BY JAKE HERTZOG
Hey Jazz Guy,
I’ve got the major scale down, but I keep hearing
about melodic minor. Can you give me some
tips on how it works? –Major in Minneapolis
The mysterious melodic minor’s many
magical modes have always presented myriad
possibilities. The sound is unmistakable, and
some of the modes are particularly useful.
Melodic minor can be thought of as a major
scale with a b3 or a minor scale with a natural
6th and 7th [Ex. 1]. The chordal realization
of the scale is almost its own book, but
the minmaj7 chord is one of the main tonic
sounds. In Ex. 2, we use A melodic minor to
construct a line that ultimately resolves to
A, but hits all the chord tones. It’s important
to remember that since the 6 and 7 are
what distinguish the melodic minor from
other parallel sounds, those notes are crucial.
Melodic minor has a unique system of
modes, some more common than others.
The fourth mode from the 4th degree of
the scale is called Lydian b7. Ex. 3 shows F
Lydian b7 (4th degree of C melodic minor)
in a line with a repeating shape—sequential
techniques can highlight the sound of more
exotic scales. In the final example we showcase
another sound derived from melodic
minor, the altered scale (the chord is shown
as E7#5b9, but the line includes #9 and b5).
This comes from the seventh mode, so in
this case F melodic minor becomes E alt. Ex.
4 features some unorthodox intervals that
come from that sound. Melodic minor is a
very deep study but it will add some very
cool things to your playing. So shed hard,
and major malaise will mutate into melodic
Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the
non-jazz world. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jake’s latest release is
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