Minor 6 chords, dorian vs melodic minor

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Groove Master, May 31, 2020.

  1. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Hi there,
    On the other side there was a discussion about the use of the dorian scale versus the melodic minor scale over a minor 6 chord (not to be confused with a minor 13 or minMaj13). I still think the b7 should be use with caution over a minor 6th and is sounding (to my ears) more like a blue note rather then a chord tone. Of course the dissonance between the 6 and b7 as a semi-tone or as a b9 interval is not a pleasant sound unless this is the desire effect.
    I did wrote a little piece of music this morning using both scales but the melodic minor scale sounds much open and the b7 gives it a blue sound when needed.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    On jazz standards, I tend not to take chord symbols literally because charts from different sources differ so much in the details. Beyond that, I don't think in terms of chord scales in isolation 99% of the time, and try to understand the progression in a more holistic context, including what the melody is doing at any given time.

    That said, if you are a player who feels that the chord symbol should literally match the chord scale, I would advocate playing whichever note choice you hear in that moment, and not feel like anyone is compelled to hear the line the same way each time it occurs. If a player hears a sound as valid in any given moment, they should play that!
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  3. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Ok nice points and thanks for the link. Very interesting to put it like that :)
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  4. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Here is an example of both the 7 and 6 (and 9!) in a Gmin.....chord voicing. The voicing below may not be exactly what B.Evans is playing at 0:19 in the YT below, but it sounds (close?) beautiful to me. I think it opens a door to more melodic options and possibilities...
    Just my $0.03.

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  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    To add to what @Chris Fitzgerald said, your Amin6 chord (spelled A-C-E-F#) could exist in a variety of contexts, some of which might have a G and some of which might have a G#.

    Not sure what you mean about b7 - it's not a chord tone when the chord is 1-3-5-6.

    Silevesq likes this.
  6. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    There is also the context in which the chord appear and what fonction does it serve.

    If you really want to make the connection from scale to a chord you could have a Cm6 that is H.M, Dorian with a b9 or Phrygian with a natural 6, or anything actually that you'd like. I could tell you just fill in the X how ever you feel: C - X - Eb - X - G - A - X. You could even make it an 8 note(or more) scale if you feel.

    But the most important thing to me is context, what is the purpose of said chord and what fonction does it serve? And if you play it a certain way what is your goal. Why?
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  7. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Thanks but this is more like a Gmin13 no 11 especially with that b7 and the 13 above it.
  8. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    I mean the minor 7 that is in the dorian scale compare to the major 7 in the melodic minor scale.
  9. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    You say ToMAYto, I say ToMAHto...Jazz Harmony Nomenclature is a foggy area, to be sure. I think we just have different "names" for the same collection of pitches in the voicing. Yes?
    But you do see/hear that the b7 can coexist with the 6/13 in a minor chord? If an F# were present in the chord voicing, I would specify ".....Maj7...." in the spelling of the Chord Name.
    Thanks, GM.
  10. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Don, I never said that a 13 cannot be in a minor chord. It is beautiful in both scales: the dorian and the melodic minor.
    As an arranger, composer you have to be aware of what is part of the basic chord and what are the extensions which is the case here in my opinion.

    Anyway thanks for bringing the dorian in the equation of the minor 6 ;-)
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  11. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    @Groove Master Bonjour Sylvain ;)

    Forgot to ask but, when you say blue note... Do you mean as a passing tone? Not a note that you'd hold but rather as a note that lead to something else?
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  12. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Bonjour @Simon Lévesque
    Yeah I feel that minor 7 over a minor 6 like a blue note (flatten a chord-tone) just like when you blues a major third or put a dominant 7 over a major chord.
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    It (b7) IS a chord tone when the the chord is named "Gmin7,9,13". Chords can be named to have more than just 4 chord tones. If you add a b7 or Maj7 to a (Xmin6) chord, the chord name should specify that information.
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
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  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Hungarian minor or Ukranian Dorian?

    Personally, I love the discourse & struggle with the same challenges every day...

