#1
A superficial summary of the minor scales as I understand them.

1) Natural minor is simply the minor equivalent of the major scale. Unfortunately, it doesn't harmonize well.

2) Harmonic minor raises the 7th degree by a half step, leading to better harmonization. Unfortunately, there's now an awkward jump between the last two scale degrees that some people find odd sounding.

3) Melodic minor solves this by either raising the sixth or flatting the seventh depending on whether one is ascending or descending.

I might have some mistakes there, but overall I think I understand the PURPOSE of these three scales. The problem is, if all I know about a given song is that it's in, say, G minor, which scale should I use to improvise over the chords? When you learn the major scale, you can pretty much use it to solo over any major scale chord progression. Modes aside, there's only one major scale, at least in most mainstream music.

Two questions:

1) Should I learn all three minor scales? Do most guitarists learn all three or is there one in particular that I should focus on?

2) Even if I learn all three, how will I know which is appropriate? I've never heard someone describe a song as, for example, in the key of "G harmonic minor" or "F# natural minor"

I recognize I could have misunderstandings at any point in this post, so any information to set me straight would be awesome. Thanks!
#2
Quote by dragnet99
A superficial summary of the minor scales as I understand them.

1) Natural minor is simply the minor equivalent of the major scale. Unfortunately, it doesn't harmonize well.

2) Harmonic minor raises the 7th degree by a half step, leading to better harmonization. Unfortunately, there's now an awkward jump between the last two scale degrees that some people find odd sounding.

3) Melodic minor solves this by either raising the sixth or flatting the seventh depending on whether one is ascending or descending.

I might have some mistakes there, but overall I think I understand the PURPOSE of these three scales. The problem is, if all I know about a given song is that it's in, say, G minor, which scale should I use to improvise over the chords? When you learn the major scale, you can pretty much use it to solo over any major scale chord progression. Modes aside, there's only one major scale, at least in most mainstream music.

Two questions:

1) Should I learn all three minor scales? Do most guitarists learn all three or is there one in particular that I should focus on?

2) Even if I learn all three, how will I know which is appropriate? I've never heard someone describe a song as, for example, in the key of "G harmonic minor" or "F# natural minor"

I recognize I could have misunderstandings at any point in this post, so any information to set me straight would be awesome. Thanks!

The thing is, you play what sounds good to you.

But really, there's only one minor key and the three different minor scales are just minor scales with accidentals. Harmonic minor has a raised 7th note and melodic minor has raised 6th and 7th notes when ascending and it's the same as natural minor when descending. Which scale you should use depends on the chords you are playing over (and really the scales are there because of the chord progressions). Use harmonic minor if your chord progression has a dominant V(7) chord. The raised 7th is a chord tone, for example in A minor the raised 7th note is G#. And in A minor the V7 chord would be E7. And why do people use V7 chord in minor? Because it sounds more "dramatic" than a minor v chord. Try playing Am-E7-Am and Am-Em-Am. You can hear that the progression with E7 has much more tension and that's why it sounds more dramatic. So the raised 7th is the major third of the V7 chord. You are really only playing a chord tone.

When you should not use harmonic minor scale is if the progression has a bVII chord (G major in A minor). G# and G at the same time don't sound really good. So in this case play A natural minor.

A good example of natural minor in use is almost any basic pop song that goes in minor. They don't use a lot V7 chords (some do of course). Am-F-C-G is a basic four chord progression. And you would want to play A natural minor over it. No V7 chords - no harmonic minor.

Melodic minor... I'm not really sure when you "should" use this scale. It has to do with melody as the name suggests. Basically when your melody goes up, you use the ascending scale and when your melody goes down, you use the descending scale (ie natural minor). And this pretty much makes sense because the raised 7th wants to go up. It's the leading tone. But when the melody goes down, you don't want to play the leading tone that wants to go up if that makes sense. Also the difference between major scale and ascending melodic minor scale is only one note, the minor third. So when you play ascending melodic minor, it kind of has more "major" tone. I'm not sure if this was a good or even correct explanation so please somebody explain it better than me.

But what notes you should play has a lot to do with the chords you are playing over. Certain notes over certain chords sound dissonant. Not every note in the major scale fit every chord in major. For example play B over C and it doesn't sound good. Though good improvisers can play whatever notes and sound good because they can resolve the tension by first playing a dissonant note (non-chord tone) and after that a consonant note (chord tone). If you only play chord tones, your playing won't sound dissonant though by only playing the chord tones might sound a bit boring. Playing over chords is about dissonance and consonance. Think more about what chords you are playing over than what scale you are playing. Because you always want to hit the chords tones. Otherwise your playing will sound dissonant and not really good.

