Melodic minor is a beautiful and important sound in Jazz which you want to have in your vocabulary, but it can be a little difficult to internalize the melodic minor modes and really hear melodies with them so that you can use it in your solos.
In this video, I am going to show you a song that is pretty easy to learn that will teach you the 3 most important sounds you need melodic minor for. Don’t forget that practicing to use the scale in real music is the best way to make it a part of your playing
The song that I am talking about is the standard Bernie’s Tune, a basic AABA song, usually in Dm and with a bridge that is in Bb major. It is most famous from the recordings of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, but it was written by the jazz pianist Bernie Miller.
The song is not that difficult and the theme is a great swinging melody using 3/4 phrases over the 4/4 meter.
Analyzing The Song
Analyzing The Song is pretty easy. In fact, it is really just a minor version of a very common song, but I will return to that later.
The song is in Dm (tonic chords) and it has a II V cadences to Dm at the end of the A-part. The Bb7 is a tritone substitute of E7 so that is a sub for the dominant of the dominant. The chord has an E in the melody so this is very clearly a Lydian dominant.
The bridge is just a few turnarounds in Bb major and a II V back to Dm.
Let’s have a look at where you can put melodic minor to use!
Tonic Minor – The Richest Minor Sound
The m6 and mMaj7 chords are used for the tonic minor sound. This is probably the best place to start when learning to use the melodic minor.
Since this is the sound of the root of the scale then it is easier to hear and get into your playing.
In this case for Dm, we have
D E F G A B C# D
And the diatonic arpeggios in the scale would be:
DmMaj7 Em7 Fmaj7(#5) G7 A7 Bø C#ø
For this chord then you can get a lot out of the basic diatonic arpeggios which is a little more tricky with the other sounds.
The arpeggios you can use would: DmMaj7, Fmaj7(#5), and Bø where Bø is, of course, the same note set as Dm6:
Bø: B D F A -> Dm6: D F A B
DmMaj7 could sound something like:
Fmaj7(#5) is the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of D, this sounds like>
and The Bø you could put to use like this:
The next chord in the song is a Bb7 which here works as a tritone substitute for the dominant of the dominant, so Bb7 as a substitute for E7, the dominant of A7. And this chord is what makes it a minor version of a famous song in major, but I will get to that in a bit.
The scale that goes with this chord is F melodic minor, and there are some diatonic arpeggios that work well:
FmMaj7 Gm7 Abmaj7(#5) Bb7 C7 Dø Eø FmMaj7
Here the obvious options would be Bb7 and Dø
They both sound great, but the arpeggio nails the Bb7 without really getting the #11 in there, and you can construct other arpeggios that really nail the sound of the chord with the #11 as well and there is a really easy way to do that.
Creating Arpeggios That Nail The Lydian Dominant Sound
This is pretty simple because all you need to do is to take the Bb7 arpeggio(play) and then replace the F with an E, which gives you a Bb7(b5) arpeggio
Bb7: Bb D F Ab → Bb D E Ab = Bb7(b5)
And for the Dø the same thing works, but now you get an arpeggio that is not really related to D and is more likely an E7(#5) arpeggio
Dø: D F Ab C → D E Ab C = E Ab C D = E7(#5)
With these you can make lines like this:
Where to use Lydian Dominants
Lydian Dominants are mostly used to dominant chords that don’t really resolve. There are a few places where the use is maybe more habit than anything else.
Tritone substitutes: Bb7 A7 Dm7
Backdoor dominants: Fmaj7 Bb7 Cmaj7
V of V in major: Bb7 Bbm7 Eb7 Abmaj7
The Altered Dominant
The Altered Chord is the final sound melodic minor sound that fits the song. This can be used on the A7, and A7 altered is Bb melodic minor:
Bb C C# Eb F G A Bb, here it is written out with a C# instead of a Db because we are using it on an A7 chord.
The diatonic chords:
BbmMaj7 Cm7 C#maj7(#5) Eb7 F7 Gø Aø BbmMaj7
Here the two main arpeggios that gives you the sound of the chord (C# and G) and some alterations are
Gø which gives you 3rd, b9, 7th and b13 :
Eb7 which is b5 7th b9 3rd:
The Gø is a little easier to use and sounds a little less harsh because it has the b13 (F) rather than the b5: Eb
Does It Really Fit?
With the Tonic minor and the Lydian Dominant, there are quite a few standards that clearly use those sounds, but that is less clear with the Altered dominant. In most songs, the sound on the dominant of a minor key is coming from the harmonic minor scale. This is also the case with Bernie’s tune which has an A7 arpeggio. The A7 arpeggio has an E which is a note that is not in the altered scale.
The altered dominant is really more of a reharmonization.
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