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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am going over the basics of Music Theory, and for some reason I am racking my brain between the actual differences between these two. Based on what my Music teacher was telling me is that one is based on Modal music (hence dorian mode), and the other one is different. The only thing I get at is that with Modal music the basic structure of wwhwwwh is just shifted so whwwhw (if I did that correctly, but just using it as an example), where as with the Harmonic minor that structure is actually different. I am trying to get the basics of harmonies and knowing what chords can be substituted for one another. I am trying to get to the point where I can build my jazz vocabulary and be able to improv over anything. Maybe someone can help me, I just feel like I am moving slow on learning this stuff.
 

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It's a totally different sound. If you have a piano available play the chords with the 7th. Harmonic minor has the major 7th and Dorian has the minor (flat) 7th. Usually you can use either at any time if it sounds good, and that's really the only rule there is... If it sounds good, it IS good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks!
 

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Thinking of the major scale as one category, modes are playing the major scale, but starting on a different note than the first note of the major scale:
C major: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
There is a characteristic sound to the scale because the half steps between E and F, and B and C happen between the 3rd and 4th notes and the 7th and 8th notes (you already know that as you explained the wwhwwwh relationships).
You could also play the note of the C major scale BUT starting on the second note:
D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D
It sounds different because the half steps between E and F, and B and C occur between the 2nd and 3rd notes and the 6th and 7th notes.
Think about that. Same collection of notes, starting on a different tone, makes the sound of the "scale" different.
You could just as easily start on the 3rd tone, E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E.
SO, all we've done is take the major scale, and start it on different tones, and that makes the scale sound different because of where in the scale the half-steps occur rather than whole steps. MAKE SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.
Now you can memorize the Greek names:
Ionian scale: starts on the first tone of the major scale
Dorian scale: starts on the second tone
Phrygian: starts on the 3rd tone
Lydian: 4th tone
Mixolydian: 5th tone
Aeolian: 6th tone
Locrian: starts on the 7th tone.
Again, these are JUST NAMES that we stick on the major scale when we play it starting on a different note.
BTW, Aeolian mode is also called the natural minor scale

To me, once you understand the modes of the major scale, you can then consider the 3 types of minor scales (plagiarizing from Steve Neff's previous post):
Melodic minor: the major scale flatting the 3rd tone of the major scale
Harmonic minor: the major scale flatting the 3rd tone and the 6th tone of the major scale.
Natural minor: the major scale flatting the 3rd 6th and 7th tones of the major scale.

Modes of the major scale are a different category than the 3 minor scales as the modes are formed differently, and (with one exception) have different key signatures. Actually one category of minor scales is another way of thinking of one of the modes, but ignore that for now.
Modes: starting the major scale on different tones of that scale
Minors: altering the major scale by flatting some combination of the 3rd, 6th and 7th tones.
In both cases their sound changes because of where half steps occur in the scales relative to the whole steps. Learn to hear that.

This next bit may confuse you if you don't understand modes as opposed to minors as explained above!
One mode overlaps with the natural minor scale. The natural minor scale and Aeolian mode can form the same scale.
Taking C major again: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
Turning it into C natural minor by flatting the 3rd, 6th and 7th tones: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C
You will notes that the flatted notes, Eb,Ab,Bb are also in the key signature of Ebmajor. If we play Ebmajor starting on the 6th notes C, we play C natural minor, which is the same as C Aeolian mode.
C natural minor has the same key signature as Ebmajor because C natural minor is CAeolian mode of Ebmajor.
A natural minor is then formed either as a mode, by playing the notes of a major scale starting on the 6th tone (playing the notes of Ebmajor starting on C)
OR by flatting the 3rd,6th, and 7th tones of the Cmajor scale.

All that is just more detail for what you already knew! "Based on what my Music teacher was telling me is that one is based on Modal music (hence dorian mode), and the other one is different." One (Dorian) is a mode of the major scale and the other (harmonic minor) is a category of the minor scales. Their structures are "actually different" as they have different numbers of half steps relative to whole steps.

If my explanation doesn't make it clear, don't worry! Keep working with different explanations and different approaches. One will work for you and it will all fall together. It's just a matter of finding the approach that works for you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I get it thanks!
 

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The first thing that popped into my mind was Lee Morgan's solo on Moanin. He uses the major 7 a lot over those minor chords, resulting on a very cool sound. Ever since I learned his solo, I use the major 7 a lot more in minor blues as well. Sounds a little more bop oriented to me.
 

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Thinking of the major scale as one category, modes are playing the major scale, but starting on a different note than the first note of the major scale:
C major: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
There is a characteristic sound to the scale because the half steps between E and F, and B and C happen between the 3rd and 4th notes and the 7th and 8th notes (you already know that as you explained the wwhwwwh relationships).
You could also play the note of the C major scale BUT starting on the second note:
D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D
It sounds different because the half steps between E and F, and B and C occur between the 2nd and 3rd notes and the 6th and 7th notes.
Think about that. Same collection of notes, starting on a different tone, makes the sound of the "scale" different.
You could just as easily start on the 3rd tone, E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E.
SO, all we've done is take the major scale, and start it on different tones, and that makes the scale sound different because of where in the scale the half-steps occur rather than whole steps. MAKE SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.
Now you can memorize the Greek names:
Ionian scale: starts on the first tone of the major scale
Dorian scale: starts on the second tone
Phrygian: starts on the 3rd tone
Lydian: 4th tone
Mixolydian: 5th tone
Aeolian: 6th tone
Locrian: starts on the 7th tone.
Again, these are JUST NAMES that we stick on the major scale when we play it starting on a different note.
BTW, Aeolian mode is also called the natural minor scale
Thank you for your explanation. I guess I noticed the way it works when looking at the chart in my harmony book but your written explanation is the first one I've read that makes it clear.
 

