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Thread: Melodic minor difficulties.

  1. #1
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    Melodic minor difficulties.

    I've got several sources of information on the applications of melodic minor, and I understand some of the usage. I just don't quite understand it yet, and I don't really know why! It took me no more than a year to be able to fully apply the regular major scale etc to chord progressions, and improvising with it. It's taken me 2 years of understanding the melodic minor now, and I still don't understand ANYTHING compared to how I understand the regular major and it's modes.

    So I'm learning the basic chord scale, with min/maj7, min6, too many m7b5s etc. And I'm trying to memorize the scale patterns (which for some reason is way harder than memorizing both the major and the harmonic minor, despite only having to change pretty much one note.).

    I understand that I can apply it to a iv by substituting the IV in a IV-V-I progression with a iv. I also understand that I can use the scale and it's modes in more obvious ways, like:

    - Melodic minor over any min/maj7 chord with extensions within that scale.
    - Lydian dominant over any dominant chord

    ... basically using the scale or mode over it's root chord (plus extensions within that scale).

    However, I'm stubbed by some things. E.g. the superlocrian contains a 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7. In other words, it's a 1, b3, b5 and b7; a m7b5 chord. However, there's also a b4, IOW a major third in there as well. It's kind of like it functions like a diminished scale, just kind of not. How can it work when it's got both a minor AND a major third? Sure, the blues manages this, but even then, you rarely actually latch onto the major third and hang around.

    It just seems so limited to me, for some reason. I mean, with the regular major scale, I can play major or lydian over almost any major chord. I can play dorian, phrygian and natural minor over almost any minor chord (except for obvious things like playing a b2 over a natural 9- chord).

    With the melodic minor, it's just more kind of....

    - Playing superlocrian over diminished chords: Would this mean I could play superlocrian over the ii in a ii-V-i progression, instead of e.g. the diminished scale or locrian? I can't "keep going" when it shifts to the V, can I? It's a dominant chord, after all, and the 2- chord of superlocrian is a min/maj7, which has no dominant qualities.

    - Playing melodic minor over any root-3-5 minor chord, or a min/maj7 chord. How often do you see a min/maj7 chord as a staple chord in a progression? Is there a more general use for it?


    Basically, I'm confused and stumped. I want to use it more, and I want to be able to substitute chords in regular progressions by borrowing from e.g. the melodic minor, but I just don't seem to get it yet.

    Krankenschwesterrrr!

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Perhaps this will help:

    Code:
    Major Scale Box Pattern - with scale degrees shown.  Inside the pattern "stuff".
    
    E|---7---|--R(8)-|-------|---2---| 1st string
    B|-------|---5---|-------|---6---|
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 
    D|---6---|-------|---7---|--R(8)-|
    A|---3---|---4---|-------|---5---|
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---| 6th string 
    
    One pattern and then adjust one or two notes
    for the other scales or modes you want. 
    
    How about your arpeggios?  Same pattern, just use the notes you need. 
    Major 7 R-3-5-7
    Minor 7 R-b3-5-b7
    Dominant 7 R-3-5-b7
    Diminished (m7b5) R-b3-b5-b7
    Scales

    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.

    Major modes

    • Ionian same as the Major Scale.
    • Lydian use the major scale and sharp the 4 - yes, it’s that simple.
    • Mixolydian use the major scale and flat the 7. Change one note.....

    Minor Modes

    • Aeolian same as the Natural Minor scale.
    • Dorian use the Natural Minor scale and sharp the b6 back to a natural 6. Change one note.
    • Phrygian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2. Again change one note.
    • Locrian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2 and the 5. OK here you have to change two notes.

    Modal Harmony - the rest of the story.

    • If you play your modes over a chord progression you will probably only hear the tonal center of your progression.
    • However, if you play your modes over a modal vamp the vamp will sustain the modal mood long enough for the modal mood to be heard. The modal vamp droning effect will sustain the modal mood. Where with a chord progression the chords change so quickly that the modal mood does not have time to develop. Modal vamps of one to two chords let the modal mood be heard. http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html
    Melodic minor is just the major scale with a b3. With everything else we have I've never seen a need to use it. Like you said how often do you see the minor major seven? R-b3-5-7. Time best spent some where else - IMO.


    .
    Last edited by Malcolm; 03-02-2012 at 02:14 PM.

