Welcome to this lesson on the jazz melodic minor scale. Chances are if you have listened to a lot of jazz then you will have heard the melodic minor scale used quite often. The melodic minor scale is an essential scale for all jazz players to learn. In this lesson I will show you the notes of the melodic minor scale, the chords of the melodic minor scale and how you can use the melodic minor scale in your own playing. The most common use for the melodic minor scale is to play over minor major 7 chords. The more adventurous jazz player might also try playing it over minor 7 chords for added tension.
It is important to realize that the jazz melodic minor scale is different from the classical melodic minor scale. In classical music they used the melodic minor scale when ascending but they used the natural minor scale when descending. You do not need to do this when playing jazz and you can play the melodic minor scale regardless of whether you are ascending or descending.
Melodic Minor Scale Notes
Let’s get started by taking a look at the notes that make up the melodic minor scale. In the key of C, the notes of the melodic minor scale are:
C D Eb G A B
The melodic minor scale can be represented in intervallic form like this:
1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7
We could also write out the intervals of the melodic minor scale like this:
tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – tone – semitone
As you can see, the melodic minor scale is basically a major scale with a minor third. There notes of particular interest in the melodic minor scale are the minor third, the sixth and the major seventh.
The melodic minor scale is used all the time in jazz, both in improvisation and in harmony. The melodic minor scale also has six other modes that are used quite often in jazz. The most important modes of the melodic minor scale from an improviser’s point of view are the fourth mode (the Lydian dominant scale) and the seventh mode (the altered scale). In this lesson we are going to concentrate on the melodic minor scale only and we will leave it’s modes for another lesson.
Melodic Minor Scale In All Keys
Here is a list of all the possible melodic minor scales in all keys.
C melodic minor scale
C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B – C
G melodic minor scale
G – A – Bb – C – D – E – F# – G
D melodic minor scale
D – E – F – G – A – B – C# – D
A melodic minor scale
A – B – C – D – E – F# – G# – A
E melodic minor scale
E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D# – E
B melodic minor scale
B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A# – B
F# melodic minor scale
F# – G# – A – B – C# – D# – F – F#
C# melodic minor scale
C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A# – C – C#
G# melodic minor scale
G# – A# – B – C# – D# – F – G – G#
Eb melodic minor scale
Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – C – D – Eb
Bb melodic minor scale
Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – A – Bb
F melodic minor scale
F – G – Ab – Bb – C – D – E – F
Melodic Minor Scale Chords
As well as knowing the notes of the melodic minor scale, you will also need to know the chords that make up the scale.
The chords of the melodic minor scale in the key of C are:
Cmin/maj7, D min 7, E major7#5, F7#11, G7, Am7b5, Bm7b5
As you can see, there are some pretty interesting chords present in the melodic minor scale and this makes it really useful for creating interesting chord progressions. The minor major seven chord, as the name implies, is a minor triad with a major seventh added.
The intervals of the minor major seven chord are:
1, b3, 5, 7
This minor major sound is really powerful and distinctive and really highlights the sound of the melodic minor scale.
Modes of the melodic minor scale
I won’t go into to much detail on the modes of the melodic minor scale in this lesson but here is a quick run down of the seven modes of the melodic minor scale and how they are used.
This is the first mode of the melodic minor scale. The melodic minor scale is sometimes called the jazz minor scale. It has a strange jazz like minor sound and you can use it to play over min/major seven chords.
The dorian b2 scale is the second mode of the melodic minor scale. Although rarely used it is worth taking the time to get to know this sound. You can use this scale to play over minor 7 chords, or susb9 chords.
The third mode of the melodic minor scale is a great scale choice for playing over Maj7#5 chords. It has a dreamy augmented type of sound to it.
The fourth mode of the melodic minor scale can be a really useful scale for playing over dominant 7b5 chords. The Lydian dominant mode has a very fusion sound to it.
The fifth mode of the melodic minor is often seen as having an exotic sound. Try playing it over a dominant vamp to hear the sound.
The sixth mode of the melodic minor scale is the Aeolian b5 mode. The Aeolian b5 mode is a great alternative to the locrian mode and used to play over minor 7b5 chords
Superlocrian (Altered Scale)
The seventh mode of the melodic minor scale is sometimes called the altered scale. The final mode of the melodic minor scale has every alteration possible for a dominant chord. You can use the altered scale to play over any altered dominant chord for an outside jazz sound
I will cover the modes of the melodic minor scale in more depth in another lesson. For now try to learn the sound and shapes of the melodic minor scale and practice using them to improvise over a minor major seven chord vamp. The melodic minor scale has a really unique sound to it and it should be part of every jazz improviser’s arsenal.
You can learn more about guitar scales by checking out Jamplay which is a great way to learn scales on guitar.