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In the last section of Mia and Sebastian's Theme from La La Land, there were a lot of quick runs. Upon transcription I found the relationship of the scale and the base chord is rather unusual.

First run uses D minor scale over F#m chord, the second run uses C minor scale over B7 chord.

Is there a simple way to interpret this kind of relationship? Something like playing melodic minor scale (upward) half step above a dominant root will get you an altered scale.

Transcription (key sign matched scale for clarity):

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    Can't see many 'scale runs'. There are lots of runs using notes from scales, but they jump about. Scale runs essentially use every consecutive note of the scale from a specific key. And - the chords mentioned are missing.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 7:41
  • You are correct, question edited.
    – dz902
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 9:33

1 Answer 1

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The first run is not over F#m; it's over a single F#, which is crucial, because that gives an enormous amount of harmonic leeway. I would consider the governing harmony to be F#7alt [i.e., F#7(b5)(b9)(#9)(b13)]. The notes in the run near perfectly match the F# altered scale: F# G A=Gx Bb=A# C D E. The only note that doesn't fit that scale is the C#, which is easily explained as a chromatic neighbor or passing tone, depending on the specific part of the run involved.

It worth noting that the F# altered scale is identical to the D major-minor scale (D E F# G A Bb C D), with the C# acting even more clearly as a chromatic note. Call it the D major-minor bebop scale, to coin a name.

There's a similar thing happening with the B chord. It's a B7alt chord, but here the run is just an arpeggiation of b3-3 b6-7.

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  • That arpeggiation over the B chord ... I can't place it, but I'm nearly sure it's used at the end of cliffhanger scenes in Charlie's Angels or maybe the Six-Million-Dollar Man.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 6:02
  • I concur, all altered chords/scales. Even the previous C# and the following E are both played using that sound. Why did you include the enharmonic spelling for the A and Bb in your F# altered scale? Is it because you view the altered scale as having two 9’s and no 4/11? Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 15:48
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    @JohnBelzaguy Thanks. You've got amazing ears, so I appreciate the concurrence. And yes, two 9s, b11, b13
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 19:55
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    Thank you. I guess technically it’s R m2 m3 dim4 dim5 m6 m7. I’ve always thought of it from a jazz/improvisational perspective as R b9 #9 3 b5/#11 (pick one) b13, b7. It’s one of the very useful and colorful modes of the ascending melodic minor scale. Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 20:27

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