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Lesson: Melodic Minor Superimpositions – Applied to Minor ii-V-i Voicings

Zakk Jones

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Jazz Guitar Today contributor Zakk Jones provides a Major lesson on Minor superimpositions – with video and examples. A JGT Must Read!

A quick lesson about how I use the melodic minor scale to get cool harmonies and voicings for minor ii-V-i progressions. In the following examples, I’m using the melodic minor scale to extract sounds and voicings for different harmonies. I’d like to be clear that I did not come up with this general idea, but my application of the voicings and inversions you see are the results of my own ideas and explorations.

For a mi7b5 chord (functioning as ii) – melodic minor from the b3 of the chord:

  • Dmi7b5 = F melodic minor
  • Gmi7b5 = Bb melodic minor
  • Bmib5 = D melodic minor
  • etc.

I like this tonality for the iim7b5 chord because of the natural 9 and natural 11, in addition to the triad and 7th chord possibilities from the parent scale.

For a V7alt (traditionally the type of dominant chord you’ll use to resolve to a minor tonic) – melodic minor from the b9 (b2) of the chord:

  • G7alt = Ab melodic minor
  • C7alt = Db melodic minor
  • E7alt = F melodic minor
  • etc.

You may already know this defined as the “altered” scale… or the 7th mode of melodic minor. (I personally don’t really think about modes, but this is just another way of approaching it.)

For any tonic minor sound ( mi6, mi(ma7), mi6/9) – melodic minor from the root of the chord:

  • Cm6 = C melodic minor
  • etc.

Now that we have 3 different uses for the same type of minor scale, make sure to internalize the notes on the guitar. Basically, practice your melodic minor scale because it’s a super useful and flexible sound!

With your internalization of a scale you must be aware of the triads and 7th chords that can be built from each scale tone.

The melodic minor triads are as follows:

7th chords:
mi(ma7) – mi7 – ma7#5 – dom7 – dom7 – mi7b5 – mi7b5

Notice that the melodic minor scale has all 4 basic triad constructions within it! Major, minor, diminished and augmented.

In the first examples, I use different triadic pairs to create tensions and broad colors by simply combining two triads from the parent scale. It’s usually best to pair up adjacent triads because they will have no notes in common, thus giving you the maximum amount of tonal representation. If you did something like Cm and Eb+ as the triad pairs, you’re simply outlining a 7th chord…in this case Cm(ma7). (Remember that 7th chords can be seen as two triads put together…this is why a C major and E minor triad together equals Cma7).

Now, in extracting 7th chord sounds I use some pretty specific applications in gathering my voicings. The “sound” of melodic minor can be reduced and interchanged between 3 chords found within the scale.

• Dm7b5 = Fm(ma7) = Abma7#5 (or Abma7#11)

  • Notice these are chords found a 3rd away from each other within the scale
  • All of these chords are interchangeable, the only differences are what color tones and extensions are found.
  • For instance, an Fm(ma7) subbing for Dm7b5 gets the natural 9 (E)
  • An Abma7#5 for Dm7b5 gets the natural 9 and natural 11 (G)
  • An Abma7#11 for Dm7b5 works as well but that simply retains the root (D)

Using this interchangeability you can play any of your voicings for these three chords all over ONE harmony.

  • Dm7b5 = Fm(ma7) = Abma7#5
  • G7alt = Fm7b5 = Abm(ma7) = Bma7#5
  • Cm6 = Ami7b5 = Ebma7#5

You can see how useful these applications are. You don’t need to know 24 voicings for Dm7b5…you could build a Rolodex of 4 voicings for Dm7b5, 4 for Fm(ma7) and 4 for Abma7#5 and have a huge arsenal of sound. Now you can use those same 12 voicings, transposed, for the V and i. Sounds like a lot but to me, it actually expands your harmonic vocabulary greatly with ease.

My examples are just that, examples. Be sure to come up with your own versions and applications. How can you make triad pairs not sound so obvious? What if you used spread/open triads as well? What are the 6 ways I can voice a 7th chord? How can I voice-lead through progressions? What about mixing and matching drop voicings? Ask yourself questions to internalize and make these concepts your own.

Above all, keep note of the voicings you like a lot. Don’t worry about having to know the ones that are harder to grab or simply don’t sound good.

I have many methods of approaching this type of practice, which I would be happy to outline for you should you ask. Of course, I also am available for lessons where we can dive into topics like this, or anything else. Continue with my examples below.

More Zakk Jones JGT Lessons HERE

Triad Pairs from M.M.

Melodic Minor Superimpositions #1
Melodic Minor Superimpositions #2
Melodic Minor Superimpositions #3

Remember these are just suggestions for strings sets and fingerings…be familiar with all possibilities of triads on any string set.

More Zakk Jones JGT Lessons HERE

7th Chord Sounds in M.M.

Minor ii-V-i examples

Extended Minor ii-V-i examples

More Zakk Jones JGT Lessons HERE

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