A Change Of Colour

Hello readers. Dave Martone here. I have been asked to write a little column on modes. I must start off by saying that there are no rules and nothing is right or wrong. It is just different in how we perceive things with our ears. Unfortunately, we have been trained throughout the centuries to rely heavily on diatonic harmony. This is great, but everything starts to sound the same after a while as I am sure you will agree!

I am going to talk about a mode that I hated and never thought was useful until my ears grew up. I am talking about melodic minor or 1,2,b3,4,5,6,7.

All it is, is a major scale with a b3rd. I have a few ideas on how to use it and make it cool. Let us first just use the chord F#7 for example.

C# Melodic Minor over F#7 chord

E :| ----------------------|--------------------11-|14-12-11----------------|
B :| ----------------------|-----------11-13-14----|---------14-13-11-------|
G :|*----------------------|---9-13-11-------------|------------------13-11-|
D :|*----------------10-11-|13---------------------|------------------------|
A :| --------9-13-11-------|-----------------------|------------------------|
E :| 9-11-12---------------|-----------------------|------------------------|

E :---------------------- 1|
B :---------------------- ||
G :9---------------------*||
D :--13-11-10------------*||
A :-----------13-11-9---- ||
E :-------------------13- ||

The chord tones this gives us in relation to the chord F#7 are 1,2,3,#4,5,6,b7. Or in other words the lydian b7 scale.

F# Lydian b7 over F#7 chord

E :| ----------------|--------------4-|8-6-4-----------|--------------- 1|
B :| ----------------|--------4-5-7---|------7-5-4-----|--------------- ||
G :|*----------------|--3-6-5---------|------------6-5-|3--------------*||
D :|*------------2-4-|6---------------|----------------|--6-4-2--------*||
A :| ------3-6-4-----|----------------|----------------|--------6-4-3-- ||
E :| 2-4-6-----------|----------------|----------------|--------------6 ||

Last but not first, let us think about the chord Bb-7b5 and F#9. The Bb or first chord tone of Bb-7b5 is the 3rd of F#, the Db or second chord tone of Bb-7b5 is the 5th of F#. The E or third chord tone of Bb-7b5 is the b7 of F#, and the Ab or fourth chord tone of Bb-7b5 is the 9th of F#. Basically they are the same chord but named differently due to the bass note. Thus let us build a minor7th flat5 scale starting, of course, on Bb.

Bb-7b5 scale over F#7 chord.

E :| ----------------|----------------8-|11-9-8------------|-----------------| -
B :| ----------------|---------7-9-11---|-------11-9-7-----|-----------------| -
G :|*----------------|---6-9-8----------|--------------9-8-|6----------------|*-
D :|*------------6-8-|10----------------|------------------|--10-8-6---------|*-
A :| ------6-9-7-----|------------------|------------------|---------9-7-6---| -
E :| 6-8-9-----------|------------------|------------------|---------------9-| -|

If we look closely at each scale we realize that it is the same scale starting from a different degree. Basically if we start with C# melodic minor as the first, The F#Lydian b7 scale is the 4th mode of melodic minor; as the Bb-7b5 scale is the 6th mode of melodic minor. Basically we have looked at the 1st, 4th and 6th mode of melodic minor and worked them over a dominant chord.

A great way to remember it is to substitute a Lydian b7 scale starting on the root of the chord. So if the chord is E7 we would play E Lydian b7 over it.

Another way is to start from the 5th of the chord, (B is the 5th of the chord E7) and play a melodic minor from this note. So we would play B melodic minor over E7.

Another way is to start from the 3rd of the chord, (G# is the 3rd of the chord E7)and play a minor7 b5 scale from this note. So we would play G#-7b5 scale over E7.

This lesson should help out to obtain a change of color over dominant chords. It made me appreciate the sound much more than before!

David Martone is a guitarist from Vancouver, Canada who has released seven solo CDs which showcase his musical diversity and brilliant guitarmanship.

His 2007 CD is entitled "When The Aliens Come", which features a progressive sound incorporating jazz, rock, fusion and metal influences.

David Martone