Edit: Also you said that natural minor doesn't harmonize well. What does this mean? The basic way to harmonize is in thirds. If you want to play Iron Maiden harmonies, they are usually in natural minor scale harmonized in 3rds or 6ths.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 14, 2013,
#3
Quote by dragnet99
A superficial summary of the minor scales as I understand them.

1) Natural minor is simply the minor equivalent of the major scale. Unfortunately, it doesn't harmonize well.

2) Harmonic minor raises the 7th degree by a half step, leading to better harmonization. Unfortunately, there's now an awkward jump between the last two scale degrees that some people find odd sounding.

3) Melodic minor solves this by either raising the sixth or flatting the seventh depending on whether one is ascending or descending.

I might have some mistakes there, but overall I think I understand the PURPOSE of these three scales. The problem is, if all I know about a given song is that it's in, say, G minor, which scale should I use to improvise over the chords? When you learn the major scale, you can pretty much use it to solo over any major scale chord progression. Modes aside, there's only one major scale, at least in most mainstream music.

Two questions:

1) Should I learn all three minor scales? Do most guitarists learn all three or is there one in particular that I should focus on?

2) Even if I learn all three, how will I know which is appropriate? I've never heard someone describe a song as, for example, in the key of "G harmonic minor" or "F# natural minor"

I recognize I could have misunderstandings at any point in this post, so any information to set me straight would be awesome. Thanks!


The bit in your #1 note on the natural minor scale is correct, but it is a little misleading the way you have it written. The thing about the natural minor scale is that it doesn't have a leading tone, because it instead has a b7. The leading tone is an integral part of the dominant - tonic relationship which keys are primarily built upon. In order to achieve that true dominant - tonic cadence in a minor key, it became common practice to sharpen the 7th so that you achieve a stronger resolution.

As an experiment pick up your guitar & play Gm - Cm; then play G - Cm & tell us which feels more satisfying as a final cadence.

The problem in my eyes is that you are still trying to visualize music as a chord progression with a solo cut & pasted from a scale on top of said chords. Instead you should visualize your solo as a part of the underlying harmony, that is why chord tone soloing feels so right over a progression because it is well grounded in the backing harmony.

With that concept in mind instead of thinking of these as three different scales think of harmonic minor as an alteration to the natural minor scale for the purpose of solidifying the key center, & the melodic minor as a consequence of the chords usingt he altered harmonic minor(keep in mind that back when these tenants were established a minor third jump was probably thought of as a really aquward sound )

So you should use the natural minor when the 7th is left flat in the progression, & the melodic minor to solo over the chords using the natural 7, or harmonic minor if you prefer the sound. Like maggaramarine suggested it really comes down to what sound you want to convey.
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#4
Quote by MaggaraMarine
The thing is, you play what sounds good to you.

But really, there's only one minor key and the three different minor scales are just minor scales with accidentals. Harmonic minor has a raised 7th note and melodic minor has raised 6th and 7th notes when ascending and it's the same as natural minor when descending. Which scale you should use depends on the chords you are playing over (and really the scales are there because of the chord progressions). Use harmonic minor if your chord progression has a dominant V(7) chord. The raised 7th is a chord tone, for example in A minor the raised 7th note is G#. And in A minor the V7 chord would be E7. And why do people use V7 chord in minor? Because it sounds more "dramatic" than a minor v chord. Try playing Am-E7-Am and Am-Em-Am. You can hear that the progression with E7 has much more tension and that's why it sounds more dramatic. So the raised 7th is the major third of the V7 chord. You are really only playing a chord tone.

When you should not use harmonic minor scale is if the progression has a bVII chord (G major in A minor). G# and G at the same time don't sound really good. So in this case play A natural minor.

A good example of natural minor in use is almost any basic pop song that goes in minor. They don't use a lot V7 chords (some do of course). Am-F-C-G is a basic four chord progression. And you would want to play A natural minor over it. No V7 chords - no harmonic minor.

