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Lesson 55: Modal Thinking

The Modes of the Melodic Minor ( Jazz Minor) Scale

The modes of the melodic minor scale are:

  • Melodic Minor or Jazz Minor
  • Lydian b7 or Lydian Dominant or Overtone
  • The Alt Scale
  • Mixolydian b6
  • Locrian #2
  • Lydian Augmented

Check out melodic minor ( Jazz Minor) scale harmony in lesson 54.

Recommended Reading

For an extensive workout on the melodic minor ( Jazz Minor) scale and its modes, check out

  • The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick
  • The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine

What Is Modal Thinking?

Many tunes that are not considered modal per se can be handled with modal thinking. By this I mean letting the root stay the same and changing the mode to fit the progression. Some people might like to call this approach "parallel modal common tone thinking"... You may want to check out The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick, pp. 62-66.

Example 1: a generic jazz blues

Let's check out a jazz blues in C:

|C7      |F7      |C7      |        |
|F7      |        |C7      |A7      |
|Dm7     |G7      |C7  A7  |Dm7 G7  |

Let's apply the method of modal thinking to this progression:

|C Mix.  |C Dor.  |C Mix.  |        |
|C Dor.  |        |C Mix.  |        |
|C Ion.  |        |C Mix.  |C Ion.  |

Example 2: Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock

Now let's check out Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock. The changes of Cantaloupe Island are the following:

|Fm      |        |        |        |
|Db7     |        |        |        |
|Dm7sus4 |        |        |        |
|Fm      |        |        |        |

Let's apply the method of modal thinking to this progression:

|F Dor.  |        |        |        |
|F locr#2|        |        |        |
|F Ion.  |        |        |        |
|F Dor.  |        |        |        |

Example 3: Re: Person I Knew by Bill Evans

Now let's check out Re: Person I Knew by Bill Evans. The changes of Re: Person I Knew are the following:

|C6/9    |C+add9  |F#+/C   |Bbmaj7/C|
|Fm7/C   |        |Cmadd9  |        |
|Fm7/C   |Cmadd9  |Fm7/C   |Bbmaj7+/C|
|Fmmaj7/C|Bbmaj7/C|Abmaj7/C|Db/C    |

Bill Evans himself referred to Re: Person I Knew as "a 16-bar blues over a pedal note". Let's apply the method of modal thinking to this progression:

|C Lyd.  |A MelMin|C wt    |C Mix.  |
|C Aeol. |        |C Dor.  |        |
|C Aeol. |C Dor.  |C Aeol. |C lyd.b7|
|C mix.b6|C Mix.  |C Aeol. |C Phryg.|

2005 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.