------------------4-6----------
---------------------------3-4-6----------------
------------------3-5-6-------------------------
-----------4-6-----------------------------------
--4-6-7-----------------------------------------

At first the scale doesn't sound like much and is awkward to play at first (compared to the diatonic scale patterns), but hopefully by the end of this you'll be hearing it in it's true light.

This scale is very useful when the G7 is the V chord of the key of C, and G7 is moving back to the Cmaj7 chord. IOW, like this...

Example 2: (audio)

G7

--x--
--x--
--4--
--3--
--x--
--3--

Cmaj7

--x--
--5--
--4--
--x--
--3--
--x--

||: G7/// | //// | Cmaj7/// | //// :||

Repeating this over an over tells your ear that G7 is leading or resolving to C major chord.

You can apply the notes of the Ab Melodic Minor scale to the second measure of G7 like this (the audio example is played, one note per beat...then it's played in double-time):

G7(V7)                     Cmaj7(Imaj7)
||-------------|------------|--------------|-------||
||-------------|------------|-----------5--|-------||
||-------------|------------|--------4-----|-------|| repeat...
||----------3- |--6-3-------|-----5--------|-------||
||-----2-5-----|-------6-4--|--3-----------|-------||
||--3----------|------------|--------------|-------||

In the example the first measure is nothing more than the notes of G7 spelled out (G B D F) then the second measure is using notes from the Ab Melodic Minor scale, resolving to the C note, and arpeggio, of the Cmaj7 chord (C E G B).

This example is very basic but should clue your ear into a familiar sound.

As we see, the second measure is where the Ab Melodic Minor is used. Using it's notes against a G7 scale brings out G7's altered tones. The second measure consists of the b9, b7, #5 and b5 respectively, against the G7 chord.

It allows you to "step outside" for a measure and then resolve it with a firm Cmaj7 arpeggio.

What's different for guitarist using the Melodic Minor scale is that most of the time we learn scales from the root of the scale to the next root AND the root of the scale is also the root of the chord we play it over...well, when playing the Ab Melodic Minor scale over the G7 chord, think of it as more of a group of notes that's going to push us from the G7 chord into the next chord,C...or the V to the I...G to C.

The more you burn the SOUND of it into your head...more so than the pattern...you can take it pretty far outside and land right on your feet getting back to the C chord. Just remember to always resolve it with a note from the Cmaj7 chord. Try resolving to each of the notes of the Cmaj7 chord and see which ones sound right...it will usually be the closest one from the note you're playing just before the C chord is played.

Another way to think of this, and burn the sound into your head, is to play the progression this way:

||: G7/// | Db7/// | Cmaj7/// | //// :||

or better yet...

||: G7/// | Db9/// | Cmaj7/// | //// :||

This leads to what's called the 'b5 Substitution' theory. You can substitute a dominant 7 chord with another dominant 7 chord who root is a b5 above the original dominant 7 chord...

Follow me on this...

A b5 can be found 3 whole steps above the root. So for G, the b5 note is Db. Chord wise it would G7 and a Db7 chord, Db7 being substituted for G7...and if you try to substitute a b5 substitution chord for the Db7 chord, you end up with a G7...haha, end of the line or you start repeating yourself :) There can only be one substitution for a dominant 7 chord using the b5 substitution theory.

Hope you followed me on that...now to tie it in.

If you look at these two Db chords you'll see they can be 'built' within the Ab Melodic minor scale...

Db7

--4--
--6--
--4--
--6--
--4--
-----

Db9

--4--
--4--
--4--
--3--
--4--
-----

Db7 (this will work for both chords)

--x--
--x--
--4--
--3--
--4--
--x--

Db7 (a "better yet" chord)

--x--
--6--
--4--
--x--
--4--
--x--

Looking back at the Ab Melodic Minor scale pattern tab at the top you'll see the notes of these Db chords are right there, inside the Ab Melodic Minor scale.

Now let's look at Example 3 using the arpeggio's of each chord in the progression. You'll really hear the sound of the b5 substitution AND the Ab Melodic Minor scale...all at once.

Example 3: (audio)

Using the original ||: G7/// | //// | Cmaj7/// | //// :|| progression you can play this to simulate/emulate the sound of the Db7 chord. (the audio example is played, one note per beat...then it's played in double-time):

||-----------------|--------------------|---------------|-------||
||-----------------|--------------------|---------------|-------||
||-----------------|---------------4----|----5----------|-------|| repeat...
||------------3----|-------3--6---------|---------------|-------||
||-----2--5--------|--4-----------------|---------------|-------||
||--3--------------|--------------------|---------------|-------||

In the second measure, for G7 (G B D F) we are using/superimposing a Db7 (Db F Ab B) chord over it. (Db7's B note might actually be called Cb in this case, maybe someone can clarify).

Notice the resolving part...the B to the C. The sound is the Db7 moving up to C.

Now try it this way, using a straight Db Major arpeggio (no b7)...(the audio example is played, one note per beat...then it's played in double-time):

Example 4: (audio)

||------------------|------------------------|-------------|--------||
||------------------|------------------------|-------------|--------||
||------------------|-------------------6----|---5---------|--------|| repeat...
||-------------3----|---------3----6---------|-------------|--------||
||-----2---5--------|----4-------------------|-------------|--------||
||--3---------------|------------------------|-------------|--------||

Now you have the resolving portion resolving from Db down to C.

Both ways sound good, but which one you prefer is the one more pleasing to YOUR ear.

I tend to like the second one better, but end up playing the first one more...just because of were my finger land at the time :(

Now that you have these altered sounds buried in your head a bit more...go back to Example 1. Listening to the audio for  Example 1, it should sound like a completely new context/texture laying across the solo G7 chord. If it does, the sound is starting to grow on you!

In summary:

Have fun with this.

You can really go hogwild with this stuff at this site...Look for the ii-V-I Lines link

Also check out the ii-V-I Progressions. This is Don Mocks site (famed for producing the well known video instructional tapes). You'll need to sign up for the site, but it's worth the hassle, trust me. It's free of course and there are a lot of great lessons there.

I'll be back with more Melodic Minor lessons in the near future. To see how it lays in a Jazz song, check out my Learn Some Common Sounds Found In Jazz tutorial back at the Main Lessons Page.

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