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I know about the use of the modes of melodic minor to get colorful scales...

MELODIC MINOR MODES

Mode 2 Dorian ↓2
Mode 3 Lydian ↑5
Mode 4 Lydian Dominant (↓7)
Mode 5 Mixolydian ↓6
Mode 6 Locrian ↑2
Mode 7 Altered Scale

I have only tried using Lydian Dominant over V7 and the Altered Scale for the tritone substitution bII7b5. My playing is at the total beginner level just practicing the scale over ii-V-I type changes with and w/o the tritone substitution.

My conception of these scales is colorful modifications of the basic modes. (Not my original idea, I got it from Jamey Abersold's scale syllabus.) For example, the Lydian Dominant would work over a simple major triad, lowering the seventh makes it fit over a dominant seventh chord. Or, you could flip it around and call it a mixolydian mode with a raised 4th which sounds to me like a brightening of the basic dominant seventh/mixolydian color.

The important point seems to be that a simple progression like ii-V-I can be given subtle color changes with scale choices like Dorian ↓2, Lydian Dominant, Ionian versus plain Dorian, Mixolydian, Ionian. Either way the fundamental chord progression is the same.

You could describe this as scale options from the modes of the melodic minor to play over standard chord progressions.

Now I want to look at the triads and seventh chords based on the melodic minor...

MELODIC MINOR TRIADS / SEVENTH CHORDS

Chord tones    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7
               5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5
               3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3
               1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1 

Scale degree  ^1   ^2   ^3   ^4   ^5   ^6   ^7   ^1 

Letter         C    D    Eb   F    G    A    B    C

Triads         i    ii  III+  IV   V    vi°  vii° i

Seventh chords CmΔ7 Dm7 E♭♯5Δ7 F7  G7   Aø7  Bø7 CmΔ7

I hope Roman numeral and jazz chord labels together isn't too much of a jumble.

Are there jazz compositions that use this unique palette of chords? I'm trying to make a distinction between the decorative coloring of basic chord versus a genuine melodic minor tonality.

The CmΔ7 would need to be real chord not a chromatically embellished minor chord like in the beginning of My Funny Valentine.

The double appearance of both two dominant seventh chords and two half-diminished chords seems so distinctive to this set of chords. I would expect to see them exploited in some way for a tonality based on melodic minor. (Yes, IV7 V7 are common in jazz and blues, but I would expect a different treatment as chords of the melodic minor.)

To be clear, my question isn't could you have chord progressions based on melodic minor? Of course you could. I tried these just experimenting...

A 'turnaround' progression...

Am7♭5 - G7 - D11/A

A sequential progression... 

[i6 III+ V64 ii] [vi°6 i III+64 vii°] [IV6 vi° i64 V]

I suppose you could also have a modal jazz approach shifting between two adjacent chords.

But that's just me experimenting and speculating. Are there any well known jazz compositions using these chords of the melodic minor?


EDIT

While jazz harmony is chromatic some fundamental jazz harmony is diatonic. I suppose that could be re-stated as to the extent jazz harmony refers to chord function there needs to be some kind of key or tonality established. In this context diatonic means major scale or one of the minor scales.

Dm7 G7 CΔ7 is based on the major scale.

Dm7♭5 G7♭9 CmΔ7 is based on the harmonic minor.

Is the melodic minor used in the same way?

Dm7 G7 CmΔ7 would be based on melodic minor.

Dm7♭9 G7♮9 CmΔ7♮9 using ninth chords would make the melodic minor tonality clearer.

Perhaps looking at the mediant and submediant chords would better clarify my question. If melodic minor is really used to generate chords the mediant would be E♭+ or as a functional Roman numeral III+ In melodic minor the submediant chord would be Am7♭5 or as a functional Roman numeral Aø7.

I'm not asking if it's theoretically possible. Of course it's possible.

But I'm looking for real examples in jazz using such chords. I suspect they aren't used or are very rare.

  • 1
    At the end (& in the title), there are a couple places where you refer to harmonic minor. Do you mean to mention melodic minor in those spots? My experience is that the two most common usages of melodic minor are in a minor ii-V7alt-i. Over iiø, the Locrian ♮2 scale is pretty common, and over the V7alt, the altered dominant scale is very common. But you'll notice that those don't come form the same parent scale. For example, over Dø7-G7alt-Cmin, the parent scales would be: F melodic minor - Ab melodic minor - some variant of C minor. I'll try to think of progressions with the same parent scale – jdjazz Dec 11 '18 at 1:10
  • Not only are they used in jazz, some are used in classical music. Basically compositions in minor keys often use these chords. – ggcg Dec 11 '18 at 2:43
  • @jdjazz, I corrected the typos re. harmonic minor. – Michael Curtis Dec 11 '18 at 13:35
  • @ggcg, if you have examples of genuine III+ or vi° chords, I would like to see them. – Michael Curtis Dec 11 '18 at 14:09
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I suspect that you are correct in that there really aren't many.

