Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lydian Dominant b6

Q: I was looking through the lessons on your site and have been using them a lot. Your information on the melodic minor modes is great and you really can't find that information anywhere. I was wondering, is there any other scales besides the ones you talk about (major scale and melodic minor modes, half/whole diminished, whole tone and pentatonic scales) that interest you or you find useful? 

A: For the longest time I never imagined that anything but the scales you mentioned above would be of any possible use to me. You can really just about deal with any chord or chord progression using them exclusively. But recently a colleague of mine told me that Ravel (I think that is who he said) used a scale that looked like a melodic minor scale with a flat 2: 1-b2-b3-4-5-6-7. I can't remember anymore what he said it was called but I looked around the internet and and have seen it referred to as the Neopolitan Major scale (he gave me another name and when I see him, I'll ask him and update this post). I'm not sure if that is a completely accurate name for the scale, matter of fact it seems like a dumb name because the scale has a minor third in it so the scale is minor not major. The only reason I can see for it be named "major" is because there is apparently a Neopolitan Minor scale with a minor 6th (1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-7), so I assume the minor is referring to the 6th and not the 3rd. A much better name for the scale would be Melodic Minor b2 scale, or maybe Phrygian Melodic Minor (because of the b2). Anyway, regardless of the confusing name of the scale, it is a good one if you can figure out how to use it (and I did). 

As you probably know, there is a mode for every note in a scale but all modes from the scale are not created equally. Just like the modes of the major scale, dorian and mixolydian are big time winners and locrian sucks. Of all the modes of this so called Neopolitan Major scale, one really stands out, and it would be the 4th one. I use it just like I would the 4th mode of the melodic minor scale, the lydian dominant mode. Since this scale is a melodic minor scale with a b2, the 4th mode of this scale will obviously look like some sort of lydian dominant scale with one alteration. It looks like this: 1-2-3-#4-5-b6-b7. So if I had to name it, I would call it the Juergensen scale (just kidding), the Lydian Dominant b6 scale.

Try playing a B Neopolitan Major scale over a E9 chord. It has a real middle eastern sound because of the three chromatic notes (#4-5-b6). It is also interesting to note that the scale looks like a whole tone scale with one note added between the #4 and #5. I've really learned to enjoy the scale and have welcomed it into my bag of tricks. The pattern is illustrated above for you.