Ascending And Descending Melodic Minor Scales

Why The Ascending Melodic Minor Scale Is Different From The Descending Minor Scale

There are two different ways to play a melodic minor scale: Ascending and descending. You may have played through this scale a couple times and thought "hey that was kind of neat". But do you know why it is played this way?

So what's the deal with this scale anyway?

Any theory book on musical harmony will describe the melodic minor scale as one that can be played either in its ascending form (in A melodic minor: A B C D E F# G#) or in its descending form (A B C D E F G, same as natural minor).

Ascending is used anytime a melody goes up in pitch, and descending is used any time the melody goes down (or lowers) in pitch.

This being said, there are many musicians out there who will try to say that this was only a hard and fast rule in Classical music. Though these days (primarily in jazz music), you can choose to play the ascending scale in either direction (ah those jazz players, always freeing us from the strict classical rules).

Still not clear to you?

Well, I don't mean to be rude. But what I have just described, which is more or less what we are being told by traditional music theory, is a load of crap. There is in fact plenty of examples where classical musicians have used the melodic minor scale in the "wrong" way (which is something I explain in the following video).

Watch my video below and lets get to the bottom of this melodic minor scale situation.

I hope you've left this video with a better understanding of this often misconstrued scale. Let us no longer write off the melodic minor as "too confusing" just because what has been traditionally taught about it is incorrect.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio