This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the Melodic Minor Modes. You will discover, learn, and play the various altered sounds commonly used by professional jazz musicians. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, playthe Melodic Minor Modes. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
The Melodic Minor Modes used by Professional Jazz Pianists
The harmonic alterations produced by the Melodic Minor Modes
The Melodic Minor Modes from the Root to the 7th in all 12 keys
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Dr. Bob Lawrence
President, The Dallas School of Music
Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. It's theory Tuesday. And I have to be completely honest, total disclosure here. I am totally not pumped about today's lesson totally not pumped. I hate to be a downer right out of the chute today. But how in the heck can you expect me to be excited about teaching modes? For the next hour? Heck, how in the world can you be excited about studying modes for the next hour? Let's be totally honest. When anyone mentions modes, we all every one of us take a big breath and try to the best of our abilities to pretend like we're really excited and totally plugged in, when in reality, our heart sinks to our feet. And we mentally prep to be extremely confused, exhaustingly bored, and incredibly anxious for the theory bludgeoning to come to Oh, my goodness, this is especially true. If we approach modes like we like we are typically and traditionally taught as an academic exercise that is somehow supposed to unlock the mystery of playing jazz piano and improvising, which it never, ever does. It never does, ever. Well, fear not. We are not going to run down that rabbit hole today, as we discover, learn and play the melodic minor modes, nope. Instead, we are going to take a very pragmatic approach to study of modes, and approach that uses modes to reveal, explain and justify the musical sounds that we constantly hear and ultimately want to incorporate into our own plane. In other words, an approach that uses modes as a means to an end, and not as an end, in and of itself. Okay, listen to what I'm about to say very, very carefully. It is absolutely necessary that you begin thinking of modes, as nothing more than a very advanced, Every Good Boy does fine. Nothing more, nothing less. Here's my point. There is not a single music teacher in the entire world that teaches a beginning piano student, the lines of the musical staff using an acronym, with the ultimate goal being the retention of the acronym. Right. It's just the opposite. The acronym leads the student to the ultimate goal. mastery of the musical staff, Every Good Boy does fine. Once mastery of the musical staff is obtained the acronym can and should be forgotten. Likewise, modes should always be taught with the ultimate goal being the mastery of musical sound and not for the retention of Greek names that signify chord scale relationships, which unfortunately is exactly how many music teachers approach teaching modes. So once again, fear not today's lesson Exploring the melodic minor modes is going to be practical, functional, applicable, and 100%. Musically liberating. Today's lesson will have a profound impact on your development as a jazz pianist. Wow. Okay, now I'm pumped right now I'm pumped about today's lesson. All I needed was a little pep talk to get me fired up. And now I'm fired up. Okay. But before we discover, learn and play the melodic minor modes, I want to take care of a couple orders of business. Number one, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. So I wanted to wish you the very happiest of Thanksgiving. You know, we all every one of us have so much to be thankful for, especially for the blessings of our family and friends that we share life with each and every day. I am extremely thankful for my family, for my wife and my children. And I am thankful for my musical family, all of you. I had a teacher by the name of our friends. When I was a kid when I was growing up, who during a lesson completely out of the blue. He asked me this question. What is the greatest thing about music? Keep in mind, I was 16 years old at the time. So I immediately started thinking about musical concepts. chords, maybe it's tritone substitution now even altered dominant sounds Oh, we I know modes. Now, actually modes didn't pop into my mind. But anyway, I was going through a list of musical concepts. I was completely baffled. And so I said, Al, there are so many great things about music, that I think it's impossible to single out any one thing as being the greatest thing about music. He immediately chimed in and said No, that's not true. There's definitely one thing that stands above all others, as the greatest thing about music. In fact, he said, its head and shoulders above all the rest. At this point, I had absolutely no idea as to what he may be referring to. So I simply threw in the towel. And I said, I have no idea. Please tell me. What is the greatest thing about music. He smiled. And he said, Don't ever forget this. Don't ever forget this. The greatest thing about music is the people you meet through it. Let me say that again. He said, The greatest thing about music is the people you meet through it. Wow. And how true that statement is. Music is great. But people, you you're better. I cannot even begin to compile an accurate list of all the incredible people that I have had the good fortune of knowing because of music. When I stopped to think about it, which I do often, I marvel at the amazing blessing. Music has been in my life, not because of the music, but because of the people. So I wanted to take time this morning this week of Thanksgiving, to say thank you to all of you for being jazz piano skills, listeners and supporters. I have so enjoyed getting to know so many of you over the past year through this podcast and the technology that makes it possible. