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Melodic Minor Modes


The scales

I thought I'd present a few ideas for a minor blues progression using melodic minor modes. All of this will be familiar for jazz guitarists, but it may be a good way for a few rockers to spice up their blues playing.
I've used a minor blues in E with a similar progression to such tunes as "The Thrill Is Gone" or "Still Got The Blues" as an example, but you'll also find this progression in many jazz standards, as well such as "Mr. PC" by John Coltrane. I'll be using E melodic minor, A melodic minor, C lydian dominant and B altered.

First up, I wanted to clearly show the sound of each melodic minor mode accompanied by its most appropriate chord, so Ex.1 is E melodic minor (1,2,b3,4,5,6,7 - so it's like a major scale with a minor third), played right over the top of a min/maj chord (or the "James Bond chord"), which is a minor chord with a major 7 interval.



Click HERE to hear Brett play this example


In Ex.2 you'll hear the A melodic minor scale played over an A min/maj chord and of course it's the same formula as Ex. 1.



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Ex.3 is the C Lydian dominant mode (1,2,3,#4,5,6,b7) played over a C7#11 chord:



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And lastly, Ex.4 is a B altered scale (1,b2,b3,b4,b5,b6,b7) played over a B7#9 chord (or the "Hendrix chord"). You know you've really made it when you get a chord named after you!



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In the minor blues progression, I'll be using Em9, Am7, C9 and B7 chords, so these modes will sound a little "out", and for good reason, as there are indeed notes contained within these scales that are not in the chords, but it's a great way to take a regular blues in a different direction and also create a different kind of tension.
To get an idea of how out these modes sound, compare them to E and A Dorian, which would be very inside for the Em9 and Am7 and also C Mixolydian (for the C9 chord) and B minor pentatonic or Phrygian major, which would be very inside for the B7 chord.


Example licks

I've recorded two examples for each chord which contain both in and out notes and have played them very slowly, so they'll sound strange as the out notes are being held a lot longer than they should, but I've also recorded a quick blues to give a brief idea of how I'd use these ideas in an improvisational context.

You'll notice that I use a blend of traditional blues phrases and ideas mixed in with the more fusion styles. This has become my preferred way of playing a blues over the years, although I do have a choice of keeping it more traditional or going completely out the window. I'd like all members of Ibreathe to have that choice too, so give these modes a try!

The lines for each chord, two per chord:



Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example





Click HERE to hear Brett play this example


Click HERE to hear Brett play the example-blues!

Click HERE to download a Powertab-file containing all examples.


This article was first published in "Australian Guitar Magazine" and was reprinted here with exclusive permission by Brett.


This article can be read online at http://www.iBreatheMusic.com/article/201
Brett is an Australian guitarist who has toured and recorded with artists like John Farnham and Centrifugal Funk. He also has released a solo-album and several albums with his partner in crime TJ Helmerich. Brett also taught at the GIT in North Hollywood/CA and has published two instructional videos. His website: brettgarsed.com


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