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Music Theory for Guitar - Melodic Minor

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Harmonic Minor Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Modal

The raised leading note works well melodically too. It leads nicely back to the tonic. So it is often used in the melody when we want this leading effect. But if we raise the 7th, and keep the minor 6th of the natural and harmonic minor, then we get an interval of one and a half note - which sounds like a minor third (in this context it is more correct to call i an augmented second). This is usually not a good scale for the melody. To compensate for this, we raise the 6th as well, from a minor to a major 6th. In Am, this will give us a scale with the notes A-B-C-D-E-F#-G#-A. This raised sixth in sometimes called a dorian sixth, because it is a note that characterize the dorian scale, a scale we will come back to later (the dorian scale does not have a raised 7th). If we compare the major and this minor scale, the only difference is that the minor scale has a minor 3rd. It starts to sound a bit "majorish", but the minor third makes it a minor scale.

We need the leading note only when we are leading up to the tonic. When we are playing down from the tonic, there is not the same need to have a note that leads back to where we are coming from. So in a descending scale, we do not play the raised 7th. And when the 7th is not raised, there is no need to raise the 6th either, so we keep the minor 6th. The result is that we get a scale that is different when it is ascending and descending. Ascending melodic minor is as described in the previous paragraph. Descending melodic minor is just as natural minor.

If we add that you might play the notes from the ascending scale even when the melody has a downward direction, and play the notes from the descending scale (natural minor) if the melody has an upward direction, or maybe choose the harmonic minor for the melody or melodic minor for harmony, then you might say that it gets complicated, or you might say that it gives you many choices.

If we harmonize the ascending melodic minor, still in A-minor, the raised 6th will give us some added challenges.

The Am is still Am. But now we have introduced the F#, meaning that the chord built on the B will have the notes B-D-F#, which is a Bm. In the C-chord, we still have the G#, meaning that we have to choose the Caug. The D-chord is one of the primary chords. But the raised 6th change it from Dm (D-F-A) to D (D-F#-A). The E is still E or E7. But the raised 6th gives us a new challenge for the next chord. As there is no F in the scale, there is no F to harmonize. So we have to go to F#, and the diatonic notes to harmonize the note are A and C. Once again we get a diminished chord, now it is F#°. And finally there is the G#° again.

If we summarize the Am in its variations, we have these notes to choose from:

A-B-C-D-E-F-F#-G-G#-A.

The chords to choose from, depending on the scale notes you choose, are:

Am - -Bm - C- Caug - Dm - D - Em - E - E7 - F - F#° - G - G#°.

It is time to remind you that you do not produce any interesting music if you are trying to demonstrate how many chords you know and how complicated harmonies you can create. Adding a little bit of extra harmonic color might be as adding i little bit of salt in your food: It enhances the taste. Too much is like drowning a delicious meal in salt.

To get some examples of typical minor chord progressions, you have to cross over to my Chord Progression Series.

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