  3. #3
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    Melodic minor is not an easy scale to conquer. Plus, it is usually not the main source of the harmonic/melodic content of a tune.
    I will suggest several things, but first let me clear your confusion about the Super Locrian mode. It is an ALTERED DOMINANT scale, NOT a m7b5 scale. In fact it is known as the "altered scale". You already gave half of the answer: You an get away with the major AND minor third in blues, because blues is based on dominant chords most of the time
    The best place to use the superlocrian scale is to play it over the V7 chord in any II-V-I situation (minor or major, does not matter...) The practical rule of thumb is: Go up a half step from the root of the dominant chord and play the melodic minor scale. For eg, over a G7 going to a C major or C minor chord, you can play the Ab melodic minor (which would be the same thing with G super locrian) The scale provides all the altered tensions over the dom7th chord (b5, #5, b9, #9)

    I will not go into other details about melodic minor here. It is a lengthy subject. Instead, I will recommend you to use a good and guitar-oriented text book. "Melodic Minor Revealed" by Don Mock is a good one to start with.

    Also, make sure that you can visualize and play the entire scale on a single string. If you know your symmetrical scales, you will recognize that melodic minor looks like a combination of the diminished and the whole tone scales. As matter of fact, some people refer to the Super Locrian scale as the "diminished - whole tone scale".

    BTW, if you are using CAGED fingerings for the melodic minor scale, I might provide some additional recommendations for visualization. Let me know if you are interested.

    Last but not least, I should say that the melodic minor scale is a litlle bit overrrated in some guitar texts. The Locrian mode (the seventh mode of the major scale) can also function very well as an altered scale. Play some ideas from the Ab MAJOR scale over a G7 chord in the context I mentioned above to see what I mean. However, because of some theory-oriented educators out there, you may get the feeling that you have to learn the melodic minor scale to create altered tensions. Practice it if you like its sound, but do not become obsessed with it. You can get a lot of mileage out of the plain major scale, particularly if you learn how to add chromatics to it.
    Last edited by barrios; 03-02-2012 at 05:51 PM.

  4. #4
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    And by the way, if you are familiar with the mode perspective, you can think of the melodic minor scale as a Dorian mode with a sharp (major) 7th. It makes a lot of sense to me to think of it this way, first and foremost because they are both minor scales. A lot authors refer to the melodic minor as a "major scale with a minor 3rd", but to me it is extremely confusing. The difference between two scales are like night and day, because the third of a scale is one of its most characteristic intervals. As matter of fact, the phrase "a major scale with a minor third" is a contradiction, because a scale with a minor third is a MINOR scale

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clevshred View Post
    Melodic minor scale can be good to rock music yngwie malmsteen always melodic minor, and if you want to learn widely about melodic minor scale I suggest that you must try to learn how to play some spanish tune.
    I think you're thinking of harmonic minor .

  6. #6
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    Yes, I just type the wrong word sorry,anyway. What is your opinion between Paul Gilbert and yngwiemalmsteen we know that they are both great shredders but what are their comparison when using harmonic minor..? Just want to ask.. .

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by barrios View Post

    I will not go into other details about melodic minor here. It is a lengthy subject. Instead, I will recommend you to use a good and guitar-oriented text book. "Melodic Minor Revealed" by Don Mock is a good one to start with.

    Although I normally rate Don Mocks stuff very highly (especially his DVD "The Blues from Rock to Jazz"), for learning how to use Melodic Minor, I found the Scott Henderson DVD by far the best source of examples and explanations.

    You may still need a printed book like Mock, though. Because Henderson assumes you already know the scale patterns (ie he does not show you any melodic minor scale patterns ... he just explains and demonstrates it's use in extensive detail).
     
    2:cents.

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clevshred View Post
    Yes, I just type the wrong word sorry,anyway. What is your opinion between Paul Gilbert and yngwiemalmsteen we know that they are both great shredders but what are their comparison when using harmonic minor..? Just want to ask.. .
    Couldn't say. I never listen to them. What I've heard is not really my taste.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    I know I'm replying to this rather late, but whatever...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    I understand that I can apply it to a iv by substituting the IV in a IV-V-I progression with a iv. I also understand that I can use the scale and it's modes in more obvious ways, like:

