• Explained: The Evolution Of The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scale

    in Beginners,General Music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning the relationship between the harmonic and melodic minor scale, this lesson is for you.

    Minor scales are not commonly used like the major scale, and most of the time when minor scales are been discussed, the natural minor scale is usually in the picture. But beyond the natural minor scale is the harmonic and melodic minor scale.

    We’ll be covering the relationship between these two scales in terms of the similarities and differences between them and also their application in traditional music theory.

    The Evolution Of The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales

    There are two key types — the major key and the minor key.

    These keys are connected to traditional scales: the major key is connected to the natural major scale, while the minor key is connected to the natural minor scale.

    For example, the key of C major can be seen in an outline of the C natural major scale:

    …just exactly the same way the key of C minor can be seen in an outline of the C natural minor scale:

    In addition to the natural minor scale, other minor scale varieties evolved, that are connected to the minor key and we’ll be looking at how they evolved.

    The Evolution Of The Harmonic Minor Scale

    In the theory of traditional scales, the distance between the seventh tone and the first tone of the scale matters.

    The seventh tone of the scale is technically known as the subtonic. However, if the distance between the seventh tone and the first tone (aka – “the first tone”) is a half-step, the seventh tone would function as a leading note.

    In clear terms, the subtonic (or the seventh tone) functions as the leading note when it’s a half-step away from the tonic (the first tone).

    In the key of C major:

    …the seventh and first tones are B and C respectively:

    …and due to the half-step distance between them, the seventh tone (B):

    …would function as a leading note.

    But in the minor key, it’s different because in the key of C minor (as an example for every other minor key on the keyboard):

    …the distance between the seventh tone (Bb) and the first tone (C):

    …is a whole step. Consequently, the seventh tone (Bb):

    …will not function as a leading note.

    It is the absence of the leading note function in the natural minor scale that led to the evolution of the harmonic minor scale.

    Raising the seventh tone of the natural minor scale by a half-step produced a new scale. In the key of C minor:

    …raising the seventh tone (which is Bb):

    …by a half-step (to B):

    …produced a new minor scale:

    …where the seventh tone (B) and first tone (C):

    …are a half-step apart and the seventh tone functions as a leading note.

    This scale was named the harmonic minor scale after the harmonic problem it solved.

    “Check Out All The Harmonic Minor Scales On The Keyboard…”

    C harmonic minor scale:

    C# harmonic minor scale:

    D harmonic minor scale:

    Eb harmonic minor scale:

    E harmonic minor scale:

    F harmonic minor scale:

    F# harmonic minor scale:

    G harmonic minor scale:

    A# harmonic minor scale:

    A harmonic minor scale:

    Bb harmonic minor scale:

    B harmonic minor scale:

    The Evolution Of The Melodic Minor Scale

    The melodic minor scale evolved after the harmonic minor scale due to the melodic problems associated with the harmonic minor scale.

    The distance between the sixth and the seventh tones of the harmonic minor scale is bigger than a whole-step. In the C harmonic minor scale:

    …the sixth and seventh tones are Ab and B (respectively):

    …and that’s a distance of three half-steps (aka – “sesquitones”).

    The three half-steps between the sixth and seventh tone of the melodic minor scale poses a melodic problem when it is applied in the composition of melodies (and the scholarly reasons to justify the melodic problems of the harmonic minor scale is beyond the scope of this lesson).

    The sesquitone gap between the sixth and seventh tone of the scale can be covered up by raising the sixth tone of the harmonic minor scale by a half-step. In the C harmonic minor scale:

    …raising the sixth tone of the scale (which is Ab):

    …by a half-step (to A):

    …produces the C melodic minor scale:

    “How To Form The Melodic Minor Scale…”

    The melodic minor scale can either be seen as a natural minor scale with its sixth and seventh tone raised or a natural major scale with its third tone lowered.

    Lowering the third tone of the E major scale:

    …which is G#:

    ….by a half-step (to G):

    …produces the E melodic minor scale:

    “Check Out 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:

    Final Words

    Was nice going through the evolution of the harmonic and melodic minor scales with you.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll learn more about how these minor scales are applied in music styles like jazz, gospel, r & b, etc.

    All the best.

     

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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.

    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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