Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominant with Jens Larsen

In this lesson I will demonstrate how melodic minor is used in jazz on a large group of dominants. Each example will contain a set of chord voicings and an example line.

Ultimate Guitar
In my last lesson on melodic minor I was only talking about how to use it on tonic chords which is a good starting point: Melodic Minor.

In this lesson I wanted to give a few examples on how you use it in another context: Lydian Dominants.

This lesson will also give a few examples of common progressions that are not standard II V I cadences in jazz, which is what most lessons use as a basis.

YouTube preview picture

Dom7th chords that do not resolve to a I chord

If you play jazz tunes you will quickly come across chord progressions that has a dominant that does not resolve. In this lesson I am using the Bb7 as an example. As you might know Bb7 is the dominant of Eb so a Bb7 chord resolves to an Eb chord if it is part of a standard cadence, but in many cases you have other progressions where Bb7 goes to another chord. In a lot of those cases a good choice of scale would be the lydian dominant scale which is the 4th mode of melodic minor scale.  In this lesson I am making examples using the Bb7 as chord, and Bb is the 4th degree of F minor melodic so that is the scale that we will use in these differents contexts.

The Lydian dominant scale gives you a dominant with a 9,#11 and a 13, so in that respect it's a fairly neutral sounding scale. Here's a few voicings for a Bb7 like that and also a possible way to play the F minor melodic scale.

I'd suggest that you make sure to also learn the melodic minor scales in several positions and learn the diatonic chords and triads so that you have an overview of what harmonic options you have in the scale. Just to provide the over view here are the diatonic chords of Fm melodic:

FmMaj7, Gm7, AbMaj7, Bb7, C7, Dm7b5, Em7b5

Lydian Dominant as part of a IV minor progression

Bb7 can work well as a substitute for Fm in some contexts, as is not surprising since we are playing an Fm scale over it. The progression is essentially IV IVm I, but in this case it is harmonized as IV bVII7 I. This is a very common way to harmonize that kind of progression and I think I will leave more explanations on IV minor chords for another lesson, since it is a big subject with a lot of options that are nice for harmonizing songs but also to just throw in as reharmonizations during a solo.

The line that I am playing over the Bb7 is based around a Bb7(b5) arpeggio which is not strictly a diatonic arpeggio in Fm melodic but it is a nice sound to use.

Tritone substitution

As I have mentioned before it is possible to substitue the dominant in a II V I with the chord found a tritone away, so in this case we are playing Bb7 instead of E7 in a cadence in A major. You might notice that E7 altered and Bb7 lydian dominant are from the same melodic minor scale, so in this by playing Bb7(#11) you are in fact also playing E altered.

The line that I played on the dominat is btw using a stack of fourths spelling out a Bb7(13) sound. Using stacked 4ths in lines often gives a good slightly modern sounding arpeggio.

You could chose to not play a #11 on the Bb and just use an Eb major scale in a tritone substitution, it will work too and it would sort of be one step further away from the key.

IV dominant Chord

Once in a while I've come across songs where this chord is used. I think I mentioned "So Danco Samba" and "Tenderly" in the video. It's fairly straight forward to figure out that if you want the scale on the IV dom7th that is closest to the major scale of the song then you will end up with the lydian dominant scale (since the difference it that you flatten on note to make room for the b7 on the dominant, and end up with melodic minor with the root on the I).

In this line I am using the Ab augmented triad on the Bb7 resolving the 7th to the third of F. It is also an example on how to melodically connect the lines over two chrods by making a statement on the first and then playing a variation of it on the next.

bVI dominant (The #IV Double Diminished chord in 1st inversion)

This is a chord that you don't come across that often, but it is quite prominent in the standard "Out of Nowhere" and in the "Star Trek" theme. I am not going to try to explain the whole double diminished story but could not resist the name (since it looks long dificult and impressive). If you are already familiar with what a #IV diminished chord is you can see that this chord shares a lot of notes: in D #IV dim is G# dim which is Bb7 with a B instead of a Bb. I guess that is why I even remember the #IV name, it is a description that I hear in the sound of the chord.

In the line I am using a shell voicing on the Dmaj7 chord and I am using the FmMaj arpeggio on the Bb7 chord.

Dominant of the Dominant

This is one of the most common progressions in songs where the lydian dominant sound is used, so in that respect it is maybe a bit weird to put it at the end. In Dutch and Danish this chord has it own name because it is coming along so often, I could not find an English word for it.

In Jazz standards with a 32 bar AB form the dominant of the dominant is very often found in measures 13 and 14 before going on to a II V back to the tonic. This happens so often that if you play a song with this form you are surprised if that is not the case.

I actually don't know why it has become so normal to play this as a lydian dominant, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact that you can get away with it and it gives you an easy way to vary your lines and voicings without clashing with the rest.

Since it is only changing one note from the original dominant scale (#4 in stead of 4) The thing to focus on is probably to make sure to play the #4 very clearly in the lin and maybe resolve it to the 5th of the pursuing II chord, as I do in the example.

As I mention in the video it you will probably have the most benefit of these progressions if you check out some of the songs that they are used in. The more songs you know the easier it is to hear and understand the chord progressions. Apart from that you can of course also just experiment with them and see what you end up with.

The examples in the this lesson are also available as a downloadable PDF here: Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants.

About the Author:
By Jens Larsen. I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+, Instagram or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thanks Jens This is perfect timing for me! I just started exploring melodic minor and it's modes a few weeks ago. This video and the one you did on melodic minor helped me grasp the sound of the scale and it's application a little better. It's like you read my mind sometimes
    That's great to hear! I have a lesson on altered dominatns on my website too, if you're interested That is the melodic minor application that I get asked the most about. Jens
    Chris Zoupa
    Is it stupid to think of it as a Lydian scale with a raised 5th?
    I am not sure I follow what you mean... it is the lydian scale with a b7. The 3rd mode of melodic minor would be lydian #5?