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My hope and my prayer is that you feel the same way to Okay, the second order of business I gotta move on man before I start crying. Now the second order of business is something I always do at the beginning of every jazz panel skills episode. And that is to take just a second and personally invite all Do first time listeners plus all old timers. To join jazz piano skills. Simply go to jazz piano skills comm select a membership plan, click on the join link, and boom, you're in sad easy. Once you're a jazz piano skills member, you will have instant and complete access to the to all to all and the evergrowing evergreen educational content and resources. Here's what you can immediately access as a jazz piano skills member and begin using to maximize your musical growth. Number one, you have access to all of the educational podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play logs, you will have access to all of the interactive courses which make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum a self paced curriculum number three you'll have access to the weekly masterclass the one hour weekly masterclass that I host each and every week on Thursday evenings, you will have access to the private community skills specific forums. Plus, you will have access to personal and professional support 24 seven, by me, literally 24 seven. So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you are indeed serious about developing the skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist, then take some action and become a jazz piano skills member. And begin taking advantage of all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support that will be at your fingertips. There are several membership plans to choose from. So you can definitely find one that is going to be a good fit for you. You can become a member for a month if you just simply want to try it out. You can become a member a quarterly membership plan. And of course, there is also an annual membership plan. So all three plans regardless of which one you choose all three plans grant you complete access to all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support at jazz piano skills. check everything out when you have a second. Just take a second check everything out at jazz piano skills calm and if you have any questions, let me know. I am happy to spend some time with you by phone through speakpipe through email to help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's dive into theory Tuesday. Let's dive in to these melodic minor modes. So today you're going to discover the melodic minor modes you're going to learn how to study and practice the melodic minor modes and you are going to play the melodic minor modes from the root to the seventh of the sound. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner intermediate player, advanced player or even experienced professional you're going to find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring the melodic minor modes to be very beneficial okay if you take away one thing from this podcast episode, let it be this modes all modes, major modes, harmonic minor modes, melodic minor modes are ways to explain the origin of musical sound. Whether that sound be pure musical sound like major dominant minor half diminished diminished or if the sound is an altered musical sound, flat nine sharp nine sharp 11 flat five sharp five flat 13 so on okay I want to I want to say this again all modes. Major modes harmonic minor modes, melodic minor modes are simply ways to explain the origin of musical sound modes are not in advanced improvisational approach Like so many jazz musicians, jazz students are led to believe. If this has been or currently is your impression or understanding of modes, then I want you to right now and forevermore. flush it from your thinking. Right? modes are not are not an advanced improvisational approach. They simply are not. So last month, when teaching the harmonic minor modes, I asked you a classic chicken or the egg question, right? The question, is it best to learn the musical sounds first, and then study their origin modes? Or is it better better to study modes first, in order to discover the musical sounds? Right? So, musical sounds first, mode second, or modes first, musical sound second? The answer is it is always, always best to learn musical sounds first, then study their origins modes later. However, the caveat here is that you must be introduced to the sounds of music that our tuning system gives us, you must be introduced to the legitimate sounds of music that our tuning system gives us. Does this make sense? We typically use modes to introduce an explained sound. As an educator, I prefer I prefer to do the opposite. I prefer to teach musical sound first, and then introduced the mode later, as kind of a music trivia fact. And in doing so, the emphasis is placed upon mastering the musical sound, physically and orally, without having to jump over a ton of academic hurdles to get to the sound. So, today, we are going to do sounds first modes second, how cool is this going to be? So So here we go. The sounds that we are going to study today are as follows. And in the order of importance, are you ready? Here we go. We are going to explore three altered dominant sounds today we're going to explore the dominant sharp 11 sound, the dominant flat 13 sound, and the dominant fully altered sound, which incorporates the flat nine, sharp nine, flat five, sharp font. Three altered dominant sounds three essential sounds that you need to have a command of orally and physically. To play jazz. We are going to take a look at two minor sounds, a minor sharp seven or major seventh sound and a minor sound with the flat nine. Okay, we're going to look at one major sound, which is an odd augmented major sound, sharp five sound on a major chord. And then finally, we're going to take a look at one half diminished sound. So as we go through these sounds today, I am quite certain that you will have many questions pop up. And that is precisely why I am committed to providing all of you jazz piano skills members immediate and personal and professional support. So just a quick reminder, if you're listening to this podcast through the jazz panel skills website, you can use the extremely convenient speak pipe