This is a very minor question, but I'm trying to learn a piece (a Bach Concerto in D minor) that has the following sequence of notes played in order:

A B C# D E F G A

My piano teacher said it was a scale, but could not/did not determine what it is called. So to satisfy my curiosity, what would you call it?

  • 2
    These are exactly the notes from the D minor scale, are you only confused because you start and finish on A? Or am I misunderstanding something? May 6 '11 at 15:17
  • 4
    @Anthony: Not true. The D minor scale (natural and melodic at least) has a B flat.
    – Noldorin
    May 6 '11 at 15:20
  • 1
    As per the sheet music, there is in fact a natural on the B.
    – user28
    May 6 '11 at 15:39
  • 1
    @Brian: Yep, it appears right there in the 3rd bar. (I checked on another score too.) The base clef includes a simultaneous and parallel scale. I would presume the D was simply naturalised for "chromatic effect", and would classify it as such: a "modified D harmonic minor scale".
    – Noldorin
    May 6 '11 at 15:43
  • 1
    "a very minor question" - lol
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 13 '15 at 7:57

This is a D melodic minor scale (The root of the scale would be D since this Bach), which alters depending on if it is descending or ascending. When ascending the 6 and 7th degrees are raised, and then decending they are lowered. So when descending it is the same as a natural minor scale.

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These are pretty common in classic music and are often standard of youth symphony auditions.

As a side note, there are some interesting sounds based on different modes of the melodic minor scale (i.e. the same notes, but starting on notes other than D).

  • 6
    If we wanted to look at it in modal terms (given the starting note A), it is A mixolydian b6 - the fifth mode of D melodic minor, as Rein Henrichs pointed out.
    – user321
    May 7 '11 at 1:39
  • 1
    @Kyle Brandt: While I do agree that these are the tones of ascending D melodic minor, I wonder if this mode (based on A in this example) has a name. You wouldn't say that G mixolydian is C major, so if this is not D ascending melodic, this is A what?
    – Gauthier
    Sep 1 '11 at 12:17
  • 1
    After more research, it seems to me that Faza has the correct answer: mixolydian b6. It might also be called the Hindu scale. ref: jazzguitar.be/melodic_minor_modes.html
    – Gauthier
    Sep 2 '11 at 7:37
  • 1
    @Gauthier It's the standard name. See The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine. Sep 2 '11 at 8:03
  • 1
    @Rein: I just saw that and wrote it in an answer. I don't mean to hijack and use your knowledge in an answer I write, I just thought the name should figure in an answer rather than a comment. Also, I own that book and did not even check there :) ... books do not have a search button.
    – Gauthier
    Sep 2 '11 at 8:17

It seems to me that Faza has the correct answer in his comment to Kyle Brandt:

A mixolydian b6

It may also be called the A Hindu scale.


Still unsure if it is appropriate to use Mixolydian b6 are Hindu for a mode.

  • Perhaps edit into "A mixolydian b6" to point out that this is the scale starting on A as per the question? (Which happens to use the same note material as the ascending D melodic minor scale, and also is a consequence of the tonic being D minor.) Dec 29 '12 at 19:51

In my opinion it falls under the definition of a diatonic scale, where two WWH back to back are separated by a W. As said by some of the experienced musicians in the earlier comments, it has similarity to a Mixolydian scale with an exception of the 6th note. This cannot be called a melodic scale because ascending & descending orders appear to be the same. I think there is little need to call it by any name. Just play and enjoy the sound.

Sabyasachi Ghosh, Mumbai

  • 2
    Because it comes up in the context of a Bach piece in D minor though, It's really just D melodic minor. If it was in a context where A was the pitch centre, I'd agree with everything you've said; but in this case it's simply a rune of notes that starts and ends on the fifth degree of the scale.
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 28 '15 at 8:43

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