3 Melodic Minor Exercises That Will Change Your Guitar Playing

One of the most important scales you can learn as a modern guitarist is melodic minor

It can be used to solo over just about every chord type, including m7, 7th, 7alt, and more. 

Because this scale is so commonly used and versatile over chords it’s a must-know scale for every guitarist to have under your fingers. 

While you may know that melodic minor is an essential scale, you might not know how to get started with this sound in your practice routine. 

In this lesson, you learn how to play melodic minor and how to apply it to ii-V chords, V7alt chords, and Im7 chords. 

These chords are used in the jazz standard Autumn Leaves, so as a bonus you learn how to apply this scale to every chord in that jazz standard. 

That’s a win-win in the practice room if I ever saw one. 

Have fun as you learn how to play melodic minor, how to apply it to common chords, and build up to using it over Autumn Leaves in this lesson

Melodic Minor Scale Fingerings

Before you dive into learning how to use melodic minor over different chords in your solos, begin with learning two shapes for this essential scale. 

Start by playing the first shape up and down in different keys until it’s memorized. 

Then, repeat that process for the second shape until you can pick a key and play both shapes in that key from memory. 

When ready, move on to the next section where you learn how to apply melodic minor to iim7-V7, V7alt, and Im7 chords in your solos. 

Have fun exploring this scale in your studies and using it to spice up your jazz guitar solos

Melodic Minor Over iim7-V7 Chords

The first application of melodic minor you study in this lesson is playing this scale over both the ii and V in a iim7-V7 progression

When doing so, you play the melodic minor from the iim7 chord over both the ii and V, in this case playing C melodic minor over Cm7 and F7. 

With this application, you bring in tension to your solos by adding the mMaj7 sound to the iim7 chord and the #11 to the V7 chord

You then need to practice dealing with and resolving that tension in your lines, so keep that front and center when working on melodic minor. 

The #11 over the 7th chord creates the Lydian dominant scale, one of the most important scales in jazz. 

What I like about this application, is that if you see a ii-V and you play the iim7 melodic minor over both, you automatically get the Lydian dominant sound. 

No new scale shapes to learn, just use the melodic minor shapes and you’re good to go. 

Start by playing the two melodic minor scale shapes from a C root note

Then, solo over the Cm7-F7 backing track before taking this application to other keys and full jazz standards when ready. 

Cm7-F7 Backing Track

Melodic Minor Over V7alt

The next application of melodic minor is to solo with it over 7alt chords, in this case, the D7alt chord from Autumn Leaves. 

When using melodic minor in this context, you outline the altered scale sound

The altered scale is the 7th mode of melodic minor and is used to solo over 7th and 7alt chords to bring out the b9, #9, b5, and #5 intervals. 

Because it’s full of alterations, this scale creates a lot of tension that you then resolve into the next chord in the progression. 

Start by playing the melodic minor shapes from an Eb root note. 

Then, solo with those shapes over the D7alt backing track as you build your melodic minor skill set with this workout.

D7alt Backing Track

Melodic Minor Over Minor 7 Chords

The final application for melodic minor is similar to the first, only here there’s no V7 chord here, just a m7 chord

In this case, you apply melodic minor to a m7 chord, Im7 in this example. 

You can also use melodic minor over any m7 chord, iim7, Im7, iim7, vim7, etc. 

When playing melodic minor over any m7 chord, you create a bit of tension with the major 7th interval, bringing out a mMaj7 sound in the process. 

Here’s an example of how to solo with melodic minor over the Gm7 chord in Autumn Leaves. 

Start by playing the two scale positions in Gm, then put on the backing track and solo over Gm7 with that scale. 

Have fun as you explore this 3rd application of the melodic minor scale in your soloing workout. 

Gm7 Backing Track

Melodic Minor Creative Challenge

You’re now ready to test your skillset with a melodic minor creative challenge

Here, you add the melodic minor scale to the A section of Autumn Leaves, which contains all three chord progressions you studied in this lesson. 

Here are guidelines to help you get this challenge under your fingers. 

- Solo with C MM over just Cm7-F7. 

- Solo with Eb MM over just D7alt. 

- Solo with G MM over just Gm7. 

- Add MM to the entire progression, rest in non-MM bars. 

- Solo over every chord, use MM where appropriate. 

Also, take any time needed to review your melodic minor scale fingerings before hitting the backing track in this challenge. 

As well, you can record yourself soloing, then listen back and take notes on what you like and what needs improvement

Lastly, sing-along for added ear training with this challenge. 

Now that you know how to tackle this challenge, time to take it to the fretboard

Have fun with this challenge in the woodshed!

Creative Challenge Backing Track