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Harmonic if you want a strong dominant-to-tonic resolution. It contains a useful full-diminished seven chord.

My personal preference is for Aeolian melodies instead of Harmonic melodies. The harmonic minor melodies, to my ears, can too-closely resemble overly-familiar Arab/Jewish sounds. The Aeolian 6 and 7 scale degree (F and G in A minor) can sound hip over a V7 chord, because they function as that chord's #9 and b9 (G and F over a E7).

(I hope my opinions on music theory do not prompt intervention from the moderators, as they seem to have done in another thread: hello, friends!)
 

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My personal preference is for Aeolian melodies instead of Harmonic melodies. The harmonic minor melodies, to my ears, can too-closely resemble overly-familiar Arab/Jewish sounds.
I agree entirely, and the clue is in the name : harmonic minor. I imagine it was invented (or, more likely, evolved) in western (* renaissance?) music not for melodic purposes purely to supply the leading note to a V7 for a perfect cadence or modulation. For the same reason I imagine the melodic minor raised the 6th as the Arabic/Jewish sound was not always beneficial to western music of the renaissance. Remember that the "classical" form of a melodic minor is in fact aeolian in its descending form


(I hope my opinions on music theory do not prompt intervention from the moderators,
Moderators are allowed to respond in threads, just as anyone is. So yes, now a moderator has intervened.

* I'm not sure of the exact derivation of the harmonic minor in western music. We know it is the same notes as a scale found in Balkan, African, middle eastern, Indian, Flamenco and Gipsy music, but as mentioned my belief is it was used in western music mainly for cadential purposes and only later to impart an "exotic" flavour. In early music notation the 7th is written often with no indication of accidentals, and it would have been the singer who decided to sharpen it to create a leading note and move away from a more modal sound. For the same eason it was not ncessary to be sharpened descending melodically.
 

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(I hope my opinions on music theory do not prompt intervention from the moderators, as they seem to have done in another thread: hello, friends!)
This whole thread is an intervention. Despite what it looks like, I did not even start it. It was was posted by someone else as if I started it.
 

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This whole thread is an intervention. Despite what it looks like, I did not even start it. It was was posted by someone else as if I started it.
It was a question you asked in a different thread, and as it was totally off topic there it was moved to its own thread, because it should have been asked in its own thread. I was trying to help you and the membership as a whole. The question will get a lot more discussion and be less confusing for the OP of the other thread (which was just about pentatonic scales)

This is the job of a moderator (but we are used to that job often being a thankless task)

Please can we keep this one on-topic and discuss any issues you have with moderator actions in private, as per the rules.
 

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For my money, I like the harmonic minor because you can use it over IVm7, IIm7b5, V7b9, Im with impunity, and if sounds great, i.e. all the notes work all the time. If you don't like the aug 2nd, you can avoid it by a leap or change of direction. I play a lot of 20's music, and to me it sounds kind of sinister in tunes like "St. James Infirmary" and "Some Of These Days".
 

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It is my understanding that Aeolian is a pure form derived from the relative major of the piece and, therefore, completely compatible with it's tonality. If used as a tonic mode then it is exactly that, the tonic harmony/scale. I use this when it belongs to "normal" chords/scales in a harmony.

And, to me, harmonic and melodic are forms of a minor tonality (tonic) and are used is that context.

These are pure interpretations, but in actual practice, I use the chromatic scale and, depending on context, you can use any form of the minor scale as long as it is approached and resolved in a logical manner . . or not, LOL.
 

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I play a lot of 20's music, and to me it sounds kind of sinister in tunes like "St. James Infirmary" and "Some Of These Days".
Your point makes me wonder about the history of that particular sound (that use of harmonic minor). Perhaps there was cross-over between the Klezmer music or Yiddish theater tradition, and sinister early jazz? "Some of These Days" was Sophie Tucker's song, she came out of a Jewish theater background. And "St James Infirmary" was written by Irving Mills, also Jewish. Mills co-wrote "Minnie the Moocher", another badass harmonic-minor classic of the era.
 

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Your point makes me wonder about the history of that particular sound (that use of harmonic minor). Perhaps there was cross-over between the Klezmer music or Yiddish theater tradition, and sinister early jazz? "Some of These Days" was Sophie Tucker's song, she came out of a Jewish theater background. And "St James Infirmary" was written by Irving Mills, also Jewish.
True, but I may be showing my ignorance now, but I'm not aware of a harmonic minor in the melody of St James Infirmary. Not the version I know anyway. I'm also not aware of it in Some of These Days, but again that could be my failing memory as I'm trying to sing the song in my brain, not always a good idea.

The harmonic minor scale though does have a big role in Jewish music, if only because of Hava Nagila. But even then doesn't the tonality imply a tonic around the 5th?
 

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I choose depending on the tune. If the melody emphasizes a flat 7th vs. a natural 7th I'll probably choose aeolian. Otherwise, I'll probably choose harmonic minor as I find it more colorful, but that's simply a matter of taste.
 

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Minor scales and minor jazz harmony is one of my weak points that I am currently working on. So many standard jazz tunes seem to modulate to different keys centers, often between major and minor or seem to be borrowing chords from the parallel major or minor key .Those minor scales and modes thereof also seem to be a useful source for melodic ideas over all those rich and tasty altered dominants (along with diminished and whole tone types of scales).

It's pretty fascinating when you start to see connections and relationships between things like tritone substitution, and certain scales like minor, altered, diminished and whole tone. I don't understand most of it but I'm beginning to discover lots of connections and getting more of that sound in my ear. To me those tensions have such an emotional richness and sophistication. It also helps get you off of playing the chord root so much which can be redundant, boring and generally pretty square sounding.
 

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Just to address the question in the OP, my basic answer would be 'both.' But to qualify that a bit, and in keeping with what other posters have written here, for me it depends a lot on the tune being played (as Mr Blue Note says), and also on which particular sound I'm after at the moment. As a general rule, I'll use Aolian and move to Harmonic minor for a more exotic sound.

It also helps get you off of playing the chord root so much which can be redundant, boring and generally pretty square sounding.
Now you're moving into chords, so that's a bit different topic. One thing to keep in mind with chords is the fact that the 3rd and 7th are the important chord tones; the bass usually has the root, and the 3rd & 7th give the chord quality (maj, min, dom, etc). As stated fairly regularly on here, when it comes to chords the first thing to learn and keep in mind are the specific chord tones (& extensions), not some scale.
 

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that sinister '20s & '30s sound. That Fleischer Brothers fever-dream vibe.
Well put, Honkermann. Yeah. "Minnie the Moocher." "Mysterious Mose." Which is not to say that every minor-scale-infused jazz or novelty song of that era was influenced by klezmer or other forms of Yiddish music -- but I've long thought that many of them must have been.

Although the brief presentation of klezmer musical modes at https://klezmerrevival.weebly.com/modes.html barely scratches the surface, it's a useful starting point.
 
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