Melodic Minor Scale

In this lesson we will look at the final variation on the minor scale, the Melodic Minor Scale. Like the harmonic minor scale, the melodic minor scale alters the notes of the natural minor scale using accidentals.

As the harmonic and melodic minor scales are modified natural minor scales, the rules that govern the relationship between the natural minor and its relative major carry over. Therefore, the use of accidentals occurs dynamically and the key signature for all forms of minor scales are maintained.

For example: The key signature for A minor (no sharps or flats) is in fact the same for the harmonic and melodic minor scales. The accidentals are applied as needed, and are not established in the key signature.

The harmonic minor scale raises the 7th degree of the natural minor scale to satisfy harmonic foundation, hence its name. The raised 7th degree creates an interval of an augmented 2nd between scale degrees 6 and 7 of the harmonic minor scale.

Although this function satisfies harmonic foundation, it results in difficulties with regard to the melodic foundation in music. The melodic minor scale resolves this awkward augmented interval by raising both the 6th and 7th degrees of the natural minor scale by a half-step.

For example: Consider the A natural minor scale as our reference.

A Natural Minor A B C D E F G A
A Melodic Minor A B C D E F# G# A

At the outset, the melodic minor scale appears similar in construction to that of the harmonic minor scale. However, the melodic minor scale involves two processes.

Degrees 6 and 7 are raised when the melodic minor scale is played ascending. The natural minor scale is played as part of the complete melodic minor scale when descending. Therefore the accidentals raised when ascending are returned to their natural positions.

For example: Following on from our example above:

The A Melodic Minor Ascending and Descending

A Melodic Minor Ascending and Descending

Melodic Scales vs. Major Scales

Upon closer examination, the ascending melodic minor scale is very similar in construction to the major scale. The only difference being the minor 3rd. For example:

C major scale

2 2 1 2 2 2 1
C D E F G A B C

C melodic minor scale (ascending):

2 1 2 2 2 2 1
C D Eb F G A B C

As can be seen by the diagrams above, the difference between these two scales is the third degree. The flattened 3rd changes the major to an ascending melodic minor scale.

Below is a table of the melodic minor scales.

For clarity the melodic minor scale shows the use of the natural minor when descending.

C Melodic Minor
Ascending Descending
C D Eb F G A♮ B♮ C Bb Ab G F Eb D C
G melodic minor
Ascending Descending
G A Bb C D E♮ F# G F♮ E
D melodic minor
Ascending Descending
D E F G A B♮ C# D C♮ Bb A G F E D
A melodic minor
Ascending Descending
A B C D E F# G# A G♮ F♮ E D C B A
E melodic minor
Ascending Descending
E# G A B C# D# E D♮ C♮ B A G F# E
B melodic minor
Ascending Descending
B C# D E F# G# A# B A♮ G♮ F# E D C# B
F# melodic minor
Ascending Descending
F# G# A B C# D# E# F# E♮ D♮ C# B A G#
C# melodic minor
Ascending Descending
C# D# E F# G# A# B# C# B♮ A♮ G# F# E D# C#
G# melodic minor
Ascending Descending
G# A# B C# D# E# Fx G# F# E♮ D# C# B A# G#
Eb melodic minor
Ascending Descending
Eb F Gb Ab Bb C♮ D♮ Eb Db Cb Bb Ab Gb F Eb
Bb melodic minor
Ascending Descending
Bb C Db Eb F G♮ A♮ Bb Ab Gb F Eb Db C Bb
F melodic minor
Ascending Descending
F G Ab Bb C D♮ E♮ F Eb Db C Bb Ab G F