Melodic Minor Modes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JazZ-A-LoT, Jun 27, 2003.

  1. JazZ-A-LoT

    JazZ-A-LoT Guest

    Jan 5, 2003
    How are the melodic minor modes constructed/ what are they? Please give me the lowdown on these funky ditties. Thx
  2. CrazySean

    CrazySean Guest

    Mar 14, 2002
    Staten Island, NY
    Don't know but check for lessons.


    "And the Zs in Jazz stand for zzzzzzzzzz......"

    Bring it on!
  3. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    The most common ones are Lydian Dominant, Super Locrian, and half-diminished, i beleive.

    Lydian Dominant is formed:
    R 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
    It is mixolydian with a sharp 4th, or lydian with a flat 7th.

    It works over X7 #11 chords, as well as dominant chords (especially if the iv, if it's dominant.)

    Super-locrian (the 7th mode) is formed:
    R b2 #2 3 #4/b5 b6/#5 b7
    It is locrian with a flat 4th (which turns into a major third) or ionian with a flat root. :confused:

    It will work over every altered chord: X alt, X b9, X #9, X #11, etc.

    Half-diminished is formed:
    R 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
    aeolian (natural minor) with a flat 5, or locrian with a natural 9.

    It works well with half-diminished chords (minor b5.)
  4. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    This page handles the modes of melodic minor:

    To avoid later confusion, the melodic minor scale is played up and down the same way in the Jazz idiom:

    C D Eb F G A B C

    In the classical idiom, it's taught C D Eb F G A B C ascending, and natural minor descending: C D Eb F G A Bb C
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    To add to the nomenclature here and maybe muddy the water, "The Bass Grimoire" lists the modes of the Melodic Scale and their intervals as the following:

    I. Melodic Minor:1, 2,flat 3,4, 5, 6, 7

    II. Dorian Flat 2: 1, flat 2, flat 3,4,5,6,flat 7

    III. Lydian Augmented: 1,2,3, #4, #5, 6,7

    IV. Lydian Dominant: 1,2,3, #4, 5,6, flat 7

    V. Hindu: 1,2,3,4,5,flat 6, flat 7

    VI. Locrian Natural 2: 1,2, flat 3, 4, flat 5, flat 6, flat 7

    VII. Super Locrian: 1,flat 2, flat 3, flat 4, flat 5, flat 6, flat 7
  6. moley

    moley Guest

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    The names of the modes of the melodic minor don't seem to be particularly standardized. Lydian Dominant and Lydian Augmented seem to be the ones people do agree on. In addition to those two, I'd call the 6th mode the half-diminished scale, and the 7th mode the altered mode. Makes sense, because these are the chords that they are commonly associated with.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It's important to remember that the 6th mode (which we call "Locrian #2" here in Aebersold-land) is a coloristic substitution in a minor ii-V-i rather than an organic part of the overall tonality, as the #2 of the "ii" chord would be the natural (major) 3rd of the eventual chord of resolution.

    Translation: while many jazz theory books advocate this scale as "the" hip half-diminished sound to play in jazz, it's not the most common or "inside" choice by any means. Likewise the #4 of the "Super Locrian" mode (called "Diminished/Whole Tone" in Aeberland...), which equates to a #1 of the resolution chord, while all of the other notes of the scale can easily be viewed as organic to the overall key. A careful examination of the melodies to standards in minor keys reveals that what most composers originally intended was a lot more conventional than the reharms of the same tunes that many younger players have grown up with.
  8. moley

    moley Guest

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, good point. Although Locrian, being perhaps the more commonly advocated scale for half-dim chords, does have something of an "avoid-note" with the b2?

    But you're right about the natural 2 in the Locrian #2/Half-Dim scale being a colouristic substitution.
  9. TJC

    TJC Guest

    Jun 28, 2002
    Los Angeles
    So you refer to the b5 in the 7th mode (or super locrian) as a #4? Levine calls this an altered dominant - because he's also treating what was originally a b4 as the major 3rd. We then get both a b9 and #9? Why shift everything like that?

    I'm just starting to get into melodic minor harmony so this makes me a bit dizzy. How come we don't just say that everything is flat and leave it at that?

