melodic minor

If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of posts as they relate to the major scale. In this third installment, we’ll be looking at yet more soloing options, which you can derive from the Melodic Minor scale. If you haven’t learned the Melodic Minor scale yet, this post also serves as a great introduction to the new and slightly twisted sounds available.

First, we need to get the Melodic Minor scale itself under our belts. If you haven’t studied the scale before, this will be the time-consuming part, but we’ll reduce it to just three patterns that cover more than enough of the fretboard in any key.

Here’s the Melodic Minor scale in F in just three 3NPS patterns:

f melodic minor scale 3nps
f melodic minor scale 3nps guitar
f melodic minor scale 3nps guitar

Remember our goal here is to memorize the location of the notes, so three patterns that cover most of the fretboard are more than enough.

Assuming that most chords are either major, minor or dominant, the Melodic Minor scale gives us various options for soloing over these types of chords. There are two great options for improvising over dominant chords here, simply play the Melodic Minor scale that starts on the fourth or fifth note of the scale.

Dominant Chord Options

For example, if we’re playing over an F7 chord, or any other dominant chord, you can play either Bb Melodic Minor or C Melodic Minor, making sure to resolve your phrases and runs to F. These might sound a little ‘out’ at first but persevere and you’ll start to hear some interesting results.

Minor Chord Options

If you’re playing over a minor-type chord, there’s a tasty option you can use by playing the Melodic Minor scale that starts on second note of the scale. So, in this case we’d play G Melodic Minor over an F Minor-type chord. You can always play F Melodic Minor itself over any minor chord, although be aware that any chord containing a b7 will clash with the natural 7 in the Melodic Minor scale, unless you want to create some wicked dissonance.

Major Chord Options

There’s also a cool-sounding option for soloing over major-type chords, simply play the Melodic Minor scale starting on the third note of the scale. In this case, we’d play Ab Melodic Minor over F Major.

Here’s a quick visual reference for all the above options:

melodic minor scale theory guitar

R=root, D=Dominant, m=Minor, M=Major

What am I Really Doing?

For those of you that just have to know the theory behind this, what you’re really doing is using the modes of the Melodic Minor scale! Here’s how it breaks down in F:

Chord: F Dominant – Scales: Play Bb Melodic Minor (F Lydian Dominant). Play C Melodic Minor (F Mixolydian b6).
Chord: F Minor – Scales: Play F Melodic Minor itself. Play G Melodic Minor (F Dorian b2).
Chord: F Major – Scale: Play Ab Melodic Minor (F Lydian Augmented)

If you got a bit lost with this, go back and check out parts 1 and 2 as we’re using the exact same logic. If you want to get deeper into the Melodic Minor scale, along with its arpeggios and modes, check out Hacking the CAGED System – Book 2.