Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Practical Melodic Minor Harmony part II: Chord for Chord

    Once you've learned the modes of melodic minor and how they function, we can get down to business.  Unlike major scale harmony, there are no notes in the melodic minor scale that clash with the harmony of any of the chords of the scale.  This means that just about anything you play using melodic minor over one of it's chords can also be played on any of the other chords.

    This can also apply to the chords themselves.  Take any chord in melodic minor and substitute a different note in the scale for the root, and it can function as the chord that would go with the root.  For example, take a C minMaj chord, spelled C - Eb - G - B - D.  Swap the root with F, and you get F 7#11 (or at least a chord that functions in the same way), the chord from the 4th mode of C melodic minor.  You can do this with any chord and any root within the same melodic minor scale.

    The melodic minor scale contains two 7th chords a tritone apart, built on the 4th and 7th degrees of the scale.  These chords are basically the same chord for reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Because of this fact, they can be used in the same situations.  For example, in a ii - V7 - I progression in C major (Dmin7 - G7 - CMaj), the G7 can be replaced with Db7.  Both G7 and Db7 exist within the Ab melodic minor scale built from the 7th and 4th degrees, respectively.

    Traditionally, as in major harmony, the 3rd and 7th degrees are essential to determining a chord's function, but not so much in melodic minor harmony.  I've heard many guitarists voice 7th chords in melodic minor without 3rds and it works out fine.

    Playing in melodic minor harmony is really quite a liberating experience.  Since there are no notes to avoid when playing over certain chords, you really just get to think in terms of the whole key being available to you.  Rather than thinking "this chord = these notes," you can think in terms of "this scale = these chords."  Take the following progression, for example.  C7#11 - EØ - G minMaj - F#7alt - D minMaj/C - A sus(b9) - B Maj#5.  It may look like a complicated set of changes, however under closer examination you will see that they all come from the G melodic minor scale.  Pretty simple, huh?  Remember to think in terms of the key and not the chord when dealing with melodic minor.



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