Melodic Minor Scale

Question by David

Dear Marc-Andre,

Congratulations to your website. It has been very useful and sparked my interest in playing jazz music.

I have heard that the melodic minor scale is played differently ascending and descending. I think when it is played ascending the third note is lowered (b3) but when it is played descending the tones of the natural minor scale are used.

Is this true, and if yes, would you recommend to practice arpeggios (for instance 1-3-5) in two ways?

M-A’s Answer:

Hello David,

Thank you for the nice words.

Yes, you are right about the two different versions (ascending and descending) of the melodic minor scale. This is the way it is perceived and used in a “classical sense”, more or less.

Throughout my website, and in jazz in general, we think of melodic minor as the ascending version only (1 2 b3 4 5 6 7). It’s often called “jazz minor” or “tonic minor” I would recommend that you practice arpeggios only in one way at first and learn the jazz minor as is. Then it would be good to re-do the same process in harmonic minor and in natural minor.

Doing so, you will encounter all the different functions of what is sometimes called the “mixed minor” …

… for example: the IV chord can be either dominant 7th (melodic minor) or a minor 7th (harmonic and natural minor).

You will find a few different II chords, a few different VI chords, and so on. It’s great to be aware of the different possibilities and be able to hear/use them in context.

That would be a great topic for an entire book! I recommend “Modern Harmonic Technique” by Gordon Delamont. The author really dissects (and then puts back together) all the components of chords and how they work in progressions.

I hope this helps,
Marc-Andre Seguin

Soooo… in general: keep the same version of arpeggios your are practicing when ascending and descending. (-:

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