The Melodic Minor Scale
Comprising the final piece of the minor scale tripartite, the melodic minor is distinguished from the natural minor by its raised sixth and seventh scale degrees (see Figure 12-13). Traditionally, the scale is performed with these raised sixth and seventh tones only when ascending. When descending, it is traditional to revert to the natural minor, as in
The A melodic minor scale
The chords written above the scale show its relationship to harmony.
This scale's most obvious use is on the i chord in a minor key. In subsequent chapters you will be taught more about working in minor keys. For now, simply recognize that there are major and minor keys. Major keys are based on major scales, which have their own diatonic triads and chord progressions (for example, ii-V-I chord changes). Minor keys are the same. However, they are based on a minor scale with chord functions extending up i through vii, or i through VII depending on the type of minor key used. Remember, lowercase Roman numerals indicate minor. Uppercase Roman numerals indicate major.
Just as in major keys, minor keys also have similar chord progressions, such as ii-V-i progression. The melodic minor scale seen in Figure 12-13 is used for a i chord in a minor key. Therefore, it could be used on an Am, or using jazz extensions, on an Am6/9 or Amin(maj7). In this musical context, it's pretty easy to decide what melodic minor scale to use. For example, if you are in the key of A minor, you will play licks using an A melodic minor on the i chord. In other words, an Am6/9 chord would use an A melodic minor.
However, this is just the beginning. Basically, this scale has three other uses. It can also be used on a ii chord in a minor key, a V chord in a minor key, and a V chord in a major key. This is fascinating because the melodic minor can be used on all the chords in a minor ii-V-i progression and on one of the chords in a major ii-V-I progression. Unfortunately, it's hard to know what melodic minor scales to use in these contexts. In fact, the melodic minors that are used may be quite different from what you might expect. Figure 12-14 shows a minor ii-V-i progression in A minor together with the appropriate melodic minor scales used to create jazz lines. In Chapter 17, you'll crack the code to figure out what melodic minor scales are used on similar progressions.
Figure 12-14. Minor ii-V-i progression with corresponding melodic minor scales
As was stated previously, melodic minor scales can also be used on V chords in a major key in jazz, fusion, or Latin. These are usually seen as V7, V9, or V13. On these chords, you would not use the melodic minor with the same letter name. In other words, if you have a G7, you would not use a G melodic minor scale. Instead, you would use the scale found a perfect fifth (7 half steps or frets) above the name of the chord. In the case of a G7, you would use a D melodic minor.
Figures 12-15 and
Using the melodic minor on a V chord in a major key
Figure 12-16. Using the melodic minor on any dominant seventh chord