Teach Yourself Music Theory – 18.) Harmonic and Melodic Minor

Review time! What scale is this?:

If you said “a natural minor scale” you are correct! Don’t worry if you didn’t get the answer correctly, you can review on all the past posts on music theory.

We can tell that this is a natural minor scale because…

1.) The key signature has no sharps or flats, and it starts on the A pitch

2.) The scale is built in the intervallic pattern of all natural minor scales of M2-m2-M2-M2-m2-M2-M2.

Now, it is time to introduce two different kinds of minor scales.

The first is called the harmonic minor scale, and it is made by raising the seventh scale degree (the subtonic) up a half-step (the leading tone). It would look like this:

As the name goes, it is used for harmonic purposes to achieve a dominant V sound. More on that soon!

The second is called the melodic minor scale, and it is made by raising the sixth and seventh scale degree up a half-step. HOWEVER, that is only when you are ascending up the scale. Those scale degrees return back to their natural position as you descend down the scale:

As the name goes, it is used for melodic purposes to retain a “minor” sound with the lowered third degree, but have leading motion in the sixth and seventh degrees to resolve to the tonic.

Play those scales in different keys to see how they sound.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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