    - Melodic minor over any min/maj7 chord with extensions within that scale.
    - Lydian dominant over any dominant chord
    Yes, but lydian dominant is really best on dom7-type chords that are not functioning as dominants. IOW, not on V7 chords, but bII7s (in minor or major keys) or bVII7s (in major keys). And sometimes on IV7s in major keys.
    It can be used on V7s (in major keys), but it's quite rare.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    However, I'm stubbed by some things. E.g. the superlocrian contains a 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7. In other words, it's a 1, b3, b5 and b7; a m7b5 chord. However, there's also a b4, IOW a major third in there as well. It's kind of like it functions like a diminished scale, just kind of not. How can it work when it's got both a minor AND a major third? Sure, the blues manages this, but even then, you rarely actually latch onto the major third and hang around.
    You're talking about what jazz players usually call the "altered scale", or sometimes "diminished wholetone".
    You're quite right about the b4 acting as a M3. The scale is used on altered V7 chords, usually in minor keys. The b3 is labelled a #9.
    It gives you the essential root, 3 and 7 of the V7 chord, along with both altered 5ths (b5, #5) and both altered 9ths (b9, #9).
    In fact, that's the best way to look at it, not as a mode of melodic minor at all. The purpose of it is to provide a whole slew of half-step moves - either up or down - to chord tones or extensions on the tonic chord.

    Take G7alt to Cm(6,9,maj7). G altered scale notes on left, Cm chord tones/extensions (from C melodic minor) on right:

    Ab > G or A
    A#/Bb > A or B
    B > C
    Db > C or D
    D# > D

    The G is a shared tone, of course, while the F goes down to Eb or up to G.

    If the scale goes to C major, then you get an extra half-step move, the classic F>E "4-3" move (which you get with a normal V7 of course).

    Altered V7s in jazz are normally written as "7#9", "7#5#9", 7b5#9", or plain "7alt" (choose your own alterations).

    NB: "7#9" in jazz is not usually the "Hendrix chord". The latter is a blues tonic, and would have a perfect 5th (along with maybe a passing b5).
    The jazz 7#9 is normally a V chord, and normally has an altered 5th (not always mentioned).
    You do occasionally get 7#9s used as blues tonics in jazz, but always check the context: is it I or V?


    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    It just seems so limited to me, for some reason. I mean, with the regular major scale, I can play major or lydian over almost any major chord.
    Over I or IV yes. Don't try those scales over V chords!
    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    I can play dorian, phrygian and natural minor over almost any minor chord (except for obvious things like playing a b2 over a natural 9- chord).
    No, not really. You would be ignoring context.
    With any minor chord, you need to look at where it's going and what key it's in. Phrygian is very rarely an appropriate choice on a minor chord; iii chords are quite rare in jazz (and in any case you shouldn't - IMO - think modally on chords that are functioning as part of a progression in a major or minor key).
    Dorian is probably the most common scale on a minor chord, but that's because in jazz min7 chords are most commonly either ii in a major key or iv in a minor key. The key scale applies in each case, and - again - it's not particularly helpful (IMO) to think modally.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    - Playing superlocrian over diminished chords:
    Possible, but not common practice in jazz.
    There are two kinds of diminished chords in jazz:
    Half-dim (m7b5): takes locrian mode, or (rarely) 6th mode melodic minor (phrygian natural 2)
    Dim7: takes the whole-half diminished scale.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan View Post
    - Playing melodic minor over any root-3-5 minor chord, or a min/maj7 chord. How often do you see a min/maj7 chord as a staple chord in a progression? Is there a more general use for it?
    It's a "tonic minor". Melodic minor is the conventional jazz choice for a i chord in a minor key, because it gives the most consonant extensions (maj7, 6, 9).

    To sum up, three main uses of melodic minor:

    Mode I = on tonic minor chords (but check that natural minor/aeolian doesn't sound better).
    Mode IV (lydian dominant) = on any 7#11 chord (& 9#11, 13#11), or any dom7 chord not functioning as a V chord. (Apart from I7 or IV7 in a blues. Again, not "wrong" to do so, just not common jazz practice.)
    Mode VII (superlocrian) = on a V7 chord in a minor key. Rarer in a major key, but possible.

    Tip: The V7 and bII7 chords in a minor key take the same scale. bII7 is the tritone sub for V7. Eg, G7(alt) and Db7(#11) both resolve to Cm, and both take the Ab melodic minor scale.

    Other uses (such as mode VI on m7b5s) are a lot rarer, and maybe not worth worrying about.
    Last edited by JonR; 07-12-2012 at 01:25 PM.

  10. #10
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    JonR is of course correct in his post. The most common modes are altered and lydian dominant. I use locrian #2 exclusively on min7b5 chord (if the tempo allows). I also use the melodic minor scale from the root all the time over minor i chords. The major 7th doesn't bother me at all over a plain old min7 chord. So for a Dmin7b5-G7(alt)-Cmin7 progression, I would tend to play FMM-AbMM-CMM scales, unless the progression in question is at a challenging tempo, in this case I might just stick to chord tones.

    You see the maj7#5 chord pop up here and there. It is like a slash chord. for example a E/C chord translates to a Cmaj7#5 chord. In this case you'll need to play a C lydian augmented scale (AMM).

