3.13 The harmonic and melodic minor scale

 

Category: Harmony | Tags: Scales, Ear training: scales

Theory

In Chapter 3.12 The leading tone in the minor scale you’ve learned that there are two variants of the minor scale. In this chapter you will learn more about these variants and what they are called. In the video and examples I show how they are constructed. You will also learn to distinguishing the difference between the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scale by ear.


1. The harmonic minor scale

The A minor scale is comprised of the tones: A B C D E F G A. This scale is called the natural minor scale.

 

A minor scale
The A minor scale is comprised of the tones: A B C D E F G A.

 

The harmonic minor scale has a raised seventh tone. The seventh note is now a half step under the tonic and is a leading tone.

The harmonic minor scale is comprised of the tones: A B C D E F G# A.

 

The harmonic A minor scale
In the harmonic A minor scale, G, the seventh note, is raised to become a G#.

cd Ch.3.13 The harmonic and melodic minor scaleThe harmonic minor scale


2. The melodic minor scale

However, although we have solved the problem of the leading tone, a new problem has been created. Play the harmonic A minor scale and listen carefully. Do you notice a strange interval between the sixth and seventh tone? Between the F and G#? It doesn't sound very 'melodic'.

What can you do about this? The solution is to artificially raise the sixth tone by a half step. In other words, place a sharp before the sixth note. The strange interval between the sixth and seventh tone is gone. The scale now sounds nicely even, without strange leaps.

Now we have changed the scale for the second time. This variant, in which both the sixth tone and the seventh tone are raised, is called the melodic minor scale.The melodic minor scale is comprised of the tones: A B C D E F# G# A.

 

The melodic A minor scale
In the melodic A minor scale, F and G, the sixth and the seventh notes, are both raised and become F# and G#.

cd Ch.3.13 The harmonic and melodic minor scaleThe melodic minor scale

 

Descending, the sixth and seventh tones of the melodic minor scale are often not raised, but played as the natural minor scale.

 

Video

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Examples

note example

piano example


3. Ear training

 

Exercises with only minor scales

Ear Training exercise 3f: distinguishing the difference between the natural and harmonic minor scale by ear.


Ear Training exercise 3g: distinguishing the difference between the natural and melodic minor scale by ear.


Ear Training exercise 3h: distinguishing the difference between the harmonic and melodic minor scale by ear.


Ear Training exercise 3i: distinguishing the difference between the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scale by ear.


Exercises with all scales

Ear Training exercise 3j: distinguishing the difference between the major and minor scale by ear.

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Example question

Which scale do you hear?

Choise 1: major scale

Choise 2: natural minor scale

Choise 3: harmonic minor scale

Choise 4: melodic minor scale

 

Practical steps

Sing the scale being played to train your inner hearing abilties. Decide which scale is being played.

Answer: harmonic minor scale.