Ascending melodic minor scale
ModesI, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
Component pitches
C, D, E, F, G, A, B
Number of pitch classes7
Forte number7-34

The jazz minor scale or ascending melodic minor scale is a derivative of the melodic minor scale, except only the ascending form of the scale is used. As the name implies, it is primarily used in jazz[citation needed], although it may be found in other types of music as well. It may be derived from the major scale with a minor third,[1] making it a synthetic scale, and features a dominant seventh chord on the fifth degree (V) like the harmonic minor scale.[2] It can also be derived from the diatonic Dorian mode with a major seventh.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c' { 
  \clef treble \time 7/4
  a4^\markup { Jazz minor scale on A } b c d e fis gis a2 }


Thus, the jazz minor scale can be represented by the following notation:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The intervals between the notes of the jazz minor scale follow the sequence below:

whole, half, whole, whole, whole, whole, half

Jazz theory

The scale may be considered to originate in the use of extensions beginning with the seventh in jazz and thus the necessity to, "chromatically raise the diatonic 7th to create a stable, tonic sound," rather than use a minor seventh chord, associated with ii, for tonic.[3]

The jazz minor scale contains all of the altered notes of the dominant seventh chord whose root is a semitone below the scale's tonic: "In other words to find the correct jazz minor scale for any dominant 7th chord simply use the scale whose tonic note is a half step higher than the root of the chord."[1] For example, the G7 chord and A jazz minor scale: the A scale contains the root, third, seventh, and the four most common alterations of G7. This scale may be used to resolve to C in the progression G7–C (over G7, which need not be notated G75599).[1]

Jazz minor scale on A with notes related to G7 chord alterations. Play
A jazz minor scale over G7 resolving to C.[1] Play

It is used over a minor major seventh chord.[4] See: chord-scale system. The scale also easily allows diatonic chord progressions, for example a I−vi−ii−V progression:[4]

|: CmM7 Am75 | Dm7 G713 :| Play

Chord structure

Triad qualities

The triads built on each scale degree follow a distinct pattern. The roman numeral analysis is shown in parentheses below.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
    \relative c' {
        \clef treble \time 7/1 \hide Staff.TimeSignature
        <a c e>1_\markup i
        <b d fis>_\markup ii
        <c e gis>_\markup III+
        <d fis! a>_\markup IV
        <e gis! b>_\markup V
        <fis! a c>_\markup vi°
        <gis! b d>_\markup vii°

Seventh chord qualities

The seventh chords built on each scale degree follow a distinct pattern. The roman numeral analysis is shown in parentheses below.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
    \relative c' {
        \clef treble \time 7/1 \hide Staff.TimeSignature
        <a c e gis>1_\markup i♮7
        <b d fis! a>_\markup ii7
        <c e gis! b>_\markup III+7
        <d fis! a c>_\markup IV7
        <e gis! b d>_\markup V7
        <fis! a c e>_\markup viø7
        <gis! b d fis!>_\markup viiø7

Modes of jazz minor scale

See also: Mode (music)

The jazz minor scale, like the diatonic scale, has seven modes. These modes are derived by treating a different note as the tonic.

Name(s) Tonic relative
to jazz minor scale
Interval sequence Scale with only E Scale on C
Jazz minor I W–H–W–W–W–W–H C–D–E–F–G–A–B C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Dorian 2 or Phrygian 6 II H–W–W–W–W–H–W D–E–F–G–A–B–C C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Lydian augmented III W–W–W–W–H–W–H E–F–G–A–B–C–D C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Acoustic scale, Lydian dominant, Mixolydian 4, or Overtone IV W–W–W–H–W–H–W F–G–A–B–C–D–E C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Aeolian dominant, Mixolydian 6, Descending melodic major, or Hindu V W–W–H–W–H–W–W G–A–B–C–D–E–F C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Half-diminished, Locrian 2, or Aeolian 5 VI W–H–W–H–W–W–W A–B–C–D–E–F–G C–D–E–F–G–A–B
Altered scale, Super Locrian, or Altered dominant scale VII H–W–H–W–W–W–W B–C–D–E–F–G–A C–D–E–F–G–A–B

The names of these scales are variations of the names used for some of the modes of the diatonic major scale, for example the Phrygian 6, the second mode of the melodic minor, is named so because it is the same as the Phrygian mode of the major scale with a major sixth.

Relationship to diatonic modes

Each mode of the jazz minor scale can be considered to be related to two diatonic modes, with one note of the diatonic mode either sharped or flatted according to the table below, which is arranged in fifths.

Mode Sharped diatonic Flatted diatonic
Altered Ionian 1 Locrian 4
Acoustic Mixolydian 4 Lydian 7
Jazz minor Dorian 7 Ionian 3
Aeolian dominant Aeolian 3 Mixolydian 6
Dorian 2 Phrygian 6 Dorian 2
Half-diminished Locrian 2 Aeolian 5
Lydian augmented Lydian 5 Phrygian 1

Intervals from tonic

Each mode of the jazz minor scale features different intervals of notes from the tonic according to the table below, which is arranged in order of brightness.

Mode Intervals with respect to the tonic
unison second third fourth fifth sixth seventh octave
Lydian augmented perfect major major augmented augmented major major perfect
Acoustic perfect minor
Jazz minor minor perfect major
Aeolian dominant major minor minor
Dorian 2 minor minor major
Half-diminished major diminished minor
Altered minor diminished

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Berle, Arnie (1983). How to Create and Develop a Jazz Sax Solo, p.78. ISBN 978-1-56222-088-4.
  2. ^ Overthrow, David and Ferguson, Tim (2007). The Total Jazz Bassist, p.41. ISBN 978-0-7390-4311-0.
  3. ^ Berg, Shelly (2005). Alfred's Essentials of Jazz Theory, Book 3, p.90. ISBN 978-0-7390-3089-9.
  4. ^ a b Arnold, Bruce E. (2001). Music Theory Workbook for Guitar: Scale Construction, p.12. ISBN 978-1-890944-53-7.

Further reading