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Melodic Minor Ascending Modes

Melodic Minor Ascending Modes
So we are going to have a look at the modes of the melodic minor ascending scale. This will be quite tough - probably the toughest section of the whole course. If you find that your head is spinning at the end of it, don’t worry too much. I will try and point out at the end what it is, in a sense, you need to know. First of all, why are there modes of this scale and why are they different from modes of, say, the major scale? Because the major scale - the intervallic relationship between the notes are (I’ll take C major) - it goes root, then it goes tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.
Then when we move the root the intervallic relationships change accordingly. When we take the melodic minor ascending - the same scale except that we flatten the third -
then it goes from the root: tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. So the intervallic relationships are different and therefore the modes are different.
There are seven modes: five of which have names and two of which, as far as I know, don’t have names. Let’s just run through them quickly and then we’ll look at them in a slightly different context. The first one, the melodic minor ascending,
is just called the “minor-major” scale: minor, because it’s a minor scale and major because the seventh is major. Let’s do the same thing, root it on the second part of the scale, in this case D. As far as I know that doesn’t have a name. Now let’s do the next one, E flat.
That’s called a “Lydian augmented” scale and since it’s rooted on E flat it’s called E flat Lydian augmented. Next one That’s called a “Lydian dominant” scale, and because its rooted on F it’s called F Lydian dominant. The next one
doesn’t have a name. The next one
we’ve met before. It’s called the “Locrian #2”. Sharp 2 because the second or the ninth is naturalised - it’s not flattened. This is an A based scale, so it’s called A Locrian #2. Then the final one, rooting it on B, we get
Bit high, if we want it lower.
That’s called the “altered” scale and that is important. To make more sense of this, let’s do all the scales rooted on C. So the first thing we have to do is to know how to get back to the parent scale - the melodic minor ascending - from which it’s derived. So, of course, obviously the very first scale is C melodic minor ascending and we don’t do anything there. But when we went to the second mode we went up a tone. To get to the parent scale, if we want it rooted on C, we go down a tone. We get to B flat minor.
We root it on C.
Then the next one - that does not have a name. The next one does have a name “C Lydian augmented”. How did we get that? We went up a minor third to E flat. If we want it rooted on C we go down a minor third which takes us to A. So we take A melodic minor ascending.
So we take the major and flatten the third. Now we root it on C and we get C Lydian augmented - it’s A melodic minor rooted on C. The next one F Lydian dominant - how did we get to the parent scale? We went down a fourth. So in this case we take C, to get the parent scale we go down a fourth, which takes us to G. So we take G melodic minor ascending, and we root it on C and that gives us C Lydian dominant - a C-based scale - it’s G melodic minor ascending, rooted on C. The next one we got by going up a fifth.
If we want to get to the parent scale we go down a fifth, so the parent scale from C - you go down a fifth, F - and the melodic minor ascending is
which if we root it on F (C) is that scale. The sixth mode - how did we get to the sixth mode from the parent scale? We went down a minor third and so - we went down a minor third and that gave us the root. In this case to get back to the parent scale we go up a minor third. I take C as the root, go up a minor third to E flat, take E flat minor ascending
and root it on C. and we get C Locrian #2 - E flat melodic minor ascending rooted on C. Finally B altered. We got that by going down a semitone to get the mode, so the parent scale is obtained by going up a semitone, so if we want to root the scale on C, the parent scale is obtained by going up a semitone, which takes us to D flat. We take D flat melodic minor ascending and we root it on C. and that gives us the altered scale. That’s important. How do you learn these scale?
One way is what I’ve just done: to get the parent scale you think of the interval, you jump that interval and that gives you the parent scale. Like, for example, how do we do Dorian scales? We go down a tone and that’s the parent scale - that major scale. Similarly, how do you do altered? You go up a semitone, take the melodic minor ascending and then just root it accordingly. That’s one way of doing it. Another is just to actually learn it, so to speak, visually or in each key. That’s much harder, but let’s just take the last one as an example and see if it helps at all. So our scale is, on C
What happens is: it’s diminished to start of with - or a mode of a diminished scale - because it goes semitone, tone, semitone and then it finishes off whole tones - those are all whole tones. It goes semitone, tone, semitone, when you get to the fourth note it finishes off whole tone.
What about in, I don’t know, F, for example: semitone, tone, semitone and then we finish off with whole tones. In G semitone, tone, semitone and then we finish off with whole tones. In A
