Melodic Minor Demystified With the Power of the Number 11

Easy formula to shorten your learning curve.

Ultimate Guitar
I have noticed a simple formula that can be used to map out all the modes of the melodic minor which shows which interval are flattened in each diatonic mode to produce this effect.

I will be presupposing a knowledge of the diatonic modes, their formulas and very basic use of compound intervals.

I will be showing this for melodic minor and will explain how to apply it to harmonic major also.

Please don't be afraid as once you learn this method it will reduce the amount of patterns you will need to learn in isolation. Instead you will have an awareness of how to create these scales by tweaking the patterns you already know which will reduce your learning curve dramatically. So strap in and let's get going!

Melodic minor modes are ruled by 11.

In these examples we are flattening one note in each mode.

Start with Ionian to get mode 1 of MM.

Looking at ten as are compound interval it can be reduced to a 3rd. So to get the first melodic minor pattern it is Ionian with a b3.

Mode 2 of MM - Dorian

The nine can be reduced to a 2nd so this time we flat the 2nd degree of Dorian to get the second MM scale pattern.

Mode 3 of MM - Phrygian

8 being 1 up an octave so for mode three play Phrygian with a flat root.

(The idea if a flattened root may offend some people but this is just a means to an end)

Mode 3 of MM - Lydian

So for the fourth MM mode play Lydian with a flat 7.

Mode 5 of MM - Mixolydian 

So for fifth play Mixolydian and flat the 6.

Mode 6 of MM - Aeolian 

You guessed it fifth mode play Aeolian with a b5.

Mode 7 of MM - Locrian

Flat the fourth degree of Locrian for Super Locrian.

Melodic Minor is ruled by 11

To get all the harmonic major modes you just do the same as with melodic minor but change the 11 for 14. Remember to reduce down the compound intervals as necessary.

This may seem confusing at first glance but once you get your head around it this will unlock these scales with a shorter learning curve than if you were to learn 14 patterns each for both scales.

Here is the formula simplified and a reminder of the ruling numbers.
Ruling Number - Diatonic Degree = Interval to Flatten
Flattening one degree from each mode:
Melodic minor from Ionian is 11
Harmonic major from Ionian is 14

All questions and feedback is welcomed. This is my first lesson so by gentle with me. I hope you enjoyed reading and got something from this. If I get good feedback I will do a similar lesson on the harmonic minor scale.

Ciao for now everybody.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Sorry, but this sounds wrong for harmonic minor. Example: Ionian -> 14-1 = 13 - 7 = 6 That would mean i use a flat 6 instead of the "normal, Ionian" 6. But harmonic minor uses a #5. That's why the mode is called Ionian #5. (e.g. c d e f g# a b). You only need to know, that Harmonic Minor uses a #7. By knowning this, you can apply it to any mode -> Mixo: #1, Lydian: #2, Phryg: #3, Dorian: #4, Ionian: #5, Locrian: #6, Aeolian: #7
    You are mistaken, the formula you are discussing was for the Harmonic Major scale not the Harmonic Minor. The formula is water tight as I have tested it out and sent it to other musicians before posting it. You have down voted my lesson because you have mis-read it.