a couple of questions. they say the scale should be played 1,2,b3,4,5,6,7 ascending and 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7 descending.

first question: ascending/descending is in reference to the pitch (playing from highest pitch to lowest is descending) correct?

second question(s): why is it to be played in this fasion, or where did the idea come from? if played switched up is it a different separate scale? Really my second series of questions is just asking you to ramble anything you know about anything in relation to the melodic minor scale.
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Last edited by ThatDarnDavid at Sep 17, 2011,
#1: Yes. It's by pitch.

#2: Half-steps between the tonic triad (1-3-5) and the next note pull strongly towards the tonic triad. A natural 7 feels a strong pull the tonic note, being a half-step away, whereas the flattened 7th does not. So, the idea behind the melodic minor is that to arrive at the tonic you play 7 -> 1. Whereas to arrive at the dominant, you need the pull from the flattened 6th, which is one half-step away from the perfect 5th. You can move from the tonic to the dominant via 1 -> b7 -> b6 -> 5.

The scale itself isn't really played two different ways. Altering the 6th and 7th of the natural minor scale to pull toward the tonic is just a typical convention in minor keys.

EDIT: If you know why V - I or V - i works well as a closing chord progression but why v - I or v - i does not, then you've pretty much got your answers. You'll learn a lot about harmonic/melodic minor just by learning the history of why they were developed.
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Last edited by soviet_ska at Sep 17, 2011,
soviet_ska covered most of it. Basically when approaching the tonic, the raised 7th has a much stronger pull to the tonic. If you approach the raised 7th with a b6 which is typically present in the minor scale it creates an augmented second interval - an interval which is often deemed quite awkward. To solve that problem we raise the 6th and voila, you have an ascending melodic minor scale.
Quote by soviet_ska
#1: Yes. It's by pitch.

#2: Half-steps between the tonic triad (1-3-5) and the next note pull strongly towards the tonic triad. A natural 7 feels a strong pull the tonic note, being a half-step away, whereas the flattened 7th does not. So, the idea behind the melodic minor is that to arrive at the tonic you play 7 -> 1. Whereas to arrive at the dominant, you need the pull from the flattened 6th, which is one half-step away from the perfect 5th. You can move from the tonic to the dominant via 1 -> b7 -> b6 -> 5.

The scale itself isn't really played two different ways. Altering the 6th and 7th of the natural minor scale to pull toward the tonic is just a typical convention in minor keys.

EDIT: If you know why V - I or V - i works well as a closing chord progression but why v - I or v - i does not, then you've pretty much got your answers. You'll learn a lot about harmonic/melodic minor just by learning the history of why they were developed.

hey thanks that makes a lot of sense.
Blues, classical, metal. Who says you cant love all 3?