Jazz Melodic Minor Modes (colour code chart here)

Note that in classical music the melodic minor scale is melodic minor ascending and harmonic minor descending whereas the jazz melodic minor is the same ascending and descending.

The Modes are based on a system whereby you take one scale and alter the starting points within it to create different tonal qualities.

Lets take the C Jazz Melodic Minor Scale

The jazz melodic minor scale is used often as a substitution for other minor scales. If you’ve not encountered it before and you play the scale as written you may wonder ‘how do I go about using this?!’ Well, if I may suggest listening to ‘Nothing Personal’ by Don Grolnick from the album ‘Weaver of Dreams’, a composition based on the jazz melodic minor scale, so that you get a feel for the way it sounds in context. I would urge you to spend time with this scale because it is used extensively in jazz.

Starting on the 2nd note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note D, is the dorian b2 mode.

Starting on the 3rd note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note Eb, is the lydian augmented.

Starting on the 4th note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note F, is the lydian dominant mode. The lydian dominant is another important sound that you should try and become familiar with, it is used as a substitution for the mixolydian when improvising over a dominant chord. For an easy accessible example of lydian dominant usage from a compositional standpoint, think of ‘The Simpsons’ theme music.

Starting on the 5th note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note G, is the dominant b6 mode.

Starting on the 6th note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note A, is the locrian # 2 mode. The locrian # 2 mode is sometimes substituted for the locrian mode when played over a minor 7b5 chord.

Starting on the 7th note of the C jazz melodic minor scale and continuing to the octave of that note B, is the altered mode. The altered mode is a very high tension mode and is used to create harmonic instability before resolving to a more consonant type of sound. Go to the major II V I progression page and listen to the audio examples and how the altered is used on the V chord to create tension before resolving to the consonant I chord.

As you can see by starting on different notes of the jazz melodic minor scale you create different moods and sounds, this diversity is derived from one scale.