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Thread: Melodic Minor ?

  1. #1
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    Melodic Minor ?

    ...yes, more melodic minor
    I've heard two of my idols, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford mention using melodic minor in a blues context ..and I just can't seem to get it...this scale has been nothing but trouble for me since the day we met If any of you can give me examples of when you'd use this scale in a blues context, I'd be very grateful !

    Most recently, Carlton has mentioned using it to move from i-IV. I had assumed it's minor "i" to dominant "IV" ? ..although this only offers one "outside" note, that note doesn't seem to work at all.

    I'll appreciate any insight you can offer !

    Thanks, very much
    -Mike

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo View Post
    .............Most recently, Carlton has mentioned using it to move from i-IV. I had assumed it's minor "i" to dominant "IV" ? ..although this only offers one "outside" note, that note doesn't seem to work at all.

    I'll appreciate any insight you can offer !

    Thanks, very much
    -Mike
    IMO the "i" tonic being minor is the only way he can pull this off.

    Blues scale over dominant seventh chords is a contradiction, but, works. I put this into the same category.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo View Post
    ...yes, more melodic minor
    I've heard two of my idols, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford mention using melodic minor in a blues context ..and I just can't seem to get it...this scale has been nothing but trouble for me since the day we met If any of you can give me examples of when you'd use this scale in a blues context, I'd be very grateful !

    Most recently, Carlton has mentioned using it to move from i-IV. I had assumed it's minor "i" to dominant "IV" ? ..although this only offers one "outside" note, that note doesn't seem to work at all.

    I'll appreciate any insight you can offer !

    Thanks, very much
    -Mike
    I'm guessing he might mean 7th mode, ie the altered scale.
    Eg, in key of F, going from E7 to A7, use F melodic minor ("E altered") on the E7.
    I wouldn't do this myself, because I like traditional "simple" blues too much. Jazz scales are of little interest to me in blues.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo View Post
    ...yes, more melodic minor
    I've heard two of my idols, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford mention using melodic minor in a blues context ..and I just can't seem to get it...this scale has been nothing but trouble for me since the day we met If any of you can give me examples of when you'd use this scale in a blues context, I'd be very grateful !

    Most recently, Carlton has mentioned using it to move from i-IV. I had assumed it's minor "i" to dominant "IV" ? ..although this only offers one "outside" note, that note doesn't seem to work at all.

    I'll appreciate any insight you can offer !

    Thanks, very much
    -Mike
    There are a number of ways you can utilize the melodic minor in a blues context. However, because I do not know your level of proficiency on the instrument, I would start with a question: How comfortable are you with your major scale modes and arpeggios ? If you have trouble in playing Mixolydian based ideas and typical arpeggios for creating tensions over a dominant chord, then I suggest that you stay away from the melodic minor for now. If, however, you are already proficient with these and want to explore new sounds, then it would be a good idea to study the melodic minor.

    The first and typical use of the melodic minor would be its fourth mode (Lydian b7 or Mixolydian #4) over a dominant chord. Go up a perfect fifth from the root of the dominant chord to find the correct melodic minor scale. If you know your circle of fifths, this should be very easy. Over a G7, you can play the D melodic minor scale. It provides all the unaltered tensions (9th, 13th) plus the famous #11 over the dominant chord. Players tend to use this scale to avoid the perfect fourth of the Mixolydian scale over the dominant chord. It is, however, a matter of taste in my opinion. In the example you gave, you can try using this mode over the IV7 chord. The probable reason why you can not make it work is your lack of experience with the scale. Melodic minor is a not a scale you can master overnight. Furthermore, creating musical lines out of scales is no easy task. If you are simply playing the scale up and down in linear fashion, do not expect "magical" sounds. Try experimenting with the unusual intervals and the arpeggios of the scale, such the min/maj7th (the first chord of the scale) and maj7#5 (the third chord of the scale).

    The second option is to use the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale over a dominant chord. Go up a half step from the dominant chord's root to find the correct melodic minor scale. (for eg, Ab melodic minor over the G7 chord) This scale is typically used when a dominant chord is resolving to a chord up a perfect fourth. For instance, when the I chord is just about to resolve to IV, or when the V chord is resolving to I, this scale can be used to create altered tensions over the dominant chord. However, the player should have some experience about resolving the sounds properly, otherwise the scale will sound wrong.

    If you are a typical blues player who mostly uses a single (blues) scale over the whole progression, this information may be confusing at first. If you like players like Carlton and Ford, I suggest that you seriously study some jazz blues ideas. There are a lot of good books out there (I may recommned some if you would like) and both of the players in question have released instructional books/videos etc... As I already told some other player on the forum recently, do not get obsessed with the melodic minor. Contrary to what some might think, the melodic minor is not some kind of "secret gateway" to the jazz language.

  5. #5
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    I'm guessing he might mean 7th mode, ie the altered scale.
    Eg, in key of F, going from E7 to A7, use F melodic minor ("E altered") on the E7.
    I wouldn't do this myself, because I like traditional "simple" blues too much. Jazz scales are of little interest to me in blues.
    As blues gets fancy it turns into jazz. If you want blues, simple works. If you want jazz, well, that is another story.

  6. #6
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    Thanks all for the replies.
    Some advice I should paint on my fretboard:
    ..do not get obsessed with the melodic minor..
    That's pretty much what I do every time someone mentions it and plays something tasty...it's really just a matter of a few notes, in the right context. I'm really much better off learning it that way and easing in to the altered notes.

    -cheers

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo View Post
    Thanks all for the replies.
    Some advice I should paint on my fretboard: That's pretty much what I do every time someone mentions it and plays something tasty...it's really just a matter of a few notes, in the right context. I'm really much better off learning it that way and easing in to the altered notes.

    -cheers
    I agree. Melodic minor is only a theoretical curiosity to me. I understand the conventional jazz chord-scale theory, but never use melodic minor when improvising - not consciously anyway - in either blues or jazz. One exception might be on a tonic minor chord, in that I would add 6, maj7 or 9 extensions to the triad. But when it comes to modes like altered and lydian dominant, I just go with chord tones; there's never any need for anything else (IMO). (Chord tones often consist of 5 notes anyway.)

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