    1 - b2 - b3 - b4 - b5 - b6 - b7

  10. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    You mean "ionian with a sharp root". ;)
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    You could do that, but you'd be missing the harmonic point. The b4 is really the third of the chord, and will be voiced accordingly by whatever chordal instrument is playing in most cases. And both the #9 and b9 are extremely rich color tones which usually coexist together both melodically and harmonically. The sound of the #9 and b9 are an important part of the vocabulary. Why call one of them the third when the chord already has a third?
  12. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks for pointing that out. I'm sure now someone is going to fix their problem with playing super locrian as ionian with a flat root by sharping the root. :D
  13. TJC

    TJC Guest

    Jun 28, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I guess that's where I'm looking at this too academically. I'm thinking... the 3rd note is the 3rd note and thus should act as the 3rd. Is it some sort of functional anomaly? The sound of the mode fits better in the scale when the roles of the notes are shifted ( the b4 becomes the 3rd, etc...)? Or are you saying that the sound of these notes just doesn't fit (in theory) with the rest of the parent scale regardless of whether you treat like a Bdim, or a B7alt.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    You're getting closer. In order for the chord to be a dominant chord, it has to contain the following intervals above the root:

    (R) ...Major 3rd...........Minor 7th....




    Just remember that your ear can't tell how the chord is spelled, it only hears the harmonic intervals. So even if you were to spell the first chord above C - Fb - A# and the second chord Bb - Ebb - Ab on paper, it wouldn't matter, because the distances between the notes would remain the same, and would thus sound the same to the ear. Does that help?
  15. TJC

    TJC Guest

    Jun 28, 2002
    Los Angeles

    That's where I'm hung up. I don't understand why this has to become a dominant chord - especially when the melodic minor scale already has two dominant chords formed by its 4th and 5th modes.

    And are you saying that the sound of this bastard mode doesn't fit with the rest of its parent scale regardless of whether you treat it 'as is' (like a diminished) or whether you shift the roles around (to make it a dominant)?
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Ahh, I think I see where you are coming've discovered that the so called "Modes of Melodic Minor" have NO RELATION WHATSOEVER to the chords they are supposed to support from the "parent key" in actual tunes. Good to see I'm not the only one who thinks this is reason enough to dismiss the importance of thinking of melodic minor as having modes which apply to its key center in any meaningful way.

    Let's review.

    In major, you have the following chords:

    IMa7 - goes with the Ionian mode.
    iimi7 - goes with Dorian.
    iiimi7 - Phrygian.
    IVMa7 - Lydian.
    V7 - Mixolydian.
    vimi7 - Aeolian.
    viimi7b5 - Locrian.

    Cool, everything pans out. At this point, it all seems easy, as the chords and the scales all line up to the point to where you might reasonably ask, "which came first, the chord or the scale? Are the scales produced by adding up all of the notes of the chords, or are the chords produced by taking each mode and just spelling 1-3-5-7 out of it?". And with major, it doesn't matter, because it comes out the same either way.

    Now let's try the same thing with minor:

    imi7 - Melodic minor. Okay, sure, sometimes that works, unless you really wanted a minor 7 in the chord, in which case, have to borrow it from another minor form.

    iimi7b5 - Hmmm. Where do we get the b5 from melodic minor? Uh, I guess we'll have to borrow it.

    bIIIMa7 - Gee, I guess we'll just have to assume that composers have been writing their chords wrong for a couple hundred years, 'cause I'm coming up with "bIIIMa7#5" here. Okay, sure, we'll just chalk it up to a bunch of composers writing the wrong III chord for a minute...

    IVmi7 - Dammit, those same composers must have ****ed up the IV chord as well, 'cause when I use Melodic Minor to build the IV chord, it comes out Dominant. Stupid composers!

    V7alt - Man these composers must be really dense. Where did they get that "alt" BS from? When I spell the V7 scale from Melodic minor, I just get a Dominant scale with a b6. Geez, if most of these guys weren't already dead, I'd give 'em a piece of my mind!

    bVIMa7 - What????Where the hell did these morons get the b6 from?? Geez, and we've been playing this music all this time????

    vimi7b5 - well at least SOME of these guys had the good sense to use the right chord everyonce in a while. At least this one lines up. Locrian #2 it is! Long live Locrian #2!!!

    (bVIIMa7) * - Why do people use this chord so often? This isn't in Melodic Minor!!! Duh!

    viio7 - Well, at least the dopes got three quarters of this chord right, but from melodic minor, this should be mi7b5. Man, we need to rethink all of this music we've been playing for the past couple hundred years...I mean, it's just theoretically WRONG, you know?

