How to play JAZZ on the mandolin

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 Using the Melodic Minor Scale for

Improvising Against a Dominant Seventh Chord

The melodic minor scale came into common use in the 1950s and has since become a staple of modern Jazz sound.  Since it is so important in the Jazz language, any serious player should learn and become fluid with this sound.  The purpose of this page and video is to introduce the melodic minor scale and show perhaps it's most common use, playing it against a dominant seventh chord.

 The melodic minor is simply the major scale with a flatted third.  Look at the C Major Scale and the C Melodic Minor Scale below.


C Major Scale 

C Melodic Minor Scale

C Major

1    2    3   4   5    6   7   1

C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C


C Melodic Minor

1    2   b3   4   5    6   7   1

C   D   Eb  F   G   A   B   C


Notice the only difference is the E to Eb notes or 3 and b3.  The easy way to find any melodic minor scale is to play that keys major scale and flat the third.

The most common place the melodic minor scale is used in Jazz improvisation is against a dominant seventh chord.  The melodic minor scale a half step higher is used against the dominant seventh chord.  Thus if a G7 chord was being played, the Ab (1/2 step higher) melodic minor scale is used.

The Ab melodic minor contains the following notes:


Ab   Bb   Cb(B)  Db  Eb  F   G 

Ab Melodic Minor Scale

If we play the notes of the Ab melodic minor scale but start on the G note, we get the following notes:


G   Ab   Bb   Cb(B) Db  Eb  F

Analyzed in the key of G this would be


1   b9   #9      3      b5(#11)   #5(b13)   b7

         G  Ab   Bb  Cb(B)      Db            Eb       F 

This gives us every possible alteration of a dominant chord   [b9   #9   b5(#11)   #5(b13)]  plus the 1, 3 and b7.  This scale offers a lot of coloration and a lot of possibilities of clash and resolve of musical lines.  This is also called the G Altered Dominant Scale.


 G Altered Dominant Scale


Try out this cool sound in your next improvisation!  Best of luck.    



Joe Pass


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