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Well,

Natural minor has the 3rd 6th and 7th flatted compared to major. (the key signature of Eb is the key signature of C natural minor)
Dorian has the 3rd and 7th only flatted. (the key signature of Bb is the key signature of C dorian)
harmonic has the 3rd and 6th only flatted.

The harmonic minor is the "highest tension" sound of these due to the minor third interval between the flatted 6th and the not-flatted 7th.
 

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Great explanations, very helpful.

Though I am fairly ignorant for the most part, isn’t there some difference between ascending and descending melodic minor? I’ve read that for jazz the ascending form only is generally used.

Is it true that for jazz the descending form is not generally used? (And hence no mention here?)
 

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Great explanations, very helpful.

Though I am fairly ignorant for the most part, isn’t there some difference between ascending and descending melodic minor? I’ve read that for jazz the ascending form only is generally used.

Is it true that for jazz the descending form is not generally used? (And hence no mention here?)
Well, the classical scale patterns have the melodic minor with not-flatted 6th and 7th ascending, and flatted descending (i.e., the natural minor when descending). Honestly I have never seen much use for the melodic minor scale. Furthermore, music doesn't run in long scalar passages most of the time. And what if the melodic line jumps around and then lands on the 6th or 7th from a fourth or sixth away, then is it ascending or descending? What if you are turning around on the 6th or 7th? So this is a case where if it sounds good to you then play that note and if it doesn't sound good, don't play that note. The "rules" around the melodic minor smell to me like some stuff that was made up after the fact because there needed to be some kind of rule.

It's kind of like the way music teachers have students start scales on the tonic - well, the music doesn't stop at D when you're playing in D major. You had better practice the low C# and B and the high E and F# on the saxophone too.
 

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You may be thinking that only ascending melodic minor is used in Jazz because of it's relation to lydian augmented scales. For instance, C ascending melodic minor and Eb lydian augmented are the same scale, starting from different notes. You could think that for a B7+9+5, use Eb lydian augmented (from the 3rd) or C ascending melodic minor (from a half step up). I've always thought that being conscientious about chord-scale relationships is really all about ear training, you learn which notes sound good and why, but being mindful of the relationships kind of give you a head start on playing the good sounding notes.
 

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Great explanations, very helpful.

Though I am fairly ignorant for the most part, isn’t there some difference between ascending and descending melodic minor? I’ve read that for jazz the ascending form only is generally used.

Is it true that for jazz the descending form is not generally used? (And hence no mention here?)
That's correct. In some exercise books, such as Rubank, you will see ascending and descending minor. IIRC the only difference is that the descending has a flatted 7th. It's not typically used in jazz.
 

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This answer is particularly interesting as it suggests that rather than thinking of melodic and harmonic minors as variations on the major scale (flatted thirds, or thirds and sixths), we might think of them as variations of the natural minor scale, with a sharp 7th (harmonic minor) or sharp 6th & 7th (melodic minor). It gives a rationale for ascending as melodic minor and descending as natural minor. I think that the writer is saying that relative to the natural minor scale [ABCDEFGA], the harmonic minor has the sharp 7th tone as the leading tone to the root, as it is used in harmonies [ABCDEFG#A] particularly for the V chord (E7). In melodies, you want the leading tone to lead you to the root when ascending, but the interval between the 6th and 7th (F-G#)has become awkward, so the melodic minor sharps the 6th and 7th (relative to natural minor) [ABCDEF#G#A]. You don't need the leading tone to lead to the root when descending, so the melodic minor descends as the natural minor.
I am no expert, that was my interpretation of what I read, which is copied below. Please let me know if you agree with my interpretation.
The following is from:
https://music.stackexchange.com/que...minor-scales-called-what-they-are/37913#37913

Yes the harmonic and melodic scales are named for their relationship to the melody and harmony. To see why this is, let's first look at the A natural minor scale first:

A B C D E F G A

From a harmonic perspective using this scale, we can naturally build the triads Am, B°, C, Dm, Em, F, and G. These chords are all built in the key; however in traditional tonal harmony we typically will use the leading tone (the note a semitone below the tonic) to establish the key.

In A minor, that note is G# which is not in the natural minor scale, so for harmony's sake we slightly modify the scale as follows:

A B C D E F G# A ("A harmonic minor")

Using this we can now we can get the E major chord and a G#° if we wanted to and use it to help establish the key we are in. When we modify just the G however we now have an augmented 2nd interval between the F and G# and we typically avoid this interval when writing melodies because it is awkward and while it is a second it sounds like a third. To fix this, whenever we go from E up to A stepwise melodically, we use an F# too. But when going from A down to E by step melodically, we usually use G natural and F natural. So the melodic minor scale is as follows:

A B C D E F# G# A ("Ascending A melodic minor")

A G F E D C B A ("Descending A melodic minor")

So in conclusion, the harmonic minor scale is used to give us access to the dominant chords typically used to establish the key, and the melodic minor scale is used to smooth out the melody when the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale are used.
 

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All great answers above! I'd add that it's very important to get the sound of these variations in minor scales firmly implanted in your mind/ear. For one example, if you want to hear the sound of the major 7th on a minor chord (min/maj7 chord), listen to "Harlem Nocturne."
 
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