• What everybody ought to know about melodic minor scales

    in Scales

    Lately we’ve been talking about minor scales.

    Yesterday, I introduced the harmonic minor scale and how easy it is to play when you know your natural minor scales.

    Today, I’ll go a step further and teach you how to form the melodic minor scale.

    Let’s start by reviewing the natural and harmonic minor scales.

    C natural minor

    C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

    C harmonic minor

    (simply raise the 7th tone a half step)

    C D Eb F G Ab B C

    Later on, composers thought the interval from “Ab to B” (which is an augmented second) was awkward and preferred a whole step between the 6th and 7th degrees.

    So they raised the 6th tone a half step and called this the melodic minor scale since it made melody writing in minor keys smoother.

    So let’s take our C harmonic minor scale and see what happens when we raise the 6th.

    C harmonic minor

    C D Eb F G Ab B C

    Raise the Ab to A

    C melodic minor

    C D Eb F G A B C

    So essentially, to create the harmonic minor scale, we raise the 7th tone of the natural minor scale.

    Similarly, to create the melodic minor scale, we not only raise the 7th tone but we also raise the 6th tone of the natural minor scale.

    Natural minor >>> creates >>> harmonic minor >>> creates >>> melodic minor

    Note about raising tones: As long as you never ever change the alphabet letter, you’ll be fine. In other words, if you’re raising a “B,” you shouldn’t change that “B” to “C.” Instead, you need to write it as B#. Yes, I know… B# isn’t used that much but that’s just what you have to do (B# is the enharmonic equivalent of C; they make the same sound just like the words “there” and “their” but they aren’t the same). Even if the key you’re in mainly has flats, it is alright to change a “G,” for example to “G#.” That particular key will simply have flats until it’s time to get to the raised tones. The idea is to never skip an alphabet letter so if you change a G# to Ab, then you’re skipping the alphabet letter G in the scale. Do what you gotta do to never change the actual letter.

    I like to look at the melodic minor as simply the major scale with a flat third because that’s exactly what it is:

    C major

    C D E F G A B C

    C melodic minor

    C D Eb F G A B C

    There you have it! The melodic minor scale!

    Exercise: Let’s use the comment area below to list all 12 natural, harmonic, and melodic scales. In your post, list the natural minor scale first, then raise the 7th to create the harmonic minor scale on the next line… then on the final line, take the harmonic minor scale and raise the 6th to create the melodic minor scale. Let’s try to list all 36 of em below! I’ll start it off!

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    1 Jermaine

    C natural minor
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

    C harmonic minor (note: raised 7th)
    C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C melodic minor (note: raised 6th AND 7th)
    C D Eb F G A B C

    Who’s got the next one?

    2 Sam (Boyam)

    D Natural Minor
    D E F G A Bb C D

    D harmonic minor
    D E F G A Bb C# D

    D Melodic Minor
    D E F G A B C# D

    3 Laketa

    Hi Jermaine,

    Thanks for the exercise! I thought I’d give one a try. Also, I’d like to thank you for the wealth of information that you share. You have truly been a blessing to me. I have been practicing for about 7 months “just you and me” and I tell you, I personally can see the growth. Keep the post coming, cause if no one is else is being blessed I sure am.

    C# natural minor
    C# D# E F# G# A B C#

    C# harmonic minor
    C# D# E F# G# A B# C# not to sure about this one… is there a B#?

    C# melodic minor
    C# D# E F# G# A# B# C#

    By the way, I love the radio show. I got a chance to get through last show in the “lighting round”. I wasn’t successful at answering the question. But, I sure learned a lot. So, the next time you see 586 chime me in. I’m interested in asking questions. Not to say that I wouldn’t be excited about winning a course, but as much info you share….as a trade off, I’d rather buy one.

    God Bless

    4 Jermaine

    @Boyam: Thanks for the 2nd scale! You also introduced something that I didn’t mention. Raising the 7th tone means “raising” the 7th, even if it means introducing a sharp to a key that normally has flats. Unlike regular major and minor scales where flats stay with flats and sharps stay with sharps, it is possible to have a key (like D minor harmonic or melodic) with flats and sharps (on the raised 7th and raised 6th).

    @Leketa: You are absolutely correct as well! Thanks for your great comments! And yes, there is such thing as a B#. As long as you’re sharping the current note or taking away a flat (if it is a black note), then you’ll be fine. The idea is not to skip an alphabet letter and in all your answers, you never skipped a letter — so that’s a good thing!

    See you on the show next Tuesday!

    5 Jermaine

    Ok let’s keep it going! We have 3 sets of scales so far, including mine.

    9 more to go!

    Come on folks, come on!!! :)

    6 Girts

    F natural minor
    F, G, Ab, B♭, C, Db, Eb, F

    F harmonic minor
    F, G, Ab, B♭, C, Db, E, F

    F melodic minor
    F, G, Ab, B♭, C, D, E, F

    7 Jermaine

    @Girts! Thanks for the 4th set of scales. Right on!

    p.S. – How did you get your Bb to show up like that? It’s the real flat symbol instead of “Bb”…??????