widget that is nestled directly beneath the podcast player right beneath the podcast guides to send me a voicemail message. It's that simple. It's that easy. You just click on it, click on that little widget Send me a voice message with your questions. And I will return one to you a voice message back to you with answers. Right? one click, and the two of us are interacting with each other. Send me a voice message and I will send you one back with answers. It's very cool technology. If you're listening on iHeartRadio, Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music or any of the other popular podcast directories that are out there, you can use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a quick message to reach out to me. And if you are a scaredy cat, I say this every week if you are a scaredy cat and are afraid to send me a voice message, then you can post your questions in the private jazz piano skills forum. And let other jazz piano skills members help you. Or if you want to attend the Thursday evening master class. I would encourage you to do that as well. Thursday evenings at 8pm. Not this Thursday evening, though. I'm going to be in Turkey. So I'm not this Thursday evening. No masterclass. But on Thursday evenings 8pm Central Time, join me online through the zoom platform and the link is posted there at jazz piano skills.com. Join the masterclass and get your questions answered face to face. Bottom line, I provide all of the jazz panel skills members all of you out there, I provide you with so many ways to get help. So definitely take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide all of you with the very best jazz piano lessons, the very best jazz piano educational materials, and the very best jazz piano support available anywhere today. Okay, before we go any further, I want all jazz piano skills members to hit the pause button right now to take a few minutes and download and print the podcast guides. For this podcast episode. You're going to want to have the illustrations and the lead sheets in front of you as we go through the sounds and the modes today. Okay, I now want to draw your attention to the illustrations that you have in front of you. The first thing you'll notice is that you have illustrations for all 12 melodic minor scales. This is fabulous. Because as you build practicing these sounds into your practice routine, you have a nice cheat sheet if you will, to have in front of you sitting on the piano to constantly be giving you visual cues as you're sorting out the details of each sound mentally and physically and orally. So make sure you have the see melodic minor illustration on top, because these are the sounds that I will be demonstrating today. Okay. You'll also notice on all of these illustrations, X's and O's on each of the keyboard diagrams that you see. Now the orange X's represent the chord tones. And the green O's represent the remaining three scale tones that also at times represent the alterations applied to the sound. As I have already mentioned, these illustrations are great to have sitting on your piano and practicing but but and this is a very big but they also should be sitting on your desk and on your coffee table. Right. What I'm getting at here is is to be sure to study these illustrations away from the piano. I tell students all the time, I have done my best practicing away from the instrument. And these illustrations are fabulous for that. Don't always equate practicing with sitting on the bench and pressing keys. In fact, the more prep time you put in away from the instrument before you even get to the bench, the better, the more efficient and the more effective. your actual piano time will become. Now the Lead sheets that you have in front of you are also laid out. For all 12 melodic minor scales, you can see that each mode is presented using a scale format that ascends from the root to the seventh of the sound, which is great ear training, and then descends from the seventh to the root. Again, great ear training. I also want to draw your attention to the notes that have parentheses around them. These are the core tones, and they they match the orange x's on the corresponding illustrations. Again, make sure that you have the C melodic minor lead sheet in front of you. Because I will be playing these sounds these modes today exactly as notated on the lead sheets. And one more thing I want to mention, make sure that you use the play alongs that you have access to as jazz piano skills members, I have included 84 play along tracks, one for each mode of each of the 12 melodic minor scales. The play along tracks are using a nice comfy tempo of 110. And using a classic bossa nova group, it's going to be the same tempo, same groove that I'm using today in each of my demonstrations. So these podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs that you have in front of you are invaluable tools to have at your fingertips when studying and practicing. Okay, now we are ready to go, we are ready to take a look at some very important jazz sounds and their origins, the modes. Again, to do this, I am going to use the C melodic minor scale. So Okay, here we go. First, the melodic minor scale is simply the major scale with the third flat. So you construct the C minor melodic minor scale by simply taking the C major scale. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and flat the third. So now we get That's it. That's it. By the way, in jazz, we go up and down the melodic minor scale the same way, we do not revert back to the natural minor scale on the way down like they do in classical music. We cannot change the notes of the scale on the way down because if we do, we change the sounds produced by the scale. I hope that makes sense. Now to create the modes of the C melodic minor scale, we are going to play that scale starting from each note of the scale. In other words, we are going to play the seven notes of the mode launching from the notes C, then from the note D and then from the note E and so on. But we're going to approach it from a sound first perspective, as opposed to a mode first perspective. So with that being said, we are going to look at the altered dominant sounds produced by the melodic minor scale first. And the very first altered dominant sound we're going to take a look at if you're looking at your lead sheets there in your illustrations is the F dominant seven sharp 11 sounds like this. Beautiful, okay. Now one thing that I will say as we start working on these sounds, these altered sounds, any of these sounds, whether they're the dominant, the major, the minor have diminished. Whenever we take sound out of context, right, it can kind of sound funky. So it's always kind of best to hear them in context. So that when you're practicing them in isolation, it will make more sense. So for instance, that F dominant, sharp 11 to some of you that might sound kind of harsh, but if I put it in perspective, like a 251 progression in the key of B flat so I'm going to play a C minor go into my phone F seven sharp 11 and then resolve that to my one. Beautiful. So it sounds like this again. Right? So when you hear that dominant sharp 11 sound in the context of harmonic movement, a progression like 251. Wow, when we practice it in isolation, it can sound a little harsh. in context, it's beautiful. So the very first sound here is the F dominant, sharp 11. So you can see on the lead sheet there in the illustration, you can see that that B natural, is that sharp 11. So what I will do, what I want to do is bring the ensemble in right now I just want to practice that sound in scale, in a scale manner in a mode, I want to practice going up and down that dominant sharp 11 sound. So let's bring the ensemble and again bossa nova groove 110, very comfortable. And let's just let's isolate this f dominant seven sharp 11 and play it as a scale, ascending and descending, and then we'll talk about it, let's, let's check it out. Here we go. Very nice. But you see what I mean? It can sound a little harsh, because we're just playing it out of context, we're isolating that dominant sharp, 11 sound, but it's beautiful. And it's an essential sound that you need to have a command of as a jazz pianist. And its origin. It's the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale. So you know that it's an authentic, it's a legitimate sound. It comes from the melodic minor scale. But now, forget about it. Right, forget about it. Practice your dominant sharp 11 sound and do this for all 12 dominance, and you have the illustrations and the lead sheet guides there. To help you do that. It's the dominant sharp 11 sound that we're after. We're not after the fourth mode, the melodic minor scale. Okay. All right. So let's move on to our next sound. We're going to take a look at the the dominant flat 13 sound. And as you can see, on your illustrations and lead sheets, it's going to be the G dominant flat 13 sound. Really pretty, really pretty sound and the hear this in context, let's drop it inside a 251 again, so we get in the key of C D minor. Gone to G seven flat 13. Resolving to our C major. Really pretty nice. So we're gonna bring the ensemble in now and we're going to play this dominant seven flat 13 sound, again, as ascending and descending scale motion. We're going to isolate it, play it ascending, descending scale motion and a Bossa Nova groove. 110. very comfy. And let's just get used used to hearing that sound melodically right. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. I have always loved the flat 13 sounds just beautiful. And again, it's an essential altered dominant sound, you have to get a command of this mentally physically in order you will be using it a lot It is laced throughout jazz literature. Okay, the next dominant sound we're going to take a look at is the big boy. Right? It's the granddaddy of them all. It's the fully altered dominant sound, which includes the flat nine, sharp nine, flat five and sharp five. And as you can see, on your illustrations and lead sheets, we are going to be looking at the B dominant fully altered sound, flat nine sharp nine, flat five sharp five, so it sounds like this. Rich. Wow. So let's drop this into context as well. So we're talking about B dominant, so we're in the key of E. Right, so we're gonna have F sharp minor going to our be fully altered. resolving the E major. Again, just beautiful, right. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's practice this sound melodically as a scale ascending and descending from the root to the seventh and back down. Again as a Bossa Nova 110. And let's just digest this beautiful sound be dominant seven, fully altered, flat nine, sharp nine, flat five, sharp five, the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale. Here we go. Let's check it out. Nice. Okay, so So far, we've looked at three dominant sounds, we've looked at the dominant sharp 11. We've looked at the dominant, flat 13. And we've looked at the dominant fully altered flat nine sharp nine, flat five sharp five, right, the dominant sharp 11 being the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale. Nice to know I guess, right? The dominant flat 13, the fifth mode of the melodic minor scale, and the dominant fully altered sound, the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale, I chuckle because it's the sound again, right, we're going after the sound, not the mode. I hope that makes sense. I keep trying to pile on that in the sound, not the mode. So we have three altered dominant sounds that you have to get familiar with orally, physically, mentally, right? Know that they come from the melodic minor scale, they're legitimate sounds. They are sounds that jazz musicians play all the time. You hear them all the time. So focus on the sound. Don't get wrapped around the mode, focus on the sound. Okay, so now let's take a look at a couple minor sounds. The very first one we want to look at is the minor, sharp seven or the minor major seven, right? It's kind Have a it's kind of a novelty sound or kind of a mysterious sound, right? So, it's minor. It's a minor chord with a major seven. Right? So that major seven up on top gives us that kind of mysterious, that mysterious sound. You know, I like to use that at the end of, say, autumn