    For me anyway, the MM scale easily replaces its major scale counterpart. There is always one note difference:

    Mixolydian=Lydian Dominant: LD easily replaces Mixolydian (unless the chord in question is a 7sus4 chord. 4th becomes a #4

    Dorian=MM: As I said, the major 7th doesn't bother me at all against a min7 chord. It shouldn't get placed on a down beat, but with experience it becomes second nature. Jazz musicians have combined major and minor 7ths over min7 chords forever. b7 becomes a 7

    Locrian=Locrian #2: This scale just sounds better than locrian in my opinion. b2 becomes a natural 2

    lydian = lydian #5: this is sort of a long shot but with a little practice, you can make this replace a lydian scale, especially if it is more of an open jazz sound, especially a long vamp on a major chord.

    phrigian=dorianb2: Usually we use phrygian over a b9sus4 chord, in this case, the dorian b2 scale works fine. phrygian's b6 becomes a natural 6.

    You can ignore the following comment if you don't want to stay up at night. It is sort of a musical magic trick, but if you take the parent major scale of a particular mode, raise the root of the parent major scale, you get the desired MM mode. What the hell does that mean?

    For example your chord in question is G7
    You want G mixolydian, which is C major
    Raise the root of C major, you get a D MM scale
    Which is a G lydian dominant scale

    Altered is the odd one of the bunch, none of the stuff I just said counts here.
    Last edited by ChrisJ; 07-13-2012 at 03:28 PM.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    JonR is of course correct in his post. The most common modes are altered and lydian dominant. I use locrian #2 exclusively on min7b5 chord (if the tempo allows). I also use the melodic minor scale from the root all the time over minor i chords. The major 7th doesn't bother me at all over a plain old min7 chord. So for a Dmin7b5-G7(alt)-Cmin7 progression, I would tend to play FMM-AbMM-CMM scales, unless the progression in question is at a challenging tempo, in this case I might just stick to chord tones.
    On the question of maj7s on a m7 chord, it has to come down (IMO) to chromaticism: the idea that any note is usable, if resolved properly. So the maj7 is an approach to either the root or the b7.

    It would also depend on how significant the b7 is in the harmony.
    If the Bb is not too obvious in the "Cm7" chord, then the maj7 is going to be more freely applicable. If it's quite clear, then holding the maj7 (as a higher extension, effectively) is going to sound "ouch" to my ears. But as a passing chromaticism it's fine. But then so is any other passing chromaticism!
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    Mixolydian=Lydian Dominant: LD easily replaces Mixolydian (unless the chord in question is a 7sus4 chord. 4th becomes a #4
    Yes. I was talking more about "common practice": what seems to be done most often, rather than what it's possible to do.
    I think that's an important distinction. Jazz is a mixture of inherited common practices (esp from bebop and modal), and innovation. Without the former, we don't know what it is we're listening to. But then without the latter, it's arguably not "jazz" at all; because jazz should always be moving forward, staying surprising.
    But all innovators (in jazz anyway) stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. It's important to absorb those old common practices, so we know where we're starting from.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    Locrian=Locrian #2: This scale just sounds better than locrian in my opinion. b2 becomes a natural 2
    Yes, the 2 (major 9th) sounds more consonant as an extension on the chord than the b9 does.
    The potential problem I see with it is a contextual one. In a minor key, the major 2 on the iim7b5 chord is the major 3rd of the key. That may or may not sound wrong, but it's good to be aware of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    lydian = lydian #5: this is sort of a long shot but with a little practice, you can make this replace a lydian scale, especially if it is more of an open jazz sound, especially a long vamp on a major chord.
    Again, I would see the #5 as an approach to 6.
    As with the maj7 on a m7 chord, it depends a lot on how prominent the existing chord tone (P5) is lower in the chord. A #5 above a P5 (if held) is a "nasty" sound (the classic "avoid note").
    Still, such sounds are not totally out of bounds! Its just a matter of acknowledging them and their effect.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    phrigian=dorianb2: Usually we use phrygian over a b9sus4 chord, in this case, the dorian b2 scale works fine. phrygian's b6 becomes a natural 6.
    Yes, I like that one. Especially if the susb9 is a V in a major key, of course, where the 6th is the M3 of the key.
    But also, as a stand alone modal chord, the major 6th is consonant, unlike the b6 (clashes with the P5).
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    You can ignore the following comment if you don't want to stay up at night. It is sort of a musical magic trick, but if you take the parent major scale of a particular mode, raise the root of the parent major scale, you get the desired MM mode. What the hell does that mean?

