How to create a melodic minor scale

There are three forms of a minor scale: Natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor. The melodic minor scale is slightly different from the natural and harmonic minors in that the notes are slightly modified when ascending and descending the scale.

I recommend learning how to write a major scale before attempting any of the minor scales and also to learn how to recognise the relative minor key associated with each major key

There are two ways to write a melodic minor scale.

Method 1: Work out the major scale with the same letter name and modify the notes to create the melodic minor scale. This method works well if you are required to use accidentals rather than a key signature.

Let’s take E major and E melodic minor as an example:

First work out the E major scale. I know that C major is the only key which has no sharps or flats so immediately I can see that E major must have either sharps or flats. I also know that major scales which use flats have a flat in the scale name (except for F major which has 1 flat). The only other option left is that E major must use sharps so I can use the rule for working out sharps to find the key signature of E major. Rule: The 7th degree of the E major scale is the last sharp found in the key signature.

Knowing that the 7th degree is a semitone below the key note of a major scale, I can move back one semitone from E to find the 7th degree and therefore the last sharp to appear in the key signature. This leads me to D sharp. All I have to do now is go through the order of sharps until I reach D sharp: Fat Cats Go Down. I can now see that there are 4 sharps in the key of E major so I can write the E major scale with a key signature or, if I do not use a key signature can instead add sharps as accidentals in front of the relevant notes.

E major: E F# G# A B C# D# E

To change E major into E melodic minor

  • Ascending: Lower the 3rd note (degree) by one semitone – E F# G A B C# D# E
  • Descending: Lower the 6th and 7th notes (degrees) by one semitone and retain the lowered 3rd when ascending – E D C B A G F# E

Method 2: Create the melodic minor from the natural minor

Create the Melodic minor from the Natural minor

Take the notes from the natural minor scale and modify them as follows:

  • Ascending: Raise the 6th and 7th notes (degrees) by one semitone or half step
  • Descending: Lower the 6th and 7th notes (degrees) back down by one semitone or half step

To change E natural minor into E melodic minor

  • Ascending: Raise the 6th and 7th notes (degrees) by one semitone – E F# G A B C# D# E
  • Descending: Lower the 6th and 7th notes (degrees) by one semitone or half step – E D C B A G F# E

Back to Music Theory