The Case of the Melodic and Harmonic Minor Scales

Jason Allen
A free video tutorial from Jason Allen
Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer
4.5 instructor rating • 117 courses • 195,384 students

Lecture description

The minor scale (and key) isn't as simple as the major. It has a few variations, and we look at them in this lesson.

Learn more from the full course

Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor keys and More

Electronic music theory, digital music theory, and dance music theory. Learn music theory with ableton live and more!

05:07:02 of on-demand video • Updated February 2021

  • By the end of this course, you will have improved your tracks by understanding how to build chords and melodies that work together.
  • Use the circle of fifths to generate new ideas for your own tracks
  • Work within minor keys to write compelling melodies and basslines
  • 7th chords
  • Maj7 and minor 7th chords
  • Dominant 7th chords
  • Blues and the 7th chord
  • Analysis: Shame On Me (Avicii)
  • Minor scales
  • Relative keys
  • Minor diatonic chord progressions
  • Analysis: Ghosts N Stuff (Deadmau5)
  • Changing keys in your track
  • Analysis: Get Luck (Daft Punk)
  • 9th and 13th chords
  • Suspended Chords
  • Writing melodies for chord progressions
  • Writing chord progressions for melodies
  • Bass lines
  • Analysis: Windowlicker (Aphex Twin)
  • Modes
  • Producing with Modes
English okay so one more thing to talk about before we move on to actually using these things to make some music and listen to some music I talked about before something called the natural minor scale that's what we've been working with we've been working with the natural minor scale there are two other variations of the minor scale that we often use as well now these terms I don't really care if remember these terms I'm not big on terms just remember that there are kind of exceptions to the minor scale and things that we've kind of dense we've banged into the minor scale to make it serve our purposes a little bit better the first one is called the harmonic minor scale now all the harmonic minor scale is is it's the minor scale so i have an a minor scale here i'm going to go to the seventh scale degree the g in this case i'm going to raise it up by a half step now we have a harmonic minor scale now why would I do that why would I need to alter this the reason is I have a leading tone now leading tone means a note that feels like it pushes into another note it leads into another note and in most cases probably all cases it leads into the root the name of the scale or the court or whatever so when I add this G sharp when I raise the seventh that note is going to feel like it pushes back into a that really helps it establish that we are in the key of a because we feel this push into a let's hear this harmonic minor scale okay so you could feel on this note this T sharp dislike a dislike leading in to a if I stopped it right on that G sharp you would feel very unfulfilled you would feel like we were going somewhere and now it just stopped so let's actually try that I'm going to stop it right on the G sharp you know you like you you're hearing in your head the next note right it's like leading you into it that's why it's called leading to them so that helps us just establish the tonic of a minor whereas if we don't add that i just have the g in the natural minor scale then we don't have that push of a leading tone so sometimes we do use that that leading don't push it also gives the scale a little bit different quality right like it sounds different it's not this kind of like um i don't want to like stereotype but it's like kind of like older gypsy kind of sound from this gap and the leading tone so there's our minor third in here and there's also a leading tone right so it's got that that leading tone in there it feels good sometimes there's another variation of the of the minor scale and it's called a melodic minor scale and all that one is is raising the 6th and the 7th so this is our natural minor scale to go to a melodic minor scale we raise the sixth and the seventh and that gives us kind of more of a leading tone it also makes it so that some of our chords turn out major which is important sometimes so let's hear this one so this one if you remember what we did to make the minor scale out of the major scale is we from a major scale we lowered the third the sixth and the seventh right so now we've raised the six in the seventh but kept the third low so I'm sort of made this like hybrid the first half of a minor the second half is major but that's the melodic minor scale it feels like it leads into to a very well it it does sound like a minor scale that evolves into a major scale over the course of it you don't hear that kind of that minor third gap that I talked about a second ago it's just different but sometimes we use these in a minor scale especially we're working on melodys we'll talk more about this kind of stuff when we get into working on melodies that you know these notes they're fine you can the thing to remember is that if you are working on something and you're in a minor key and you're like man it really sounds like that should be a d sharp then it's cool you can totally do that you're using a different kind of minor scale but that's fine it exists so don't ever let this serie dictate what you write you should always let your ear dictate what you write but that being said this particular theory can account for when you say man I really wish that was a g-sharp you can do it so that's the harmonic and the melodic minor scales okay moving on