• Why The Descending Of The Melodic Minor Scale Differs From Its Ascending

    in Beginners,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, I’ll be explaining why the descending of the melodic minor scale differs from its ascending.

    The melodic minor scale is the only traditional scale in European music that its descending form is different from the ascending. Other traditional scales:

    The natural major scale

    The natural minor scale

    The harmonic minor scale

    …have the same ascending and descending form.

    We’ll be looking at the reason why the melodic minor scale is played in a particular way while ascending and in an entirely different way while descending.

    A good way to start would be to refresh our minds on the melodic minor scale.

    Quick Insights On The Melodic Minor Scale

    Although the natural minor scale is the principal scale, the melodic minor scale is one of the scales that are associated with the minor key.

    Using the natural minor scale, the melodic minor scale can be formed by raising the sixth and seventh tones.

    “Let Me Show You How This Works…”

    Using the A natural minor scale:

    …which consists of all the white notes on the keyboard from A to A:

    The A melodic minor scale can be formed when the sixth and seventh tones (which are F and G):

    …are raised by a half-step (to F# and G# respectively):

    Check out the A melodic minor scale side-by-side with the A natural minor scale:

    A melodic minor scale:

    A natural minor scale:

    Keep in mind that what we just learned is the ascending form of the melodic minor scale. The melodic minor scale has a different descending scale form and we’ll be talking about it in the next segment.

    But before we do so, 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:

    The Melodic Minor Scale: Ascending Vs Descending

    The descending form of the melodic minor scale differs from its ascending form and this is because of its relationship with the major scale. You’ll understand this a lot more as we proceed in this segment.

    But before going any further, let’s break the melodic minor scale down into tetrachords: upper and lower tetrachords.

    A Breakdown Of The Melodic Minor Scale Into Tetrachords

    A scale can be broken down into two tetrachords (with each tetrachord consisting of four notes each). String players (like violinists) while playing traditional scales play “four notes to a string”.

    For example, while playing the C melodic minor scale:

    …a violinist would play the first four notes (C, D, Eb, and F) on a string:

    …and the last four notes (G, A, B, and C) on another string:

    The first four notes make up the lower tetrachord while the last four notes make up the upper tetrachord.

    So, the C melodic minor scale:

    …has its lower tetrachord:

    …and upper tetrachord:

    The understanding of the tetrachords of the melodic minor scale will better your understanding of the reason why its descending form is different from its ascending form.

    Keep reading!

    Why The Descending Fashion Of The Melodic Minor Scale Differs From Its Ascending

    The descending form of the melodic minor scale is different from its ascending form because its upper tetrachord is identical to that of the major scale.

    Take a look at the C melodic minor and C natural major scale:

    C melodic minor scale:

    C natural major scale:

    …and you’ll observe that both scales have an identical upper tetrachord consisting of G, A, B and C:

    While playing the ascending form of the C melodic minor scale, the lower tetrachord comes before the upper tetrachord:

    Lower tetrachord:

    Upper tetrachord:

    However, while descending, the upper tetrachord is played before the lower tetrachord in this order:

    C:

    B:

    A:

    G:

    The descending form of the C major scale and the C melodic minor scale have their first four notes in common and that’s why you can’t tell if a scale is the melodic minor scale or a major scale using its first four notes in the descending form.

    The tetrachord below:

    C:

    B:

    A:

    G:

    …can either be for the major scale or for the melodic minor scale.

    The Descending Melodic Minor Scale

    The descending form of the melodic minor scale is identical with that of the natural minor scale.

    For example, the descending form of the C natural minor scale:

    C:

    Bb:

    Ab:

    G:

    F:

    Eb:

    D:

    C:

    …is used as the descending form of the C melodic minor scale:

    So, here’s the ascending form of the C melodic minor scale:

    …and its descending form:

    Final Words

    It’s important to know the ascending and descending forms of the melodic minor scale and why they are different.

    However, in jazz theory, the ascending form of the melodic minor scale is used as its descending. So, if you’re a jazz musician, feel free to stick to the same melodic minor scale; whether you’re ascending or descending.

    If you have questions, comments, contributions, and suggestions, feel free to post them in the comment section and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Youtube.

    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 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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks. Can these scales be used
    in runs and licks.? God bless you.

    Reply

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