The melodic minor scale is a wonderful scale to add to your repetoire.
It's often used interchangeably with the harmonic
minor scale, as both share
similar qualities and common tones.
lesson will provide you with the basic melodic minor patterns
and fingerings, some theory behind playing it over chords and finally
some backing tracks to try out your own ideas.
Melodic minor scale patterns and basics
In a nutshell, melodic minor is the same as harmonic minor but with a
major 6th (6)
as opposed to a minor 6th (b6)
Here's the root position box pattern with its intervals...
So, like harmonic minor, the melodic minor scale uses the major 7th, one
semitone down from the root. The only difference is that 6th tone. Soon,
we'll get to know how the combination of this 6th and the major 7th
gives melodic minor its unique flavour.
The fingering below is only a guide. You'll probably need to change it
when you start moving outside this box...
don't forget to learn the box pattern on the A string, which allows
you to build melodic minor conveniently around chords with an A string
root note (e.g. A form barre chords).
Note that you'll have an opportunity to expand out of these boxed
patterns in a coming lesson.
Playing the melodic minor scale over chords
we have a go at playing the scale over backing tracks, let's think
about how to apply it over chords and chord progressions.
name suggests, melodic minor works over minor chords. However, that
doesn't mean it will work in every instance of a minor chord. A lot of
whether it fits depends on any other chords being played in the
time, as with any scale, you'll develop an ear for when is "right" to
use it. Certain chord movements complement melodic minor.
For example. a typical two chord phrase between a minor tonic and its V chord...
melodic minor would be an option there, to highlight the
back to A minor. As E major is part of the A melodic minor scale, you
can also play it through that chord change.
A lot of whether it
works will depend on the tones used in these chords. For example, if
it's just the basic minor and major triads, you'll have more freedom to
choose between harmonic and melodic minor. If, however, the chords are
stacked a bit
fuller, they will play a larger role in defining which tones you can
play in your solo without sounding "outside".
Again, using A
minor as our tonic minor chord (therefore A melodic minor becomes the
"resolution scale"), another typical movement would be to the IV chord
of that scale, one whole step down from the V...
Just like with harmonic minor, you have to be careful when using the
scale's major 7th
over that home minor chord as it sounds very unstable. The best way to
use it is as a passing tone, glancing over it
rather than emphasising or holding onto it.
major 7th also functions as a leading tone, which is a note you use
just before resolving to the root of the same scale, one semitone
higher. Try using the major 7th just before the chord sequence resolves
back into its minor tonic.
also carries a fair bit of tension, but it's less jarring than the
7th and can be held. In fact, using the 6th as a resolution/landing
tone on that tonic minor chord really brings out that haunting melodic
Ok, let's really get to know this scale by experimenting with our own
over the tracks below. The first is based on a relationship we've been
looking at. The chords are...
minor - E7
our tonic "resolution" chord is A minor. This is the chord you'll need
to focus on higlighting using the A melodic minor scale. It'll still
work over E7 as this chord is part of the scale, but this chord is only
there to create the tension needed for setting up a satisfying A minor
resolution. You'll need to think about this while using A melodic minor
away from A minor.
Try skipping around both
boxed patterns from earlier. As we're in the key of A minor, the E
string root note will be at 5th
fret and the A string root at 12th fret.
This next jam track is a little trickier. The chord change is
major - F
This time, melodic minor is not
compatible with the major tonic chord since its tones lie outside that
scale. This means you'll need to negotiate two separate scales. I
recommend simply playing the C major scale over C major and then F
melodic minor over the F minor chord.
Start by just playing over F minor, then when you're confident, add the
C major scale over C major.