The melodic minor scale is a major scale with a flatted 3rd, or a Dorian scale with a raised 7th. It’s used more often in jazz and classical music then in rock. The formula for the melodic minor scale is 1-2-b3-4-5-6-7.
In classical theory, the melodic minor scale has an ascending and descending form. This has been traditionally taught by raising the 6th and 7th degrees of a natural minor scale while ascending but playing all natural minor scale degrees while descending the scale. However, this is not how modern musicians use the scale. Instead, they use the raised 6th and 7th degrees in both directions.
The melodic minor scale is broken down into 5 positions that will cover the entire fretboard. We will be learning the melodic minor scale positions in G.
1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
G A Bb C D E F#
Pos.1 Pos.2 Pos.3 Pos.4 Pos.5
Position one starts on the root note G (root note highlighted in red)
Position two starts on the 2nd degree (2) of the scale “A“
Position three starts on the 4th degree (4) of the scale “C“
Position four starts on the 5th degree (5) of the scale “D“
Position five starts on the 6th degree (6) of the scale “E“
Memorize the positions one at a time. It’s much easier to learn each position one at a time versus running through all five positions then starting again at the top. Once you have the melodic minor scale positions memorized in G, make sure to practice them in all keys so you have them at your fingertips no matter what key you’re playing in.
There are many wonderful ways to utilize the melodic minor scale in your playing, so lets take one example of how to solo over a minor ii-V-I progression using this scale.
| Emi7b5 | A7alt | Dmi6/9 | Dmi6/9 |
- Over a iim7b5 chord, use the melodic minor scale up a minor third from the root. (G melodic minor over the Emi7b5 chord)
- Over a Valt chord, use the melodic minor scale up a half-step from the root. (Bb melodic minor over the A7 alt chord)
- Over a Imi6/9, use the melodic minor scale based on the root. (D melodic minor over the Dmi6/9 chord)
– Frank Macri