Modes of Melodic Minor (Ascending)
This is one of my favorite topics because it opens up a new world of sonic possibility. The modes of melodic minor (ascending) are only one note off from the parent modes of major, and yet, are completely unique sounding. Some tend to be used more than others, since they lend themselves to a more “functional role”. I’ll go through each of the modes and describe them in detail below. For this post I’ll keep C the root for all the examples, but be sure to work through the worksheet to practice identifying the modes in other keys.
C ionian flat 3.mp3 C Ionian b3
This is the Dorian ♮7 or Ionian b3 mode. Of course, it is also the melodic minor ascending scale. Can you spot the unique aspect to this scale (hint: I’ve highlighted it)? Well, you can derive the basic “sound” of each of the melodic minor modes by placing the augmented triad (highlighted) found in the scale over the base note of the mode. In this mode, it’s over the C, which forms the Cmin(maj)7 chord, with extensions ♮9♮11♮13.
phrygina nat 6.mp3 C Phrygian ♮6
This is the Phrygian ♮6 or Dorian b2 mode. This is a very cool sounding mode and does well subbing for a dominant two or five chord. It’s considerably brighter than the phrygian mode because of the raised 6 (or 13). Another way to write the lead sheet name for the chord this scale creates when you place the augmented triad over the bass is Csus(b9)13.
lydaug.mp3 Lydian Augmented
This is the Lydian Augmented or Lydian #5 mode. Since its root is the augmented triad, it creates a Caug(maj)7 chord and is a funky substitution for the more mundane major 7 chord (or even lydian). Personally I use this chord a lot, either en route to the real tonic or as the tonic itself if I’m feeling bold.
lyddom.mp3 Lydian Dominant
This is the Lydian Dominant, Lydian b7, or Mixolydian #4 mode. It forms a dominant 7 with a #11, or in this context C7. Note the D major triad upper structure, its the same as a regular lydian scale upper structure, but coupled with a dominant instead of a major. Lydian dominant is one of the more “mainstream” modes, and was one that Debussy and the later french composers like Les Six used often. In a functional context, it works best when used as a dominant two or three chord in a normal circle of fifths progression (example progression: E7 A7 D7 G7 Cmaj7), but as a color the possibilities are endless.
mixoflat6.mp3 Mixolydian b6
Ah, Mixolydian b6 or Aeolian ♮3. This normally forgotten mode forms a dominant 7 chord with a ♮ 9, ♮ 11 and a b13. This mode is usually thrown to the wayside, but I think it provides a refreshing color for dominant.
locnat2.mp3 Locrian ♮2
This is the Locrian ♮2 or Aeolian b5 mode. This is another very useful mode, as it forms a half-diminished chord with a natural 9 (or here Cmin7b5(9)) which is the main two chord in a minor circle of fifths ii∅-V-i progression. The reason we prefer this Locrian to the Locrian of major is because of the b9 created by the major Locrian, which is too dark and creates too much of a dissonance for a two chord (unless you choose to purposely place it there).
altered.mp3 Altered/Locrian b4
This is the Altered Scale, AKA Super-Locrian, AKA Diminished Whole-Tone, AKA Locrian b4, (AKA Ionian #1)…This mode will be the focus of the whole lesson next week and I don’t want to spoil it so…hold your breath for next week’s lesson!
Remember the worksheet!! It has a bunch of important exercises this week.