• The Relationship Between The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales

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    Are you interested in knowing the relationship between the harmonic and melodic minor scales?

    If your answer to the question above is yes, then this lesson is for you. But before we go into the relationship between these scales in terms of the similarities and differences between them, let’s refresh our minds on these minor scales.

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    A Short Note On The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales

    Although the natural minor scale is commonly associated with the minor key, there are two other minor scale varieties that are associated with the minor key: the harmonic and melodic minor scales.

    Let’s discuss them briefly.

    The Harmonic Minor Scale — Explained

    The harmonic minor scale is a variety of the minor scale that is derived by the modification of the natural minor scale by raising the seventh tone by a half-step.

    Raising the seventh tone of the A natural minor scale:

    …which is G:

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …produces the A harmonic minor scale:

    “Check Out Every Other Harmonic Minor Scale 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:

    Ab harmonic minor scale:

    A harmonic minor scale:

    Bb harmonic minor scale:

    B harmonic minor scale:

    The Melodic Minor Scale

    Just like the harmonic minor scale, the melodic minor scale is derived from the modification of the natural minor scale. Raising the sixth and seventh tones of the natural minor scale produces the melodic minor scale.

    Raising the sixth and seventh tones of the A natural minor scale:

    …which are F and G:

    …by a half-step (to F# and G#):

    …produces the A 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:

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    The Similarities Between The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales

    Although the harmonic and melodic minor scale are similar in many ways, we’ll be exploring two of the similarities between these minor scales.

    #1 – Lower Tetrachords

    Every traditional scale is divided into two tetrachords: the lower tetrachord of four notes and the upper tetrachord of four notes. The lower tetrachord consists of the first four notes in the scale, while the upper tetrachord consists of the last four notes in the scale.

    The harmonic and melodic minor scales have identical lower tetrachords. The lower tetrachord of the C harmonic minor scale:

    …which consists of C, D, Eb, and F:

    …is identical with the lower tetrachord of the C melodic minor scale:

    …which consists of C, D, Eb, and F:

    #2 – The Leading Note

    The seventh tone of the scale is described as a leading note when it’s a half-step below the first tone of the scale. In the natural minor scale (using the C natural minor scale as a reference):

    …the interval between the seventh and first tone of the scale (which is Bb and C in this case):

    …is a whole-step. Therefore, the seventh tone of the natural minor scale is NOT considered as a leading note.

    In the harmonic and melodic minor scales, the seventh tone is a half-step below the first tone. In the C harmonic minor scale:

    …and C melodic minor scale:

    …the seventh tone (which B):

    …is a half-step below the first tone (which is C):

    So, the seventh tone of both scales are considered to be leading notes.

    The Differences Between The Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales

    Despite their similarities, the harmonic and melodic minor scales have their differences as well. Let’s go ahead and explore two of these differences.

    #1 – Upper Tetrachords

    One characteristic difference between the the harmonic and melodic minor scales is that their upper tetrachords are different.

    The upper tetrachord of the C harmonic minor scale:

    …and the upper tetrachord of the C melodic minor scale:

    …are different.

    The upper tetrachord of the melodic minor scale is identical to that of the major scale. That’s why the C melodic minor scale:

    …and the C major scale:

    …have the same upper tetrachord — G, A, B, C:

    #2 – Descending Scale Form

    Another difference between the harmonic and melodic minor scales is their descending form. The descending form of the harmonic minor scale is produced by playing the scale notes from the eighth to the first tone, while the melodic minor scale uses the descending form of the natural minor scale.

    Final Words

    The importance of knowing the similarities and differences between the harmonic and melodic minor scales cannot be over emphasized.

    If you desire to learn more about the theory of music, you’ll do well to check out our music theory digital download collection.

    Al the best!

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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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