Larry Carlton

September 19, 2005

The next step is to incorporate these colors into your lines. In the jazz world, it’s pretty common knowledge that to add altered tones to a line, you can play phrases drawn from the melodic minor scale whose root is a half-step above the I chord. This means going from an altered A7 to D9—the I-IV change in the key of A—you’d use tones from a B melodic minor scale [B, C, Db, Eb, F, G, A], as shown in Ex. 2. This scale contains the three notes we heard in Ex. 1’s altered voicings—C, B, and F, the #9, 9 and #5—as well as E, the key of A’s 5. The latter is the fourth altered tone available for soloing over dominant chords. And check this out: Bb melodic minor also contains A7’s 1, 3, and 7—crucial chord tones. These notes are A, C# [enharmonically, D], and G.

The trick is to build a ramp from the I to IV using notes from the melodic minor scale, which, as we’ve seen, yields four altered tones and three chord tones when played over the I chord. At first, you’ll probably try playing the melodic minor scale from its root. But, as I found out when I was first exposed to the melodic minor concept, this ordered approach doesn’t sound very musical. To get around the problem, I laid down a little background track with blues changes, and then worked on playing the altered notes until I didn’t have to run them as a scale. I spent time exploring each altered sound, getting to know my choices. Eventually I was able to create melodies using these colors.

Your melodic minor ramp into the IV can be as short as two beats, as in Ex. 3, or fill the measure preceding the IV change, like Ex. 4. In our next installment, we’ll build a ramp from the altered V to the I. See you then!

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