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Rick Graham - Melodic Minor For The Rock Guitarist

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 13 **

Firstly, let’s take a look at the C melodic minor scale:

















As we can see from the above table, the scale has a flattened 3rd degree and natural 6th and 7th degrees. It can be beneficial to try to create an image in your head when you hear this scale as a whole. I find that by doing this, it enables me to instantly identify the scale whenever I hear it.

Of course, it is essential to see each interval within the scale as an individual colour too.  Don’t just stop at this scale either; apply it to everything you know.

There are many ways that you can view the melodic minor scale. Some musicians see it as a major scale with a flattened 3rd degree. Some see it as a natural minor scale with sharpened 6th and 7th degrees, others as a dorian mode with a sharpened 7th degree. I think the best advice is to try and view it in as many ways as you possibly can, as it will help to keep your options, as well as your mind, well and truly open.

Using scale fragments

A further way in which the melodic minor scale can be viewed is that it is a hybrid scale of sorts. If we start on the 7th degree of the scale (which is actually superlocrian mode, but we are not thinking in modes yet) which is B natural, the sequence of tones and semi-tones can be seen as a hybrid of the half/whole scale and the whole tone scale. The 7th, root, 2nd and 3rd degrees of the scale are the same as the first 4 notes of a B half/whole scale. The 4th 5th 6th and 7th scale degrees can be seen as the first 4 notes of an F whole-tone scale. Played as a complete scale they form the C melodic minor scale. It can be extremely useful to use this approach as a means of learning the scale, especially from an intervallic perspective. Using scale fragments also comes in very handy when we want to negotiate particular chord progressions too.

Practicing the scale as double stop intervals

When I first started to work on the melodic minor scale, one particular approach that helped me to get more of an understanding of its construction was to play the scale as intervals. Just as you can do with conventional diatonic harmony, I started with 3rd intervals adding 6th, 4th, 5th,  7th and 2nd intervals as I became more comfortable. Once you have the shapes down you can then use sequences to make the intervals sound more interesting.

Be sure to try to come up with your own sequences using these and a variety of other intervals made up from the C melodic minor scale. Have fun and see you next lesson!

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