AFAIK, There really aren't any songs that exclusively use melodic minor, just as it's less common to see songs that exclusively use natural minor. By and large, the most important uses of the melodic minor scale (or really any scale besides major) are used nonexclusively within a piece. The variants of minor are interesting, sure, and the do some things really well, like dominant resolutions, but a consequence of the modifications to accomplish that is that it loses functionality in other regards (as User Alcathous notes in the comments, that atrocious iii+ chord!). I think the real ingenuity behind songs that use minor is the knowledge of when to use what variant of the scales (check this out for a similar topic regarding harmonic and natural minor in tandem), or rather, the effects of the usage of each scale in each scenario.

I'm not saying that you couldn't use only melodic minor, but I imagine that if you did, it would be in a modal jazz piece with more static harmony.

Of course, that means that chord progressions themselves can use melodic minor, and I think a good example of that would be F7-G7-Cm6 [really, any time the im6 appears in jazz, it could be melodic minor (or Dorian)]. It's very common. Also, D-E°-F♯-Gm6, if you don't consider it just a decoration of the V chord.

In short: No, but that was never the point of melodic minor.

-1

I don't know what is exactly the question you are asking. But you do 'generate chords' from melodic minor. You mention yourself several times the ii-V-i, so having a dom7 as the V chord. This cannot be done with natural minor. But you can get it from melodic minor. And where they really comes from in jazz is a vague question, because this duality the minor key has between ♭6 and 6 and ♭7 and 7 is something that has been part of classical western music ever since music became functional. So everything past Gregorian chants using the chord modes exclusively already has this property. We already had these chords and cadences long before jazz was developed.

As for using a modal approach to play over jazz using the modes of melodic minor, this is a misuse of the term 'mode' as you are not playing modal music. Yes, if music has a lot of altered chords and extensions that are not diatonic, you need scales that also have these modified notes. If you are in the key of C and the V chord is a G7♯11, you need to change the C in the scale to a C#;. And it then makes sense to refer to this scale as a Lydian scale with a b7, or a Lydian dominant (you could just as well call it a Mixolydian ♯4, but people call it Lydian dominant or Lydian ♭7. I think there is a 'rule' to name things after their most sharpened interval, but I don't remember). And this happens to be the fourth mode of melodic minor. So in that sense, yes. It can be used to talk about what scales to use in jazz. But it has little to do with the Lydian mode (or Lydian dominant mode), as you likely have a ii-V-I where you change the diatonic extension of an 11th to a ♯11th. And you can't be playing a melody with an 11th/C against the chord with the 11/C#; as a color note.

  • ii V7 i is easily explained with the use of a raised leading tone on the dominant chord. That's basic minor key harmony. I make a distinction between that and chords generated from melodic minor. The former is a flexible treatment of ^6 and ^7, the later is a fixed palette of tones in which the mediant is III+ and the submediant is vi°. I explained all that in my question. Examples of genuine III+ or vi° chords are what I am looking for. – Michael Curtis Mar 1 at 18:30
  • There is no such distinction. In a jazz context, there is no accented and descending minor scale, only melodic and natural. Jazz songs might have a 'fixed palette of tones', but if it does it isn't a formal theory. In fact, one can argue that jazz completely lacks such a thing as a formal theory. – Alcathous Mar 2 at 0:54
  • User Glorfingel, usually we don't accept edits that just change the accidental signs between Unicode and hashtags and bs. – user45266 Mar 2 at 5:42
  • @Alcathous, same question I posed to ggcg, where are the examples from real jazz songs? – Michael Curtis Mar 2 at 16:36
  • You are asking others to open a fake book and go look for you? Anyway, I think it would make more sense for you yourself to think about why one would use a iii+ instead of a normal iii chord. Where is the iii chord moving to and why is adding the augmented fifth better? I am is sure it is done somewhere, but probably because someone just wanted to use the least common quality with the least common degree (iii+). I think you will find it more common in baroque music where the augmented fifth forms a constant interval with another note, and the bass moves down to form the #5. – Alcathous Mar 3 at 3:30

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