Keys, Scales, Chords: Part 4: Melodically Minor

A series of theory tutorials for the theory challenged or theory curious.

Last time:Harmonically Minor

This time:

Melodically Minor


The key signatures used for the Melodic Minor scales are the same as the Natural Minor scales.

The Sharp Minor Keys

Am Em Bm

F#m C#m G#m


The Flat Minor Keys

Am Dm Gm

Cm Fm Bbm

Ebm Abm

Remember that a key signature lets us know at a glance all of the notes which are altered during a piece or section. We name each key signature according to its corresponding minor scale because different collections of sharps/flats represent different minor scales.


The Melodic Minor Scale

Unlike the natural minor scale and the harmonic minor scale, the melodic minor scale has two forms: an ascending form in which two notes are altered and a descending form which is the same as the natural minor. It is still built on the relative minor of any Major scale.

The ascending version of the scale has the pattern:


The difference between this scale and the major scale is the third note, which is flattened by a semi-tone.

The raised sixth and seventh in this scale allows us to create melodies with more push towards the octave.

The descending version of the scale has the pattern:


Using the Melodic minor

The scale is called the Melodic minor scale because of its use in creating melodies in the minor. There are some rules that are generally applied to which notes can be used in creating melodies, which most of the time can be applied in a straightforward manner. All of the rules apply to:

The rules are straight forward:

The following examples demonstrate each of these situations:

E (5) rises to F# (#6), rises to A (8), falls to G# (#7), and rises to A (8)

E (5) rises to F# (#6), rises to G (7), falls to D (4), and rises to E (5)

E (5) rises to F (6), falls to E (5), falls to C (3), and rises to D (4)

E (5) rises to F (6), falls to E (5), rises to G (7,) falls to D (4)

E (5) rises to G (7), falls to F# (#6), rises to G (7,) falls to F (6), falls to E (5), falls to C (3), rises to D (4), and falls to A (1).

Constructing the Melodic Minor

We can apply similar rules as those we used for getting the major scales right to getting this scale right for any given starting note. Or we just drop the key signature required in front and sharpen the sixth and seventh notes on the way up. We then put them back into the key, by lowering them, on the way down.

The Sharp Melodic Minor Scales

A Minor

E Minor

B Minor

F# Minor

C# Minor

G# Minor

D# Minor

The Flat Melodic Minor Scales

A Minor

D Minor

G Minor

C Minor

F Minor

Bb Minor

Eb Minor


Chords on the Melodic Minor scale

It is unusual to construct chords on the melodic minor scale. However, we can use the same process we used for building chords on the major scale. We will limit ourselves to the ascending melodic minor as the descending has already been dealt with in part 2, Naturally Minor.

When we build chords above the notes of this scale, we notice that the chord built on the fourth and fifth notes of the scale are major chords. Chord III has a raised fifth (#5); this is the augmented chord. Chords vi and vii are diminished chords. Chord ii is a minor chord.

As before, all the major chords have the same interval structure: Major third above the bottom note, known as the root note, and a perfect fifth above the root note.

All the minor chords also have the same interval structure: minor third above the root and a perfect fifth above the root also.

The diminished chords consist of a minor third above the root with a diminished fifth above the root.

The augmented chord consists of a major third above the root with an augmented fifth above the root.

Next time:

Modal Harmony

All materials are 1998~2010 Shane Kershaw aka Bandcoach

Keys, Scales, Chords: Melodically Minor


Shane Kershaw aka Bandcoach

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