The Melodic Minor Modes

The Melodic Minor scale is one of my favorite scales. It’s also one of the most important scales on which to learn to improvise, because some of the most important chords in Jazz come directly from the modes of the Melodic Minor scale. In this lesson we’ll break down the Melodic Minor modes and their corresponding 7th chords.

Side Note: Although there is no single nomenclature for writing chords and scale symbols, I will use what I feel is the most widely used. I do suggest you become familiar with as many ways of writing the same scale/chord sound as possible, as this will make it easier to learn from various sources.

In the graphic below, I’ve written out all seven modes of the Melodic Minor scale in the key of C Minor. To the right of each mode is the basic 7th chord voicing that corresponds to it. Begin your work as I described in my first lesson – sing the scale (without playing it), first using the letters, then the corresponding numbers. Also sing the related 7th chord. Then, play and sing the scale and chord. If you have a keyboard, it’s also a great idea to sound the chords as you play the scales, so that you hear how the notes move through the chord. (You could also record the chord, then play back an infinite loop.)

Side Note: Click on any image to view (and print) at full size in a new window.

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Refer back to my first lesson and work through all the exercises I listed there. Remember to play these exercises through all 15 Melodic Minor scales, not just a few favorites in which you are comfortable. Only by learning this scale in all keys will you truly internalize it. In fact, a great homework assignment would be to write out the seven modes in each key. This is one more way to help you internalize them.

Example 1

Example 2

Let me remind you: Don’t wait until you have these modes completely under your fingers to use. Play them right away. Sing phrases/melodies, counter points, chords etc., based on these modes. This will help you internalize the modes more quickly.

As always, I hope you find this lesson useful. If you have questions or comments, I’d love to hear them.

On with the groove!


Joe SanchezAbout the Author – Joe Sanchez is a freelance musician with 30 years experience, playing National festivals, theaters, club circuits, private events, session work, and clinics. Over the years he has played and recorded across many genres of music, including Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Rock, Top 40, Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz. In addition to his clinic appearances, Joe has been teaching privately for 15 years. He is also featured on Victor Wooten’s Groove Workshop DVD. True to his belief that learning should be ongoing endeavor, Joe has studied extensively with Matthew Garrison, and also studied with John Patitucci and Lincoln Goines.  Joe proudly endorses Fodera Basses. For more information regarding private lessons (in person or via Skype), email Joe directly.  Learn more on Joe’s Facebook page; watch his videos on You Tube, and follow him on Twitter.


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