A look at the Melodic minor, along with a few bars of "Carol of the Bells" to demonstrate.
Be sure to check out Mike's Christmas CD, The Meaning of Christmas, available at Mike Campese.com.
How is the Melodic minor constructed?
You can look at the melodic minor as a major scale with a lowered 3rd and you can also take the Dorian mode and raise the 7th. The formula of this scale is (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7). In classical music, the melodic minor is played ascending and natural minor descending. In this lesson we will be using the modern improvising approach, the scale is the same ascending and descending. It is very important to memorize the formula so you can construct it in all keys.
Melodic minor scale fingerings
I will just be showing you a couple fingerings in this lesson to start you off. Example 1 is a three-note-per-string pattern in the key of A melodic minor (A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#). This pattern works off the 6th string in every key. Example 1a is the same scale played in a extended version across the neck. A great exercise is to play the same scale different ways ascending and descending for example, if you are in A melodic minor, play up to the highest A on your guitar and descend back down to A a different way.
Melodic minor scale harmony
It is important to learn the chords and arpeggios for the melodic minor scale. Example 2 is the 7th chord arpeggios in the key of A, but this pattern is the same in all keys. It is real simple to harmonize scales, just stack every other scale tone. Make sure you play them all over the neck.
Modes of the Melodic minor scale
Here is the list of modes from the melodic minor, make sure you memorize the formulas for each one and play them in different keys, just like you would with the major scale modes.
Melodic Minor= 1, 2, b3, 4, 5 ,6 ,7
Dorian b2= 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7
Lydian Augmented= 1, 2, 3, #4, #5, 6, 7
Lydian b7= 1 ,2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7
Mixolydian b6= 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7
Locrian Natural 2= 1, 2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7
Super Locrian= 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7
How can I apply this scale?
There are many ways, but I will just show you a few. To start off record yourself playing a Am chord vamp for a while and play the A melodic minor over it. Also, try mixing the A Dorian scale (A, B, C, D, F#, G) with the A melodic minor, you will notice the only difference is the G#, the raised 7th.
A lot of popular melodies use the melodic minor, a really great example is the Christmas song "Carol of The Bells" in Example 3. You may want to check out my version of "Carol of The Bells"off my latest CD, The Meaning of Christmas. The first two measures are from the E natural minor scale (E, F#, G, A, B, C, D) and then bar 3 switches to the E melodic minor (E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D#) starting from the 5th mode B Mixolydian b6. Another great way to use the melodic minor scale, record a D7th chord and play D Lydian b7 over it, which is the same as A melodic minor. This approach can work well in a Blues progression.
Be sure to make up lines using this scale so you can apply it to your playing. Example 4 is a line that I constructed that mixes the A blues scale (A, C, D, Eb, E, G) and the A melodic minor. You might want to follow the suggested fingerings.
Ok, thats it for now, just a few examples to start you off. Be sure to check out my CDs and visit mikecampese.com for more information.