Melodic minor... I'm not really sure when you "should" use this scale. It has to do with melody as the name suggests. Basically when your melody goes up, you use the ascending scale and when your melody goes down, you use the descending scale (ie natural minor). And this pretty much makes sense because the raised 7th wants to go up. It's the leading tone. But when the melody goes down, you don't want to play the leading tone that wants to go up if that makes sense. Also the difference between major scale and ascending melodic minor scale is only one note, the minor third. So when you play ascending melodic minor, it kind of has more "major" tone. I'm not sure if this was a good or even correct explanation so please somebody explain it better than me.

But what notes you should play has a lot to do with the chords you are playing over. Certain notes over certain chords sound dissonant. Not every note in the major scale fit every chord in major. For example play B over C and it doesn't sound good. Though good improvisers can play whatever notes and sound good because they can resolve the tension by first playing a dissonant note (non-chord tone) and after that a consonant note (chord tone). If you only play chord tones, your playing won't sound dissonant though by only playing the chord tones might sound a bit boring. Playing over chords is about dissonance and consonance. Think more about what chords you are playing over than what scale you are playing. Because you always want to hit the chords tones. Otherwise your playing will sound dissonant and not really good.

Edit: Also you said that natural minor doesn't harmonize well. What does this mean? The basic way to harmonize is in thirds. If you want to play Iron Maiden harmonies, they are usually in natural minor scale harmonized in 3rds or 6ths.


Melodic Minor is primarily used to create tension over dominant chords.

and yes you can use G# and G at the same time, it all depends on how you phrase it. Music isn't vertical and frozen in time over certain chords, it's constantly moving.

Dragnet, I know I asked before, but if you have msn or aim, or facebook or anything like that, I can help you out with any questions you might have. I've been down these same roads you've been before.
http://richmusic.dmusic.com

"Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."
#5
Quote by dragnet99
A superficial summary of the minor scales as I understand them.

1) Natural minor is simply the minor equivalent of the major scale. Unfortunately, it doesn't harmonize well.


Nope. It harmonizes just fine. In most cases, it harmonizes better than the harmonic minor scale.

The difference is in the raised 7th degree, which does one thing and one thing only: it creates a stronger leading tone. This makes the fifth scale degree into a dominant chord, rather than an m7, which makes the V-i cadence stronger.

That's it.

If you don't understand what a leading tone is, or what a cadence is, then you shouldn't even think about the harmonic minor scale. It is entirely an artifact of a modification of minor harmony to create a stronger leading tone and cadence.

3) Melodic minor solves this by either raising the sixth or flatting the seventh depending on whether one is ascending or descending.


Yes.

The problem is, if all I know about a given song is that it's in, say, G minor, which scale should I use to improvise over the chords? When you learn the major scale, you can pretty much use it to solo over any major scale chord progression. Modes aside, there's only one major scale, at least in most mainstream music.


In most mainstream music there's only one minor scale, too. The natural minor. The harmonic and melodic are not particularly important.

1) Should I learn all three minor scales? Do most guitarists learn all three or is there one in particular that I should focus on?


You should learn the natural minor scale. However, you should learn the natural minor scale in such a way that you know where your scale degrees are. That is to say, A SCALE IS NOT A SHAPE. You may, from your basis in the natural minor scale, occasionally want to use a major 7th or a major sixth (and, heck, a minor second, major third or tritone, too) and you need to know how to find those out-of-scale notes.

As you gain experience, you'll learn there are lots of times when the chords contain non-diatonic notes. In those cases, you have to have to know how two avoid certain notes in your melody/solo/improvisation. The V7-in-a-minor-context (where major 7th scale degree in the chord would clash with a minor 7th in the melody) is only one of these places. It is, it turns out, not even necessarily the most common one. (eg, the major second over the i chord can be a problem. the 4th over a I chord in a major key, etc).

So as you progress as a musician you'll be using your, say, A natural minor scale and you'll know you've got an E major chord coming up and so you'll know that, momentarily, you should use a G# rather than a G natural. But at other times - say, most obviously over a, say Am7 chord, that G# would be a problem and you need the G natural.

In other words: it's not a cookie cutter and you can't avoid a dynamic knowledge of the chords in your song via the use of any single scale.
#6
Quote by rich2k4
Melodic Minor is primarily used to create tension over dominant chords.

and yes you can use G# and G at the same time, it all depends on how you phrase it. Music isn't vertical and frozen in time over certain chords, it's constantly moving.

Dragnet, I know I asked before, but if you have msn or aim, or facebook or anything like that, I can help you out with any questions you might have. I've been down these same roads you've been before.