leaves. Here it is. Nice, right? So let's bring our ensemble in, we're going to take a look at C minor, major seven. And again, bossa nova groove 110. You'll see it there on your lead sheets, and your illustrations C minor, major seven. Let's check it out. Here we go. Definitely a funky chord, a funky sound, but in the right places at the right time. Beautiful. The other minor sound that we're going to take a look at is basically it's a pure minor, but with a flat nine, if you if you play the melodic minor scale over our D minor. Right, it gives us a flat nine. Got to be honest with you, I never ever use this. I never use it, but it's here. You know, and that's another thing I want to stress real quick. It's okay not to use all of these modes or all of these sounds, right? It's just simply okay. The ones that we really want to pay attention to are those altered dominant sounds produced by the harmonic minor melodic minor modes. Those are the biggies, right? This sound, it's I guess it's nice, but I never I never use it. But let's take a listen to it. Okay, let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. We're gonna play D minor. We're gonna play that melodic minor, C melodic minor scale over the top of that, which kind of gives us a minor flat nine or flat to sound. So what the heck Here we go. Let's check it out. Nice ride. Nice, but you know what my advice would be stick to Dorian. Stick the Dorian or Phrygian or Aeolian, right. But experiment around with it. It's It's nice to be aware of it. And we'll leave it at that. Hey, before we tackle the final two melodic minor modes. I want to encourage all of you jazz panel skills members to tap into the jazz piano skills interactive courses. They are fantastic. In fact, I'm getting ready to release an entirely new course dealing with the 13th sound the scales and arpeggios for the 13th for major dominant minor, half diminished and diminished but these courses make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum that utilizes a self paced format to help you thoroughly study essential jazz piano skills. So check it check them out when you get a chance at jazz piano skills calm all the courses have detailed instruction and illustrations, in depth educational talks and interactive learning media. There are traditional guides and worksheets that you can access and download through the courses as well high definition video demonstrations of me playing the skills and all 12 keys. Also there are play long tracks and lead sheets to take advantage of. And of course professional and personal educational support is is provided as well with it with all of the courses. So an L and finally mobile access right you can you can pull these courses up and utilize them on the go wherever, wherever you are, either through your desktop or your laptop, your tablet, your phone, your TV, or even Yes, your watch. So any of your smart devices can utilize to access and study the jazz panel skills courses. check them all out at jazz piano skills.com. Okay, so let's take a look at the last two sounds. And honestly, I don't use either one of these, either, but they're here. So let's listen to them. The first one, a major sharp five, which also incorporates if you're going to play a melodic minor scale over a major chord. It also incorporates a sharp 11 or Lydian type sound as well. Right? So you got an E flat major chord. But here's the scale. Nice, just different I just never use it. So let's take a listen to it. Again. I'm going to play it as a scale ascending and descending in a Bossa Nova groove tempo 110. Let's Let's listen to it, you may love it, you may actually love it and want to start building it into your sound repertoire. So here we go. Let's check it out. Then we'll go from there. Here we go. Not bad, right? Not bad. Maybe I'm being a little too harsh. Maybe I need to revisit it a little bit but it's not bad. Give it a try and see what you think again, all of these sounds Do not be afraid to adopt and do not be afraid to reject right. So the last sound is a half diminished or half diminished seven sound and again, when it comes to the half diminish I'm he either think of half diminish that I'm either utilizing as locrian coming from the major scale or I'm playing it as the second mode of the harmonic minor like a minor 251. So I don't really use this scale combination chord sound scale combination either, but let's take a listen to it and see what we think. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in a half diminished. Here we go. Well, there you have it, we have looked at the modes of the melodic minor scale, but we've done so with a focus placed on the sound, not on the mode. And without question, the takeaway here today, those altered dominant sounds, spend time, a lot of time with those. Those are the three that you're going to be using all the time, the three altered dominant sounds from the melodic minor, and the altered dominant sound from the harmonic minor. Okay. So I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson, exploring melodic minor modes to be insightful and of course beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member, I would normally see you online Thursday evening, but not this Thursday. It's Thanksgiving. Spend time with your loved ones with family and friends. Be sure to take advantage of the podcast guides that you have printed out and you have in front of you and the play along tracks for this podcast episode. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills community, the private forums get involved, make some new jazz piano friends. And as always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com. That's Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe, which you can find on the jazz piano skills website. It's an all the jazz panel skills courses. And beneath all the jazz panel skills podcast, play players aren't found on the jazz panel skills site as well. So that's it. That's it for now. And until next week, have a fabulous Thanksgiving. Enjoy this amazing journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano
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