If you’ve been following our series of articles devoted to the melodic minor scale and its modes, these examples shouldn’t be too difficult to understand. However, most of them will present technical difficulties when played at full tempo. In this lesson, we’re going to conclude our recent series on the modes of melodic minor by looking at how I use some of these scales in my music. Before getting started, though, we should summarise some of the things that we have learned about the melodic minor modes in general. Purely for the sake of convenience, we are once again going to take a look at C melodic minor and its modes, as this particular scale has only one flat (Eb):
Intervals: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
a) Used over m/maj7, m/maj9 chords.
b) Used in conjunction with Dorian over m7-type chords.
Intervals: 1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
a) Rarely used. Sometimes used as substitute for 1/2 whole scale over 13b9 chords and for Phrygian over 7b9sus4 chords.
b) Can play minor pentatonic (blues) scale from its root.
3) Eb Lydian #5 (aka Lydian aug or JM3):
Intervals: 1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7
a) Used over maj7#5 and maj9#5 chords.
b) Used in conjunction with Lydian over maj7-type chords (maj7, maj9, maj7#ll, etc).
4) F Lydian b7 (aka Lydian dominant, overtone scale or JM4):
Intervals: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
a) Used over 9# 11, 13#11 and so on
b) Used in conjunction with Mixolydian over static 7-type chords.
c) Can play major add#ll arpeggio and dominant pentatonic scale (1, 2, 3, 5,b7) from its root note.
5) G Mixolydian b6 (aka JM5):
Intervals: 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
a) Rarely used. Sometimes used as the tonal centre of certain diatonic progressions (eg, Aadd9 to A/G7).
b) Can play maj, sus4, aug, add11, addb6 arpeggios and dominant pentatonic scale from its root.
6) A Locrian nat 2 (aka Aeolian b5 or JM6):
Intervals: 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
a) Used over m9b5 chord.
b) Used in conjunction with Locrian over m7b5-type chords.
c) Can play min7b5 arpeggio and min7b5 pentatonic scale (1,b3,4,b5,b7) from its root note.
7) B Superlocrian (aka diminished-wholetone, altered, Pommeroy or JM7):
a) Used over altered dominant chords (7b9, 7#9, 7b5, 7#5 and so on).
b) Can play 7#9#5 hybrid pentatonic scale (1, #9, 3, #5, b7) from its root.
The first exercises uses G Lydian flat 7:
This is the fourth mode of D melodic minor:
I based this riff around the two major triads that exist within D melodic minor, G and A. Make sure that you bring out the accents where they are marked on the transcription.
The first chord is Bm7b5. If you look at the modes of melodic minor that I mentioned earlier, you’ll see that B Locrian nat 2 would be the most suitable scale for this chord. As you can see, I employ a straightforward sequence based on Bm7b5 pentatonic scale
The second chord is E7alt. Again, if you look back at the list of modes, you’ll see that Superlocrian would be the most suitable scale to use from E.
E Superlocrian is the seventh mode of F melodic minor, and the lick in second bar of Exercise 2 is based around the two major triads that exist within this particular melodic minor key, Bb(IV -Lydian b7 triad) and C (V – Mixolydian b6). Note how I’ve added the # 11 interval to the Bb triad in order to create a major add #11 arpeggio.
Exercise 3: All the chords behind this four-bar excerpt are derived from A melodic minor. The tonal centre is F#, so, when I play this, I think in terms of the sixth mode of A melodic minor, F# Locrian nat 2. The first bar features some chromatic notes but, like most chromatic notes, these are used to pass from one scale note to the next (G is used to pass from F# to G#, whereas C# is used to pass from D to C). Note the use of triads in this excerpt: there is an E major triad played on the fourth beat of bar 1. In bar 2, there’s an Am triad on the first beat and an F#m7b5 arpeggio played on beats two and three. In bar 3, there’s an E major triad played on the second beat and an Amin/maj7 arpeggio played on beats three and four. Make sure that you follow the accents as written (they look like an upstroke lying on their side above the dots in question). These sounds have to be played louder than the others.
Exercise 4: This final excerpt is effectively, the previous lick shifted up in intervals of a minor third. Consequently, the chords move up accordingly. Again, make sure that you closely follow the accents as written in the transcription.
Well, that wraps up our look at the modes of melodic minor. I hope that this recent series has given you some ideas that you can use in your own improvisation and compositions. I’m sure you’ll agree that, when placed in context, these modes don’t sound strange at all.
It’s a part of Melodic Minor Licks lesson
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