Month of Shred, Week 3: Mode Madness

In this week's lesson we'll focus on the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales.

Ultimate Guitar
Week 3! You're going to feel the burn this week. In the first two bars, we are using legato to play through the first position of the harmonic minor scale.

We then go up to B on the high E string, with a bent note vibrato (bar 15), before coming out of that into a picking run that descends through the second position of the melodic minor scale (bars 16 - 17), and we end on some chord tones.

The harmonic minor and melodic minor scales are very similar:

Harmonic minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7

Melodic minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

And when we compare scale patterns, we can see that the shapes we are using overlap, which gives us a nice smooth transition between these two different scales.

E harmonic minor, position 1:

E harmonic minor position 2:

E melodic minor position 2 (notes that overlap with E harmonic minor position 2 are in blue):

How to practice:

1. Get your fingers around this week's section.

2. Practice to a metronome!

3. Add it to Week's 1 and 2.

If you want to learn more about the modes of the major scale and how they work, you can check out my free eBook here, which will give you a thorough grounding in these scales and the theory behind them, so that you can use your entire guitar neck and have more freedom and expression in your playing.

By Sam Russell

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hey man, great lesson! Make sure that you specify that the melodic minor scale is different descending than ascending!
    seriously does anyone even click this ****ing shit?? is it even worth posting you stupid bullshit? I know human stupidity known no bounds, but ****... I can't see anyone on this site clicking this. GTFO!
    Haha... This guy doesn't contribute anything to this site and he's a dick. Screw him, Sam.
    I believe there was spam, on which he commented. And after that, the spam got removed.
    In a strict classical sense you are correct!
    Interesting, I studied classical and that's the only way I learned the melodic minor. It's cool to know there are different ways of playing it. Thanks Sam for the lesson! Keep it up!
    When there's no difference between ascending and desceding, it's usually called the jazz melodic minor scale (I've read this in Don Mock's book about it, if anyone is interested in the subject)
    Ahh, nice. I did not know that. Thanks man!
    Yep, sticking strictly to Melodic Minor regardless of ascending or descending is indeed the "Jazz Melodic Minor." I'm not exactly sure why typically it reverts to natural when descending, but I think it's something to do with resolution or rather, resolving your idea. I'm assuming it has something to do with the 6th and 7th degrees adding tension that is resolved by lowering them. Just a guess.
    I really don't see the point in calling it "ascending" and "descending" melodic minor. "Descending" melodic minor is natural minor. "Ascending" melodic minor can be used in descending lines, even in classical music. Yes, it's a common practice that when melodies go down, they usually use natural minor. But that's because of the leading tone. The leading tone usually "wants" to go up, not down, so it's used more in ascending lines than descending lines. Using harmonic minor in melodies can sound a bit odd. I mean, it will give the music kind of an "exotic" feel (because of the augmented second between the 6th and 7th notes). Using melodic minor kind of sounds more "natural" in melodies. Well, I guess that's why it's called "melodic minor". Melodic minor makes a lot more sense when you know about chord functions. It's mostly used over the V chord.
    Harmonic minor in melodies can sound a bit odd? That's an opinion and many, many pre-classical composers used harmonic minor more than natural and melodic minor (at least in the couple hundred pieces I've analyzed). Both melodic and harmonic can be used over a V chord in minor or III+ chord.
    I didn't mean it literally. But that augmented 2nd kind of gives the melodies kind of an "Eastern" feel if you know what I mean. By using melodic minor that can be avoided. Of course it doesn't sound odd to us. It just sounds less "Western". Hard to explain. You can of course also avoid the augmented 2nd by skipping the 6th scale degree altogether when going from the 5th to 7th scale degree or vice versa. But yeah, my main point was about "ascending" and "descending" melodic minor, and IMO those are useless terms. Why not just call the scale with both major 6th and 7th melodic minor and say that most of the time in descending melodies you use natural minor?
    What's easiest to say? "Ascending melodic minor, then descend and resolve to the 3rd." Or "When ascending, use melodic minor, but when descending revert to natural minor, even if you're just doing a repeating descending pattern."
    I bet none of you guys can play Smoke on The Water. It's a Deep Purple song from the 70's ? Ugh,Ugh,Ugh. Ugh,Ugh,Ugh-Ugh. Ugh,Ugh,Ugh. Ugh Ugh. I think its a major or minor scale. It's really cool if you distort it a little bit. Trade secret. Thank you, I'm here all week.