    For example your chord in question is G7
    You want G mixolydian, which is C major
    Raise the root of C major, you get a D MM scale
    Which is a G lydian dominant scale
    Yes - seems slightly easier to me to just raise the 4th of G mix, but whatever works .

  12. #12
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Perhaps this will help:



    Melodic minor is just the major scale with a b3. With everything else we have I've never seen a need to use it. Like you said how often do you see the minor major seven? R-b3-5-7. Time best spent some where else - IMO.


    .
    You'll see the mMaj7 when dealing with cadences - not often as you said, but it does work as a substitute.

    Cm-CmMaj7/9-Cm7/9-Cm6: My Favorite Things, for example.

    (Cm)-Raindrops on (CmMaj9) roses and (Cm9) whiskers on (Cm6) kittens

    Here's what it subbing for:

    Dm7b5, Ddim7, G7, G7b9, Fm6 - just to name a few, etc ...

    This progression gives you this line in a inner voice: C-B-Bb-A with C as the drone note.

    The B in the CmMaj7/9 is very crucial and it's heard implicitly with some of the above subs (Dm7b5/Fm6) or explicitly (G7, G7b9, Ddim7)

    The Major 7 part of the chord walks easily up to the tonic - regardless if it's the 7 version or down if it's the 9 version. However, one gets more flavor when you don't land on the tonic

    CmMaj9: C-Eb-G-B-D-G-B-D-G Provides a nice flourish, doesn't it? Likewise, one could flourish using the IV instead: (F9/13#11: F-Eb-G-A-D-Eb-G-B-D-G) It's not a mMaj per se; however, it fits very well with the CmMaj7/9.

    What other chords are in the CmMaj7/9?

    Cm, Eb+, and G

    And when you hear lots of Spy themes (ie: James Bond), this chord is very common.

    So, I wouldn't say it's rarely used; it probably more used than one may think; however, since it's seen as a split chord and perhaps written that way, too.

    CmMaj7 = Cm + Ebaug; CmMaj9 = Cm + Ebaug + G

    CmMaj7 = Ebaug/C; CmMaj9 = EbMaj7#5/C or G/C

  13. #13
    Registered User ednakayama's Avatar
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    Here is another way to understand melodic minor contextually.

    If you have a tune in C, common applications for melodic minor happen in these places:

    E7 altered - V7 of VI
    FmM7 - subdominant minor
    Bb7#11 - subdominant minor, or subV7 of VI (two separate functions)
    D-7b5 - II-7b5

    D7#11 - II7 (NOT V7/V)

    F7#11 - IV7, altered subdominant, blues, subV of III
    B7alt - V7/III

    The rest of the applied dominants (V7/VI, V7/IV, etc.) and related tritone subs.

    I've grouped these according to the groups of notes by letter name that their implied melodic minor scales contain.

    ALL of the first 4 chords take the following notes:

    C, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb

    i.e. a C major scale with the 6th and 7th tones lowered.

    D7#11 takes lydian b7, which can also be looked at as a C major scale with the 4th and 5th tones raised.

    B7alt and F7#11 take the B altered scale and F lydian b7 respectively, or...

    C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B = C melodic minor

    Now I have 3 C scales (along with normal, melodic minor-based ii-7b5 - V7alt lines for the rest of the applied dominants) that get me through 99.9% of jazz progressions. This is very useful for motivic playing, where you're trying to adapt one theme to many different situations. If you've developed some lines or chords out of one melodic minor application, you can apply them to many other contexts.

    Of course, you have to know how the tones function differently in different contexts.

  14. #14
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    Hey man..

    YES, melodic minor can be difficult to get your head around huh! But it also contains some of the (in my mind) coolest colours, so it's well worth the time it takes to get it in your system...

    I thought you might enjoy this backing track made specifically for learning how to use the altered scale (super locrian mode) as a dominant function..



    The progression is

    Cm9 - G7alt

    So you can really play around with the tension and release of going from the V chord (G7alt) to the I chord (Cm9).


    As you know, super locrian is the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale - meaning that G super locrian is built from the notes of the Ab melodic minor scale.

    G super locrian mode: G Ab Bb B Dd Eb F (G)


    I hope that helps.....

    Happy jamming!

  15. #15
    Melodic minor is a beautiful but very subtle scale. It requires an immense amount of listening to before it can be incorporated into your playing. A lot of people will say, 'oh it's just a major scale with a flat third', but this kind of thinking misses the point. It's a minor scale in its own right and should be thought of as such. I would start out over a drone then gradually bring in the diatonic chords.
    http://unlockthefretboard.weebly.com/blog.html

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