It Differs From The Major Scale By 1 Note,
But The 7 Chord Types That Are Part Of It,
Open Up A Whole New World Of Harmony.

I treat the melodic minor (mm) scale and it's chords like the darker sounding brother of the major scale. During my hours of practising major scales, I always used to flatten the third and repeat what ever I just did in major, in melodic minor.
This created great technical variety on the instrument and expanded my harmonic horizons, by making what on paper are quite complicated chords, a snack to understand.
Think about it: Flatten the 3rd note (of the major scale) by a 1/2 step and you've created another whole world of musical sounds.
This approach does not apply if you're studying classical composition, because the rules dictate, that the melodic minor is different (Aeolian) on the way down.
I prefer to treat the melodic minor as a SOUND (same notes up and down) and in many musical situations, taking the place of the I-chord in minor-key tunes.

Here Are The Modes and Chords of the Melodic Minor Scale:

The key signature in this example should be "Bb", (mm is "born" out of the aeolian mode), but lack of horizontal space forced me to make it "C".

Melodic Minor Scale Chords

How To Use The Melodic Minor Scale Chords:

  • I - MELODIC MINOR: Compared to other minor chords (dorian, phrygian & aeolian) which often have a "restless" quality (cycle movement III - VI - II - V - I), the melodic minor sounds much more "at home".
    It can be used like the tonal center of a song (II - V - I in minor)
    Ex: Am7(b5) - D7(b9#5) - Gm6).
    The last chord symbol on the right (in the image above) is useable but hardly ever necessary.
  • II - DORIAN b2: I've seen and heard the minor7th(b9) chord & it's varieties used many times but personally I don't like the sound of it that much. It is an unusual chord and mainly used in jazz.
    The scale can be applied to a II-minor when the following V-chord is a dom7(#5), for example scale V below.
  • III - LYDIAN AUGMENTED: Very common as a sound in it's own right in jazz but also makes a very handy replacement for the normal major in orchestral situations, allowing linear resolution from the #5 down to 5 or up to 6.
    Ex: (Cm7 - F7) - BbMaj7(#5) to BbMaj7 or Bb6. Note F# moves to F or G respectively (audio plays both in sequence).
  • IV - LYDIAN DOMINANT: A very much used scale & chord in place of the straight dominant (mixolydian) because it allows the use of the b5 or #11 sound (tri-tone) if needed, a scale without the avoid note natural 4th.
  • V - MIXOLYDIAN b13: I don't mind using the natural 5th together with the b5 in the same chord voicing but try to avoid the combination of 5 and #5. (it grates)
    As you can see in the image above, I left the A (natural 5) out in the voicings that include the Bb. It's personal preference, you be your own judge.
    But apart from that, the mode is quite useful over a dom9(#5) chord when the whole-tone scale is unsuitable.
  • VI - LOCRIAN #2: This mode is a very cool version of the normal locrian scale because it includes a usable 9th which normally is an avoid note. It gives a touch of lightness to the otherwise quite dark m7(b5). Especially useful when the locrian II - V goes to a major chord.
    Ex: Em9(b5) - A13(b9) - DMaj7.
  • VII - ALTERED: The "Rolls-Royce" of the Dom7th chords. All you need is the Tonic and the 2 guide tones (3 & b7) and then include any of the other 4 notes in any combination, using just 1 of them, 2, 3 or all 4. Take care though how you voice them, it can get clustery.
    The altered sound is used predominantly but not exclusively before minor chords.
    See how easy it is to deal with a scary looking F#7(#9#5), when all you have to do is play the melodic minor a 1/2step above the root note (in this case GMelMin).
    And guess what? NO AVOID NOTES!
    PS: Please excuse the Bb as a third, it should be A# (Oh the shame of it!).

Congratulations! If you're reading this, it could mean
that you've read through my theory material and,
hopefully, found the information helpful.
If you came straight to this page,
there is much more to see.
Visit these links!

Do you like what's here? Join "George's Combo" and always stay updated!

© all rights reserved - George H Brodbeck 2011

webdesign by GH Brodbeck