we finish off with whole tones. I don’t know if that helps you. In the end you have to learn the scale. When are the scales signalled? They are signalled by particular chords. However, one chord doesn’t necessarily uniquely signal a particular scale. There are kind of preferred scales, if you like, and then some chords are, kind of like, so rarely occuring that they wouldn’t really signal one of these scales. Let’s be specific. Let’s start at the top - C melodic minor ascending. That’s clearly a minor chord based on C, but the seventh is naturalised. It’s called C minor with a major seventh, it’s a minor with a major seventh.
The next one is hard, because if you look at the notes which are in it
First of all think about the thirds from the root upwards
then that’s got C minor7 in it but, in addition, it’s got that note in it, so it’s C minor7 flat9. Now we’ve met C minor7 flat9 in the previous section but it was a different scale. I’ll explain why at the end. For the moment let just say C minor7 with a flat 9. It doesn’t crop up much in applications. I don’t know why, but maybe because that internal sound is not particularly nice. Some people signal it as C7 - that’s C7 - sus, so you miss out the third and then with a flattenend ninth.
So you get You get the same scale but without the third in it, so really you want to put a pair of parentheses around the E flat. Again, a rarely occuring chord but it does happen and then you use that scale but you miss out the seventh - the third, sorry, you miss out the third. OK, the next one. Let’s look at the notes.
It starts off being C major but you sharpen the fifth and then you also flatten the fifth or, more precisely, you sharpen the eleventh. Now these are just conventions about whether you call it a flat five or a sharp eleven, but they’re conventions which most people stick to so we will do the same. So either it will be signalled either by C7 with a sharpened fifth, or C7 with a sharpened fifth and a sharpened eleventh.
We will talk about that later on. The next one’s important, the Lydian dominant, because you take the dominant scale the C seventh scale as we call it - not the dominant scale - and we sharpen the eleventh or flatten the fifth. So you get this sound.
That’s the sharpened eleventh. We are going to say something more about that when we talk about chords in more detail. The next one is this scale.
That’s kind of C7. It’s got this flattened thirteenth in. So C7 flattened thirteenth would probably signal that scale, but you might imagine that chord doesn’t crop up very often. The next one is important
because, first of all, you can see it’s half diminished - namely, it’s a minor seventh based on C with a flattened fifth, but it also has in it a natural second, or a natural ninth - that’s where the #2 comes from - and it also has a flattened sixth or a flattened thirteenth - although we don’t refer to it.
That’s my preferred scale for the half diminished, as opposed to many authors who give it as D flat major rooted on C. That’s D flat major rooted on C and that has a flat nine in it as well. Sometimes you have C half diminished7 flat9 or C minor7 flat5 flat9 and then that would be the other scale - the major scale - a mode of a major scale. Then we have C altered and it’s usually called C altered, although you can use it pretty much in any situation where there’s a flattened fifth or sharpened eleventh - a sharpened fifth since there’s an augmented sound - a flattened ninth and a sharpened ninth.
It actually has a flat 5, a sharp 5, a flat 9 and a sharp 9 in it - so some combination of those things, which is why it’s called C7 altered. Just to finish off, how is it we came across a minor seventh flat9 when we were talking about a major scale in the last section and now we’re talking about a melodic minor ascending? It’s to do with the fact that the chord does not really tie down the scale completely. In this case, there’s an ambiguity at the sixth level - or the thirteenth level, if you like.
Remember we had B we didn’t want the ninth in because it’s not in G major, so we naturalised it so it was B minor seventh with a flattened ninth and then the scale was Let’s do the same thing - just move it all up a semitone so it’s rooted on C. Then we get
That’s it, so we get C minor7 flat9.
Now if we move it all up a semitone: take the G scale and move it up a semitone we get A flat major. which if we root it on C we get and you compare that to the second scale and you’ll see that what’s happened is there that the sixth is flattened, or the thirteenth is flattened. Now you could obviously have C minor7 flat9 flat13 which would indicate more precisely that scale, but you can see there are ambiguities there. As I pointed out, really before, the minor with the major seventh - that’s important - so learn that, and that is, after all, the melodic minor scale ascending.
The Lydian dominant - the sharpened eleventh - we’re going to see that that crops up a lot. It’s a colour for a seventh chord. Whenever you’ve got a seventh chord, you can always sharpen the eleventh and that will give you some more colour. Then there’s the Locrian #2 which we saw was my preferred scale for the half diminished. It’s an alternative. Finally, there’s the altered scale and the altered scale is really important. It crops up a lot in modern jazz piano.
Let’s have an example now of a piece that has the very first scale in it - the minor-major scale.

We look at the seven modes of the melodic minor ascending scale.

You can download the chart for “Melodic Minor Ascending Modes” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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