Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Practical Melodic Minor Harmony part III: The Minor II-V-I

    A minor II-V-I progression is different than the II-V-I progression in major scale harmony.  When dealing with the progression in a major key, all three chords of the II-V-I are derived from the same major scale.  For example, in C major the progression would be Dmin7 - G7 - CMaj7.  A minor II-V-I usually consists of a half-diminished chord as II, an alt chord as V, and a minor-major chord as I.  Unlike the major II-V-I, however, all three chords from the minor version of the progression come from three different melodic minor scales.

    The same progression above in C major would look like this in a minor II-V-I progression:  DØ - G7alt - CminMaj.  The DØ chord comes from F melodic minor, the G7alt from Ab melodic minor, and CminMaj is derived from C melodic minor.

    You probably noticed that the II and V chords in the minor II-V-I come from two melodic minor keys a minor 3rd apart.  If you remember what was discussed in the previous post about the interchangeability of chords in a melodic minor key you will realize that there is a simple trick to playing over these chords.  Just as you can play the same lick over any of the melodic minor chords within the same key, you can transpose the lick up any interval to fit in any other melodic minor key.

    So, looking at the DØ - G7alt progression, you will realize that any lick or phrase that is played on the DØ chord can be repeated up a minor third to work on the G7alt chord as well.  This is some pretty cool stuff.  Also, however you choose to voice the DØ chord, the same voicing can be transposed up a minor third to work on the G7alt.  When you are playing in melodic minor, you are essentially thinking in terms of the key and not the chord, which as I stated before, I find very liberating.

    It is also important to remember that a minor II-V-I doesn't have to be resolved to a minor chord, as it can be just as effective resolving to a major chord.  In fact, resolving a minor II-V progression to a major chord can result in some very interesting colors in a tune.  I find this quite useful for compositional purposes.  If you are writing a piece of music and want to immediately establish the sound of melodic minor, you should know that the chord constructed of the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th of a melodic minor key is not present within any other melodic minor key.  This is the minor-major chord of the key and effectively establishes a melodic minor tonality.

    I hope you have enjoyed and learned something from this short series on the melodic minor scale.  Any feedback or questions in the comments would be appreciated.


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