    8 BRIAN AKA TRUMUSIC1SOUL

    Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb (Bb NATURAL MINOR)
    Bb C Db Eb F Gb A Bb (HARMONIC MINOR)
    Bb C Db Eb F G A Bb (MELODIC MINOR)

    ALOT TO REGISTER BUT SIMPLE TO REMEMBER. LIKE STARLING QUOTES…IRON SHARPENS IRON
    THANKS,JG

    9 Jermaine

    @Brian: Absolutely! Thanks for #5…

    7 mo…

    10 Girts

    @Jermaine: I’ve started by finding F major scale on the net (here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F_major) and just copy paste text from there. That text had that real flat symbol.

    and then I went backwards by lowering 3rd, 6th and 7th notes :)
    F major scale -> F melodic minor -> F harmonic minor -> F natural minor.

    11 chawk

    G natural minor
    G A Bb C D Eb F# G

    G harmonic minor
    G A Bb C D Eb F G

    G melodic minor
    G A Bb C D E F G

    12 Jermaine

    @Chawk! Thanks for posting.

    Your G natural minor should be:

    G A Bb C D Eb F G

    (no F#)

    And your harmonic minor should have the F#. So those two should be flipped.

    And your melodic minor should look your harmonic minor except it should also have an E natural rather than an Eb

    So here’s the correct ones:

    G natural minor
    G A Bb C D Eb F G

    G harmonic minor
    G A Bb C D Eb F# G

    G melodic minor
    G A Bb C D E F# G

    Thanks,
    JG

    13 chawk

    I want to try another one, hopefully I got this one.

    E natural minor
    E F# G A B C D E

    E harmonic minor
    E F# G A B C D# E

    E melodic minor
    E F# G A B C# D# E

    14 Jermaine

    @Chawk! Right on! Those look good.

    5 more ta go!

    15 Eresmas

    Hey JG, thanks for the enlightment once again.
    I would like to try
    A natural minor
    A B C D E F A

    A harmonic minor
    A B C D E F G# A

    A melodic minor
    A B C D E F# G# A

    I have also made an observation and you can prove me wrong if i am.
    If you get these minor scales from the major scales, you will see that getting the melodic minor scale is as easy as taking the major scale and lowering the 3rd tone by a semitone and not touching the others at all.
    e.g.
    A major
    A B C# D E F# G# A
    By lowering the 3rd tone alone by a semitone, we get
    A B C D E F# G# A which is the A melodic minor if i am not wrong.

    I stand correction though.

    16 Jermaine

    @Eresmas: Thanks for set #8!

    (You are absolutely correct. I point this out above under the box “note about raising tones.”

    But it’s good that you missed this point and was able to see the connection for yourself. Coming up with ways to remember things like this is essential.

    Keep it up!

    OK ya’ll… 4 more to go! Come on! I know this topic is getting pushed deeper into the blog because of new posts but we can surely wrap this one up! :)

    17 Eresmas

    Hey JG, thanks for the comment. I would like to try

    B natural minor
    B C# D E F# G A B

    B harmonic minor
    B C# D E F# G A# B

    B

    18 Eresmas

    Ooops! that went incomplete

    B natural minor
    B C# D E F# G A B

    B harmonic minor
    B C# D E F# G A# B

    B melodic minor
    B C# D E F# G# A# B

    Eb natural minor
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb

    Eb harmonic minor
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb D Eb

    Eb melodic minor
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb C D Eb

    I tried to call it the D# minor but it didn’t look too good to have sharp and flat symbols on the same scale. It looks sort of muddled up although there isn’t any difference in the sound of the scale.
    Thanks.

    19 Jermaine

    @Eresmas: Wow! Thanks for two more of em! You are spot on!

    Just two more to go! Who will do the honors?

    20 Alvarez

    F# Natural Minor:

    F# G# A B C# D E F#

    F# Harmonic Minor:

    F# G# A B C# D E# F#

    F# Melodic Minor:

    F# G# A B C# D# E# F#

    21 Jermaine

    way to go Alvarez! Thanks for participating

    22 Alvarez

    Ab Natural Minor:

    Ab Bb B Db Eb E Gb Ab

    Ab Harmonic Minor:

    Ab Bb B Db Eb E G Ab

    Ab Melodic Minor:

    Ab Bb B Db Eb E# G Ab

    23 Jermaine

    @Alverez: While your first one was perfect, this second one is not right. It might be easier for you to use G# as Ab is the relative minor of Cb major, not B. So there shouldn’t be any B’s in your scale. Every scale should go up exactly one alphabet letter per degree and never repeat or skip any. NOtice how you skip C and F in your first scale and repeated the letters B and E twice.

    Moving it to G# will be easier. B major is the relative major of G# and will allow u to use more regular notes (instead of having to use Cb and Fb like in the key of Ab minor).

    I hope this helps.

    Try again Alverez! I know your second try will be golden!

    24 chawk

    I want to try the last melodic minor

    G# Natural minor

    G# A# B C# D# E F# G#

    G# Harmonic minor
    G# A# B C# D# E F## G#

    G# Melodic minor
    G# A# B C# D# E# F## G#

    25 John

    thanks!

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