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I'm looking for ideas to memorize the 7 positions of the melodic minor on the guitar fretboard. Any suggestions? Is there a way to map each pattern to a chord shape? Or a way to quickly visualize the notes of the mode on the fretboard when playing in a certain position on the neck?

Thanks

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    Since major scales are deemed to have 5 separate patterns, then melodic minor scales will also be deemed to have 5. Thus their modes will follow suit. True, there are 7 notes to each. And - are you considering classical or jazz melodic minor notes?
    – Tim
    Sep 6, 2021 at 7:44
  • Jazz melodic minor notes. Can the 5 separate patterns be associated with chords like CAGED?
    – Vivek Ayer
    Sep 6, 2021 at 11:50
  • CAGE(D) works for me with chord shapes, and I don't teach associated scales. Jazz MM only differs from the parallel major by m3/M3, so I think about it as a slightly different major scale - and the related modes, which I refer back to the parent rather than as separate entities - just my way!
    – Tim
    Sep 6, 2021 at 14:58
  • I'm a bit confused here. "Modes of a scale," as far as I've seen, usually denotes rotations, so for example the scale from GABCDEFG is a mode of CDEFGABC. Would a mode of A melodic minor be EF♯G♯ABCDE ascending and EDCBAGFE descending? @Tim what is "jazz" melodic minor? Does it have a blue note on 6 and or 7? Or on 5?
    – phoog
    Sep 6, 2021 at 16:55
  • @phoog - don't be confused - it's simple! Jazz players tend to eschew the descending version of the classical mel. min., and use the ascending set of notes as a basis. No b5, although personally, any of the 12 available notes are exactly that - available - for use anywhere. So modes of mel. min. work just as Dorian, Phrygian etc. do from parent major. In fact, with only one note difference - making it pretty straightforward, I guess!
    – Tim
    Sep 6, 2021 at 17:22

2 Answers 2

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I'm not sure mapping each mode to a chord helps. When I learned the patterns for the major scale I just made scale charts on the finger board for each and practiced. The patterns on a guitar in standard tuning are what they are. There are a few things that might help. One is to know the pattern of steps and the tetrachords in the major scale. Breaking the scale in to smaller chunks helps with memorization. Then to know how the modes are related to scale degrees. For example, if you're in the key of G at the 3rd fret the relative Phrygian mode will start on the 7th fret (B), etc. With some effort you will see the relative Major scale embedded within each mode pattern. After enough time I just don't think in terms of modes and the entire neck is defined in terms of the diatonic scale. William Levitt's scales patterns are somewhat helpful in this regard as he encourages the student to see each pattern as a form of the Major scale rather than a mode. Keep in mind that there are several ways to play the major scale, there are forms that stay in one position, three note per string patterns that move up the frets, and patterns that maintain the same finger grouping while shifting. So, all that work needs to be repeated for each of these patterns. Rather than learn them all it might be better to focus on 4 or 6 note groupings on 2 strings and figure out where those patterns are.

As for the Melodic minor and its relative modes, I tend to think in terms of how the altered notes (sharp 6 and 7) serve to create a resolution to the i chord, and memorize the relative ii - V7 - i and other progressions in the minor key. It also helps to understand that these notes are #4 and #5 of the relative major creating an augmented feel in that key.

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The website Jazz Guitar Online, has a page with very complete information about (jazz) melodic minor and its modes.1 Given for each mode are:

  • the primary and alternate names
  • chords that work with that scale
  • the note names
  • scale degree alternations based on major
  • "play-along" audio for the scale
  • a fret-board map
  • an example lick with standard and tab notation, plus another play-along recording.

Of particular note are the chord references, which might assist in finding and memorizing shapes for each scale.

  • Mode 1: min, min-maj7
  • Mode 2: b9sus4
  • Mode 3: maj7#5
  • Mode 4: dom7#11
  • Mode 5: dom7b13
  • Mode 6: m7b5 (half diminished)
  • Mode 7: dom7 with alterations

1 "Classical" melodic minor raises scale degrees 6 and 7 ascending and lowers them descending. "Jazz" melodic minor uses the raised 6 and 7 in both directions.

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    I didn't downvote, but I think the OP is asking something like, what to actually do with all that material. My own advice would be to divide and conquer the mode set one by one, spend hours utilizing each mode from different aspects, chords and melodies, maybe try to do songs in each of them, in different fretboard positions etc. There's no "trick", just work... but it helps if you have a plan for the work. :) Sep 6, 2021 at 18:26

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