Bass Lesson: Melodic Minor Scale

What is the Melodic Minor scale?

The melodic minor scale is a great tool for exploring sounds that are non-diatonic. The scale structure is very similar to a diatonic major scale – there are 8 notes and there is either a whole or a half step in between all of them.

In C-major you have the notes as shown above C-D-E-F-G-A-B – which corresponds to the scale formular in scale-degrees 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.

The melodic minor scale in C is very similar to C major. You only have to change one note – you have to lower the major third to a minor third. The note E becomes an Eb.

The scale formular is 1-2-b3-4-5-6-7

It’s useful to be able to think of this scale in different perspectives – when you visualize your fretboard try to think of the scale as a major scale with a low third or for an example a dorian scale with a major 7.

  • Try to play the melodic minor scale in one octave in every key on your instrument
  • Improvise with a practice drone to internalize the sound


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7  
Major modes

Just like you have the modes Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian in the diatonic system – you also have scale modes in the melodic minor scale.

They are closely related to the diatonic modes as there only is a one note difference between melodic minor and the major scale.

The modes are different perspectives of the same notes – a song in minor may have the exact same notes as a song in major, however they feel and sound completely different. I cannot stress the importance of learning the modes enough – some of the best use cases of the melodic minor scales stems from exploring the modes.

Melodic Minor Modes:

I’ve written out every mode of the melodic minor scale out – I’ve chosen to write them out all in the same key, so that you clearly can hear the difference between them.

Melodic Minor

Scale formular: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7

Dorian b9

Scale formular: 1 b3 b3 4 5 6 b7

Lydian #5

Scale formular: 1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7

Mixolydian #11

Scale formular: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7

Mixolydian b6

Scale formular: 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7

Locrian #2

Scale formular: 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

The Altered Scale

Scale formular: 1 b2 b3 3 b5 b6 b7

  • Try to find all the melodic minor modes in the same key by starting the scale from every note!
    • Can you do it in all 12 keys?
  • Improvise with a practice drone to internalize the different sounds of all the modes.

How can I use the melodic minor scale?

Here are just a few tips!

  • Explore playing the altered scale on dominant chords leading towards a minor chord
  • Try playing the melodic minor scale instead of the dorian
  • Try playing Mixolydian #11 on dominant chords leading towards major

Remember to improvise – and have fun!

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