The Melodic Minor Scale - Part 1
This month, we will move on to the Melodic Minor Scale. We will be referring to what is called the Jazz derived Melodic minor, as opposed to it’s classical cousin. The difference is that the Jazz derived version is the same both ascending and descending, where the classical usage has the Melodic ascending, and the Natural Minor descending.
First, let’s form the scale. The normal music theory way of doing this, is to take the Natural minor scale, and then sharp the sixth and seventh notes of that scale. Using A minor as an example, this would give us A, B, C, D, E, F#, and G#. Now how about using something we know, as was discussed in the Harmonic Minor Scale - Part 1 article. Rather than start with the Natural minor, take the Major scale of the same name, and flat the third. For example, in the key of A, you take the A Major scale, A, B, C#, D, E, F# and G#, then flat the third, C#, to get A, B, C, D, E, F#, and G#. Same result, but, using an already familiar pattern. Any time that you are learning a new pattern, see if there is not one you already know that you can alter to learn the new one. You always will learn new material much quicker taking this approach, which means that you will also be able to put it into your playing a lot sooner.
Once you are familiar with one key, as always, practice it in all twelve. Not only that, but in all positions and octaves your instrument allows. Rather than starting on the root, start on the lowest note in the scale you can, and go to the highest. This will break you of the habit of always looking for the root to start the scale every time you use it. It will also help you learn where all the notes are in that key anywhere on your instrument, which will free you up be able to improvise, no matter where you are on your instrument. This will enable you to concentrate on your solo, not the scale itself, so you will develop more musical, less scalar sounding ideas.
From here, move on using all of the ideas we have introduced earlier, such as playing the scales in intervals, arpeggios or any other melodic pattern that you can create. The key is to get so familiar with the scale and the way that it sounds, that you can instinctively know when and where to use it. In a later article we will go deeper into the specifics of where to use the scale. For now, get to the point you play it smoothly using all of the above ideas. Do not limit yourself to old patterns, constantly experiment and try new ones.
Remember that the end goal of learning all of these scales is not to be able to play a lot of different scales for the sake of doing it, but rather to add more colors to your musical paintbox. Too many students learn a lot of scales, intervals, arpeggios etc., but never learn to use them in anything. Take everything that you learn and try and work it into your playing as soon as possible, so that it becomes a part of your toolbox. Otherwise you end up with a box of tools that you have never used and a lot of time spent with nothing of any value getting done. The end result is being able to play what you hear, so use these scales to train you ear to hear the possibilities out there and then use them to express those ideas.