Things you NEED to know in Melodic minor

Melodic minor is a key sound when it comes to modern and traditional jazz guitar. In this lesson I will map out some of the basic and more advanced arpeggios and triads contained in the scale. These structures are also the material I use for the 3 melodic minor jazz licks included in the video. 

The Scale

The melodic minor scale is constructed as a minor scale with a major 6th and 7th.

This gives us the construction in the key of A:

1 2 b3 4 5 6   7   8

A B C D E F# G# A

A position of this scale can be seen in the example below:

Of course if you really want to dig into the scale you probalby wnat to check it out in all positions on the neck.

Basic Arpeggio Content

Diatonic Triads

The first structure you want to check out is probably the diatonic triads. Triads are constructed in the scale by stacking thirds. The beginring of this exercise is shown in example 2 below:

It is important to realize that along the way you will be better off also knowing what each diatonic triad is and what notes it contains. This will help finding places you can use it and relate it to other chords where it may be a good upper-structure.

To shortly list the diatonic triads:

I – Am

II – Bm

III – C augmented

IV – D

V – E

VI – F#dim

VII – G#dim

Diatonic 7th chords

The next logical step is to check out the  7th chords. These are really just the triads with one extra note and also essential structures for understanding the harmony related to the scale in the from that it is used in a jazz context.

An excerpt of this exercise is shown in the example below:


Here’s a list of the chords:

I – AmMaj7

II – Bm7

III – CMaj7#5

IV – D7

V – E7

VI – F#m7(b5)

VII – G#m7(b5)

Advanced arpeggio structures

Quartal Harmony and Arpeggios

Besides the 3rds based structures that are covered here above it is also possible to start looking into some of the other possibilities contained in the scale.

A very important structure in modern jazz since John Coltrane is the Quartal Arpeggio. In the example below I have written out the quartal arpeggios played along the neck on the middle string set. This way of playing the is quite easy and a good way to connect the different positions.

A more difficult but equally important exercise is to work this out in the scale position. This is shown in the exercise below.

Diatonic Sus4 triads

The sus4 triads are closel related to the quartal arpeggios , just like the quintal arpeggios. In fact stacks of fourths can be seen as an inversion of a sus4 triad.

The diatonic sus4 triads of Amelodic minor are shown below. First as a melodic exercise along the neck and then as chords.

The sus4 triads in A melodic minor are:

Asus4

Bsus4

C(#5)sus#4

Dsus#4

Esus4

F#dim(sus4)

G#dim(susb4)

Some of these triads may have peculiar names, but as you shall see in the melodic minor licks they do have some interesting sounds that we can use.

Diatonic Spread Triads

Spread or open-voiced triads are extremely useful for adding larger intervals into your lines. One reason is that it can be difficult to have larger intervals and still make coherent melodies, and using a structure as strong as a triad really helps with this.

In this segment I have written out the spread-triads along the neck in all three inversions. I find this a good practical way to work on them. You should also consider how great they are as alternate picking exercises, since they contain a lot of string skips and are useful fro string skipping and precision with alternate picking.

Spread triads in position

As I have mentioned with the other exercises it also often very useful to check them out in a scale position. This will help you have a better overview of both the scale in general and the position that you play it in.

Below is the root position spread triads in the position that I am using for this lesson. Consider these exercises more something you do for knowing the notes of the triads and where these notes are found in this position. It probably is not very practical as any type of speed or dexterity exercise.

Melodic Minor Guitar Licks

The last part of the lesson is 3 examples of melodic minor licks using the different structures and devices I have presented in this lesson as exercises.

Diatonic Sus4 triads and Diatonic 7th arpeggios 

The first example starts with two sus4 triads: Esus4 and Dsus#4. It then continues with an AmMaj7 arpeggio and ends on the major 6th(F#).

Spread triads and triad pairs

The second example is using an open-voiced or spread triad. In this case a first inversion A minor triad. The part that follows is making use of a D and E majr triad pair which takes it up to an high E where it via a small scale run resolves to the 9th(B) of Am.

Quartal Arpeggios and Open-voiced Triads

The final example is using some stacks of 4ths. As I mention in the video, the construction of the melodic minor scale yields a few peculiar quartal arpeggios. In this line the first example is two quartal arpeggios, though the first one is actually also a G#7 shell voicing. The G#7 shell is followed by a quartal arpeggio from E. Then follows a small scale run build around an Am triad and the final part of the line is an E major root position spread triad. The line ends on the major 6th: F#.

Scale practice thoughts

Keep in mind that it is much more useful for you to keep working on knowing your scales better and trying to use the things you practice in them than trying to be able to play these exercises fast. After all we practice exercises to become better at making music and if we don’t practice making music with the material from the exercises it is going to become either empty knowledge or things that we never really learned, 

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Things you Need to know in Melodic minor

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