• A Lesson On The Scale Degree Seventh Chords Of The Melodic Minor Scale

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning the scale degree seventh chords of the melodic minor scale, this lesson is for you.

    Scale degree seventh chords of the melodic minor scale adds a variety of other chord qualities that are not in the natural major and harmonic minor scales that we’ve covered in the past.

    This lesson is written with experienced players in mind, however, beginners and pre-advanced players also have something to learn.

    Without further ado, let’s get into the lesson by doing a brief study on the melodic minor scale.

    “What Is A Melodic Minor Scale?”

    The melodic minor scale is a chromatic variant of the natural minor scale. The natural minor scale is the traditional scale of the minor key and can be seen as an outline of the notes in the minor key.

    In the key of A minor, the A natural minor scale can be formed by playing all the white notes on the keyboard from A:

    …to A:

    Take a look at the A natural minor scale:

    …with all eight scale degree.

    The natural minor scale lacks what music scholars call the leading note feeling. A scale is said to have the leading note feeling if the distance between the seventh and eight (or first) tones is a half step.

    In-between the seventh (G):

    …and eighth (A):

    …degree of the natural minor scale is a whole step, versus in the major key, (for example, in the A major scale):

    …where the distance between the seventh (G#):

    …and eighth (A):

    …degrees is a half step.

    In a bid to give a leading note feeling to the natural minor scale (like the A natural minor scale):

    …its seventh degree (G):

    …can be raised (by a half step) to G#:

    …to form the harmonic minor scale:

    “Let’s Keep Going…”

    Due to the modification of the seventh tone of the natural minor scale to form the harmonic minor scale, the harmonic minor scale is said to be chromatic.

    The modification that solved the leading note problem created a melodic problem.

    In the A harmonic minor scale:

    …the gap between the sixth and seventh degrees which are F:

    …and G#:

    …respectively is an augmented second interval, which was difficult to approach melodically because of its dissonance.

    Raising the sixth degree of the harmonic minor scale (the A harmonic minor scale in this case):

    …which is F:

    …by a half step (to F#):

    …forms the A melodic minor scale:

    In a nutshell, the melodic minor scale can be defined as a natural minor scale whose sixth and seventh degrees are raised. The melodic minor scale is also a chromatic variant of the natural minor scale because of the raised sixth and seventh tones.

    For your reference, here’s the melodic minor scale in all twelve keys…

    C melodic minor scale:

    C# melodic minor scale:

    D melodic minor scale:

    Eb melodic minor scale:

    E melodic minor scale:

    F melodic minor scale:

    F# melodic minor scale:

    G melodic minor scale:

    Ab melodic minor scale:

    A melodic minor scale:

    Bb melodic minor scale:

    B melodic minor scale:

    To take you to the next level in this lesson, we’ll be exploring the formation of seventh chords using the melodic minor scale. Right before we do that, let’s talk about seventh chords.

    “What Are Seventh Chords?”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a chord is a collection of related notes that can be played [or heard] simultaneously or separately.” For a collection of pitches to be considered as a chord, they must be related by these two factors:

    • Scale
    • Interval

    The notes of the C major triad:

    …are related to the C major scale because C, E, and G:

    …are the first third and fifth tones of the C major scale:

    The notes of the C major triad:

    …are related by third intervals.

    The interval between C and E:

    …is a third interval and so is the interval between E and G:

    In a nutshell, the notes of the C major triad:

    …show:

    • A scale relationship (using the C major scale)
    • An intervallic relationship (in interval of thirds)

    Attention: Intervallic relationship in thirds produces a class of chords known to music scholars as tertian chords.

    “Let’s Define A Seventh Chord…”

    A seventh chord is a collection of related notes that encompass seven degrees of any given scale.

    Using the C major scale as a guide:

    …if we stack another third interval to the C major triad:

    …we’ll have the C major seventh chord:

    Take note that a third above C-E-G:

    …is B:

    The C major seventh chord:

    …is considered as a seventh chord because it encompasses seven degrees of the C major scale from C to B:

    “Good Job!”

    To take you further in this study, I’ll be showing you how to form chords in interval of thirds using the melodic minor scale. But before we do that, it’s important that I show you the pick-skip technique, which is one of the easiest techniques in chord formation.

    How To Form Chords Using The Pick-Skip Technique

    Instead of stacking thirds in the formation of the C major seventh chord:

    …we can pick and skip notes in the C major scale.

    “It’s Easier Than It Sounds”

    In the C major scale:

    …we can pick C:

    …skip D and pick E:

    …skip F and pick G:

    …skip A and pick B:

    …and here we are with the C major seventh chord.

    “That Was Easy Right?!”

    We’ll be using the pick-skip technique extensively in the next segment to form the scale degree seventh chords of the melodic minor scale.

    Scale Degree Seventh Chords Of The Melodic Minor Scale

    Using the pick-skip technique, let’s explore the scale degree seventh chords of the A melodic minor scale:

    The Chord Of The First Degree

    Starting from A:

    …which is the first tone of the A melodic minor scale:

    Pick A:

    …skip B, pick C:

    …skip D, pick E:

    …skip F#, pick G#:

    …so altogether we have A-C-E-G#:

    …which is basically a minor triad with a major seventh, commonly known as the minor major seventh chord.

    The chord of the first degree of the melodic minor scale is the A minor major seventh chord:

    The Chord Of The Second Degree

    The second degree of the melodic minor scale is B:

    So, pick B:

    …skip C, pick D:

    …skip E, pick F#:

    …skip G#, pick A:

    This produces B-D-F#-A:

    …which is the B minor seventh chord.

    The Chord Of The Third Degree

    The third degree of the A melodic minor scale is C:

    So, pick C:

    …skip D, pick E:

    …skip F#, pick G#:

    …skip A, pick B:

    …so altogether, C-E-G#-B:

    …which is the C augmented major seventh chord.

    The Chord Of The Fourth Degree

    The fourth degree of the A melodic minor scale is D:

    So, pick D:

    …skip E, pick F#:

    …skip G#, pick A:

    …skip B, and pick C:

    Altogether, D-F#-A-C:

    …which is the D dominant seventh chord.

    The Chord Of The Fifth Degree

    The fifth degree of the A melodic minor scale is E:

    Pick E:

    …skip F#, pick G#:

    …skip A, pick B:

    …skip C, pick D:

    Altogether, we have E-G#-B-D:

    …which is the E dominant seventh chord.

    The Chord Of The Sixth Degree

    The sixth degree of the A melodic minor scale is F#:

    Pick F#:

    …skip G#, pick A:

    …skip B, pick C:

    …skip D, pick E:

    …so altogether, F#-A-C-E:

    …which is the F# half-diminished seventh chord.

    The Chord Of The Seventh Degree

    The seventh degree of the A melodic minor scale is G#:

    Pick G#:

    …skip A, pick B:

    …skip C, pick D:

    …skip E, pick F#:

    …altogether, G#-B-D-F#:

    …which is the G# half-diminished seventh chord.

    Final Words

    The melodic minor scale is the source of all the seventh chords we formed in this lesson.

    The minor major seventh chord:
    ..the minor seventh chord:

    …the augmented major seventh chord:

    …the dominant seventh chord:

    …the dominant seventh chord:

    …the half diminished seventh chord:

    …and the half diminished seventh chord:

    In a nutshell, there are five different seventh chord qualities in the melodic minor scale – the minor major seventh chord, the minor seventh chord, the augmented seventh chord, the dominant seventh chord, and the half-diminished seventh chords.

    I’ll see you in another lesson where we’ll be learning how to improvise over these chords we derived from the melodic minor scale.

    Until then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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