Melodic Minor Modes. Superlocrian Scale

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Pat Martino. Superlocrian scale To play over this progression, you will have to learn how to shift convincingly between one scale and another throughout. We look at ways of using the seventh mode of melodic minor over functional dominant chords. In previous articles (Modal Study. The Lydian Scale Flat 7, Modal Soloing Locrian Nat 2 Scale, Jazz Waltz. Lydian Sharp Five Scale) going back some time now, we’ve been studying the various modes of melodic minor. This time, (do we hear a sigh of relief?) we are going to take a close-up look at the final mode in our series, Superlocrian. The last lesson is Jazz Metal. Melodic Minor Licks. For the sake of convenience, we’ve been focusing on C melodic minor, as it has only one flat note:

C Melodic minor scale

As a mode of C melodic minor, B Superlocrian is, effectively, the notes of C melodic minor, only seen as a B scale not a C scale:

B Superlocrian scale

This mode is also known as the ‘altered scale’, ‘diminished-wholetone’ and even the ‘Pommeroy’ scale. Furthermore, because it’s the seventh mode of melodic minor (which is also known as jazz minor) it is also sometimes referred to as ‘jazz minor seven’ (or JM7, for short).

Superlocrian. Functional dominant chords

Dominant chords and scales come under two categories: ‘functional’ and ‘non-functional’. A dominant chord is said to be functional if it is acting like a V chord. In other, words, its root has to be based on the 5th interval of the chord it is going to next. So, for example, B7 can be treated as a functional dominant only if it’s followed by an E chord of some description.

So, what’s so significant about a functional dominant chord? Well, when, for example, a B7(V) is followed by an Em7(I). You get a very definite sense of tension (on the V chord) and release (on the I chord). In a situation like this, it’s possible to enhance the amount of tension by adding some chromatic alterations/tensions against the V chord (B7), thus making it all the more pleasurable for the listener, when we arrive ‘home’ at the more settled-sounding I chord (Em7). This is a principle that we have discussed many times in the past.

Superlocrian Alterations

To find out the possible chromatic (non-scale) alterations (tensions) that can be used against a dominant chord, you can start with an unaltered dominant scale, Mixolydian, and see where there are any gaps between the scale notes.

B Mixolydian scale

As you can see, there is a gap between:

a) The 1 and 2 = C (b2, which is the same as b9).

b) The 2 and 3 = D (#2, which is the same as #9)

c) The 4 and 5 = F (b5)

d) The 6 and b7 = G (#5 or b6).

We cannot consider using the gap between the b7 and the root, (nat7), because this would change the nature of the chord from being dominant to major. This, therefore, leaves us with b9, #9, b5 and #5 as potential chromatic additions to enhance the tension of any dominant chord (giving us, for example, B7b9, B7#9, B7b5, B7#5 and so on).

Obviously, if we are going to make these chromatic alterations within the chord, we need a scale with which to negotiate them. This is where the Superlocrian comes in, as it has everything we need to negotiate these chord types (that is, it’s got a root, 3rd and b7 as well as all the possible chromatic alterations/tensions).

B superlocrian scale

The progression

(bossa nova – 110)

||: Em7 | | B7alt | : ||

The progression that I use for this demonstration features a straightforward V(B7) to I (Em) motion. On the audio track, I use E Dorian in conjunction with E melodic minor scale for the E min 7.

superlocrianp progression

I then use B Superlocrian for the B7alt (“alt” after a B7 chord means that, as a rhythm player, you can add any of the possible chromatic alterations). Note that it’s possible for the soloist to use Superlocrian even if there are no alterations in the chord played by the accompanist. As a soloist, you can suggest whatever alterations you like.

The scale

As you can see, I’ve included all of the various scale patterns/shapes for B Superlocrian. The first set of diagrams show the scale with a B7alt chord framework (try to work out the specific name of each chord shown). The second group shows the same scale patterns with an Ebmaj7#5 arpeggio framework.

If you’ve been following this present series of articles, you’ll know that it is possible to find a bewildering array of arpeggio and pentatonic options from various notes of the scale, the Ebmaj7#5 framework shown here is just one example. If you missed some or all of them, the list is as follows:

Round up (triads, arpeggios and pentatonics):

From C:

Superlocrian pentatonics from C

From D:

Superlocrian pentatonics from D

It’s a part of Melodic Minor Modes. Superlocrian Scale lesson

Below you can download a full copy of

 Superlocrian Scale lesson with backing track for free


24 December 2012 0 comments
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