    * (You'll see this chord sometimes, and other times you'll see it as "bVII7", which is actually V7/bIII)

    See the problem here? ;)

    What I'm trying to say is that the chords that have been used in countless minor compositions since damn near the beginning of Western Music do not come from the melodic minor least not from the "jazz" version of the melodic minor scale. Rather, they come from the "classical" version of the melodic minor scale, which includes an "ascending" form with a raised 6th and 7th (same as what jazz players call "melodic minor"), and a descending form which includes a flatted 6th and 7th (which is the same as "natural Minor", a.k.a. "Aeolian"). Some chords want the b6 or b7, some chords want the raised versions of those two notes.

    So my best approximation of a "real and funtional" minor scale for jazz would look like this: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - (b6 or6) - (b7 and/or7) - 8.

    The fact that different diatonic chords require different versions of the 6th and 7th in minor is the reason I find the concept of "modes of melodic minor" to be basically worthless in practical application. Does this make sense, or is this only more confusing?
  17. moley

    moley Guest

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Chris, I've seen you rip on the modes of the melodic minor before :D

    And I can see where you're coming from here.

    But, I just wondered what you think of what Levine says on the matter, in that book that everyone keeps recommending to everyone :D

    Basically, that the melodic minor scale (whatever note you start on) is useful, and in particular, the idea of interchangeability of chords from said scale.

    Chords derived from the C Melodic Minor scale, for example, being:


    And the idea being that since the melodic minor doesn't really have any "avoid notes" (unlike major), these chords are more or less interchangeable.

    Now obviously, 2-5-1 in C Minor doesn't use the chords from the 2nd and 5th modes of this scale, respectively, but rather the chords formed from the 6th mode of F Melodic Minor (or indeed D Locrian - whatever tickles your fancy) and the 7th mode of Ab Melodic Minor (or possibly G half-step/whole-step diminished, if that's what floats your boat), respectively. I guess this is one of your main gripes with the modes of the melodic minor - they don't correspond to the chords rooted on those degrees of the scale - i.e. chord 2 is from the 6th mode etc.

    But the idea of these chords being more or less interchangeable, and the concept that when you're playing over any of them, you can look at it as playing in the key of C Melodic Minor, kinda struck a chord (pun intended) with me :D

    For some reason, I quite dig the idea that when playing over a B7alt chord, I'm playing in C Melodic Minor. And that you can use the same voicing, up a minor 3rd, then up a major 3rd, for 2-5-1 in a minor key :D

    What is your view on this approach, and idea of interchangeability of melodic minor chords?
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I'm not sure of the viocing you're talking about, but I do the same all the time without thinking of melodic minor at all. For example, from the bottom up:

    Dmi7b5(sus*) - D, G, Ab, C
    G7#9(#5) - F, A#, B, D#/Eb
    Cmi6 - A, D, Eb, G

    * if you want to be picky about the name

    The above voicings behave exactly as you described, retaining the same shape and moving up first by minor third, then by major third (they're rootless, of course, except for the first one). But nothing in them implies Melodic Minor at all, although they allow for Mark's interpretation of chord scales - you could still play Locrian#2 over the D chord, Dim/WT over the G7, and C Melodic Minor over the C-6. But, and this is a large "but", in and of themselves, they also allow for the more basic and original meaning of "minor", as evidenced by what you get when you add all of the notes of the three chords up to form a single scale or tonality:

    C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C

    Which leaves me right back where I started. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against reharms, ornamentations, and interesting color tone substitutions - I just think they should be recognized and interesting and potentially beautiful variations on the fundamental intent rather than the fundamental intent itself. :)
  19. moley

    moley Guest

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Thanks, Chris :)

    I see what you're saying. Basically, Levine's approach to this, while valid, and yields some beautiful harmonies, should perhaps be seen as a reharmonization of basic minor harmony, rather than the basic harmony itself, and it is important to be aware of the basic harmonies that you a reharmonizing when you take this approach.

    Oh and...

    That is exactly the voicing I was thinking of :)

    Though, I'm sure there are others that would work in the same way.

    And you're right of course, you don't have to be thinking of melodic minor to do this - but it does work within the melodic minor framework Levine outlines.