• A Lesson On The Synthetic Modes Of The Of The Melodic Minor Scale

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    Our focus in this lesson is on the synthetic modes of the melodic minor scale.

    The melodic minor scale is one of the traditional scales of the European music and it is also used extensively in popular music, especially in Jazz improvisation.

    Beyond the melodic minor scale are modes that can also be used to improvise over specific chord qualities and we’ll be covering them all in this lesson.

    Attention: This lesson is written with the intermediate keyboard player in mind. Consequently, beginners and advanced players may not find it absolutely helpful.

    Before we go into learning these synthetic modes, let’s refresh our minds on the melodic minor scale.

    Short Note On The Melodic Minor Scale

    The melodic minor scale is a variant of the natural minor scale, which is one of the traditional scales every serious keyboard player must know in all the keys.

    Although there are so many ways to form the melodic minor scale, we’ll be associating its formation with the major scale and this is simply done by lowering the third tone of any given major scale.

    For example, the C melodic minor scale can be derived from the C major scale:

    Lowering the third tone of the C major scale (which is E):

    …by a half-step (to Eb):

    …produces the C melodic minor scale:

    Every other melodic minor scale can be derived from a corresponding major scale following the principle of lowering the third tone of the major scale by a half-step.

    “For Your Reference, Here Are All The Melodic Minor Scales On The Keyboard…”

    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:

    Let’s go ahead and explore the synthetic modes of the melodic minor scale

    Synthetic Modes Of The Melodic Minor Scale

    Just like the major scale, the melodic minor scale has its modes too, which can be considered as products of starting and ending the melodic minor scale on any of its tones.

    For example, the C melodic minor scale:

    …has seven unique notes (which are C, D, Eb, F, G, A, and B). Starting and ending the C melodic minor scale on any of these seven unique notes produces synthetic modes of the melodic minor scale.

    Using the C melodic minor scale as a reference, let’s explore these synthetic modes.

    Mode #1 – The Melodic Minor Scale

    Starting and ending the melodic minor scale on the first tone produces the regular melodic minor scale you’re familiar with. In this case, starting and ending the C melodic minor scale:

    …on C, produces the C melodic minor scale:

    Mode #2 – The Dorian b2 Scale

    The second tone of the C melodic minor:

    …is D:

    Starting and ending the C melodic minor scale:

    …on D, produces the D Dorian b2 scale:

    It’s called the Dorian b2 scale because it can be associated with the Dorian scale. Lowering the second tone of any known Dorian scale by a half-step produces the Dorian b2 scale.

    For example, lowering the second tone of the F Dorian scale:

    …which is G:

    …by a half-step (to Gb):

    …produces the F Dorian b2 scale — the second mode of the melodic minor scale.

    Mode #3 – The Lydian Augmented Scale

    The Lydian augmented scale is literally a Lydian scale with a raised fifth (aka – “augmented fifth”) and it’s the third mode of the melodic minor scale.

    Using the C melodic minor scale (as a reference):

    …starting and ending the C melodic minor scale on its third tone (which is Eb):

    …produces the Eb Lydian augmented scale:

    For Jazz Musicians: The Lydian augmented scale is one of the scales that are compatible with the maj7 (#5) chord (aka – “augmented major seventh chord”).

    Mode #4 – The Lydian Dominant Scale

    The Lydian dominant scale is the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale and it’s derived by starting and ending the melodic minor scale on its fourth tone.

    The fourth tone of the C melodic minor scale:

    …is F:

    Therefore, starting and ending the C melodic minor scale on F produces the F Lydian dominant scale:

    …which is the fourth mode of the C melodic minor scale.

    You can also form the Lydian dominant scale by lowering the seventh tone of the Lydian scale by a half-step. In the case of the C Lydian scale:

    …lowering its seventh tone (which is B):

    …by a half-step (to Bb):

    …produces the C Lydian dominant scale:

    …which is for all intents and purposes a synthetic mode.

    Final Words

    Now that you know all the synthetic modes of the melodic minor scale, I’m sure you’ll have scale options to improvise over chord types like the min (maj7) chord, maj7 (#5) chord, dom7 chord, and the half-dim7 chord.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll go a step further into learning the synthetic modes of the harmonic minor scale and the chord types they are associated with.

    All the best and see you in the next lesson.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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