    Django didn't have a name for any of them, but he sure could make those two nubs glide across the fingerboard and sound great, worrying more about what came from his heart than winning a math contest....;)
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  15. lurk

    lurk Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2009
    This is the problem with scale-chord theory IMHO. Most of the time when you play an instrument like ours where it's pretty hard to pull off "sheets of sound" you're much better off thinking of chord tones and neighbors, connecting notes, escape tones, etc etc.
  16. jjqq123


    Aug 16, 2017
    I think that if you play melodic minor over a chord you need to keep in mind that you are tonicizing that chord.
    I agree with Chris Fitzgerald regarding that you need context.
  17. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Speaking of context, we should probably talk about what would make someone write a minor 6 chord as opposed to a min7, 9, 13, or whatever. Here are three common situations where I often see a min6 chord written. The harmonic function is different from one to the next, and the scales one might feel inclined to reference are also different.

    1.) As a tonic chord. This is pretty common when a tune is in a minor key. Jazz musicians writing charts seem to be afraid to just write (for example) Cmin, so they are compelled to put something after it. Cmin7 most often implies a ii chord in major (or a iii chord, or a vi chord), so that's a bad choice. Cmin(maj7) is a little too restrictive on the melodic choices of the player and harder to read, so Cmin6 is used as a compromise, IMHO. Melodic minor probably makes the most sense here if you need to think of a complete scale, but the minor 7 is fine as a passing note.

    2.) As a minor iv chord in major. This is a common chord to see, usually resolving to the tonic, e.g. |Cmaj7|Cmin6|Gmaj|. The major 7 usually sounds best to me here. If you really need a 7 note scale to play here, melodic minor or the 4th mode of harmonic major can work, although that fourth scale degree in either case requires some care. I often tend to play more from a six note scale leaving out the 4th scale degree (C,D,Eb,G,A,B), or I may adjust it for melodic purposes: F# if I'm going up to G, F if I'm going down to Eb.

    3.) As an inversion of a half-diminished chord, especially as a ii chord in minor. You see this a lot in old charts. For example |Cmin6|D7|Gmin| instead of |A-7b5|D7|Gmin| as a minor 251. You can use Dorian here as it is the most natural to the key. If you voice it out with notes from the Dorian scale, it can end up more like that first chord chord of Blue in Green above. For those who are really thinking of it as a A-7b5 and hate the sound of the b9 on that chord, you could use melodic minor instead.
  18. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Thank for your reply. I am aware of all the functions of a minor 6 chord. Great chord which is also an hidden dominant lydian chord ;-)

    My question is regarding the scale of choice when it does function as a I. So far both scales work but I do prefer the melodic minor because it does sound more open and doesn't have any clash or dissonance when we build extensions on top. But I came up with a composition that used both scales with the 6, Major 7 and minor 7 in it without using the standard descending line from octave to fifth.

    I was wondering what others play on such a chord as a I.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
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  19. Don‘t forget that a chord symbol is a symbol for a chord, not primarily for a scale. So the 6 means that a 6 should be played in the chord, not any flavor of 7.
    That is because of the sound of the chord.

    Even if you ask the scale for a “i”-function, it highly depends on context and style which one is better as a scale note a b7 or a 7. Since there are only two choices, try them in context and choose what you like better and what the other musicians agree about. If they do not agree find a solution with them and write that in your charts if they (including you) cannot respond quickly enough to the player who defines the seven by playing it first. (That is very hard to do, but some clashes might be acceptable. Well, it’s jazz...)
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  20. redstrand


    May 18, 2007
    Saint Louis, MO
    Fool For Four Strings
    As always, does it it sound good? My teacher says while technically that’s correct it doesn’t sound correct. I’ve written out so many pieces and have to scratch my head when it just doesn’t sound right. If so you’re doing is supporting the other instruments and playing said chord tones, you’re fine. Playing anything in that scale should work too. If I’m struggling I’ll pare it down to the pentatonic and just cruise with the five notes. Try some of this on piano, inverted chords are a big help too
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