You can use G# and G at the same time: Play G over E major chord and it sounds bluesy. But try playing G# over E minor chord and that sounds really dissonant. And that's what you would be doing if you were in A minor and the chord progression contained E minor or G major chord and you played A harmonic minor over it.

Of course you can play a major third over a minor chord but in most cases it will not sound good. It will most likely sound like you are hitting a wrong note.

But yeah, I agree, there are no right or wrong notes over certain chords. You can play all the 12 notes if you can use them right (and even if you can't ).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#7
Quote by MaggaraMarine
You can use G# and G at the same time: Play G over E major chord and it sounds bluesy. But try playing G# over E minor chord and that sounds really dissonant. And that's what you would be doing if you were in A minor and the chord progression contained E minor or G major chord and you played A harmonic minor over it.

Of course you can play a major third over a minor chord but in most cases it will not sound good. It will most likely sound like you are hitting a wrong note.

But yeah, I agree, there are no right or wrong notes over certain chords. You can play all the 12 notes if you can use them right (and even if you can't ).


Yeah it sounds wrong if you freeze the music at the Em chord, and play a G# and stay on it. But that never happens. That is what I mean by music is constantly moving. The G# makes a great passing tone in this context.

Besides that, these are advanced concepts that dragnet isn't ready for. So I agree that it would be best that he sticks to strictly diatonic tones for now.
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"Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."
#8
Quote by dragnet99

1) Should I learn all three minor scales? Do most guitarists learn all three or is there one in particular that I should focus on?



The harmonic minor scales and melodic minor scales are still part of the basics and I find no reason why you should limit yourself to natural minor. There still are some chord types not covered by the diatonic scale which you might encounter in one way or another just like the basic augmented and diminished seventh chords.

Keep on expanding your musical vocabulary and rediscovering "consonance". There still is an untapped potential in other minor scales such as the Hungarian minor and Neapolitan minor waiting to be unveiled.
Last edited by ha_asgag at Apr 15, 2013,
#9
Try using the Dorian mode; I enjoy how it feels major and minor all at the same time and doesn't really favor either, but is normally USED in a minor key. 2/5/1 progression.
#10
Quote by IbanezIke91
Try using the Dorian mode; I enjoy how it feels major and minor all at the same time and doesn't really favor either, but is normally USED in a minor key. 2/5/1 progression.

This annoys me. Get this suggestion out of here.

Stop saying that the modes can be used as scales to solve laziness in playing. In fact, stop saying mode in the context of tonal music. You need to realize that while the modes can be used as scales in tonal music, they're no longer modes in that case. They become scales, just like any other scale. Therefore, it's not the "Dorian mode" here, but rather the "Dorian scale".

Anyway, I can think of several situations where using the Dorian scale (note I said scale, not mode) would be result in undesired dissonance. Yes, the Dorian scale is commonly used in minor keys. But you're sorting of giving the TS an "out", and that's bad. TS should learn to properly understand overall harmony and such before he starts using the Dorian scale in this context.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Apr 15, 2013,
#11
in a jazz context, Usually when you see a m7 chord, it's functioning as a ii, in which case you would use a "dorian" unless you have a minor ii-V-i, or the key of the tune is a minor key, then you use an "aeolian" scale

for example, in the tune Impressions. There are only two chords. Em7 and Ebm7. The tune vamps on one of them for a while until switching to the other. in this context, you use E dorian and then switch to Eb dorian. Or the way I like to think of it is play in D major, and then switch to Db major.

however if in a tune is in a minor key and you see a minor ii-V-i, it's usually aeolian. Like in Blue Bossa it goes:

Cm7 for 2 bars, F-7 for 2 bars, dm7b5 1 bar, g7 1 bar, cm7 1 bar

that is all in C aeolian. Or Eb major. If you switch to thinking in the relative major key, the Cm7 is the vi, F-7 is ii, dm7b5 is vii G7 is borrowed from the major key, and Cm7 is vi again.

o you would use C aeolian over the whole thing accept when you get to the G7 just add a B to your lines, but you don't have to even do that if you don't want.
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"Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."
#12
Quote by rich2k4
Melodic Minor is primarily used to create tension over dominant chords.

and yes you can use G# and G at the same time, it all depends on how you phrase it. Music isn't vertical and frozen in time over certain chords, it's constantly moving.

Dragnet, I know I asked before, but if you have msn or aim, or facebook or anything like that, I can help you out with any questions you might have. I've been down these same roads you've been before.


Yeah man, I'd really appreciate it. AIM name is Dragnet99, just like here. Thanks!