Tip: Soloing With Melodic Minor Scale

We’re exploring what scales to play over dominant 7 chords. See the previous entries listed below for more details.

We’re working with this one-chord progression, which we’ve recorded into Band-in-Box or a tape recorder or something similar:

||: G7 :||

And let’s take look at a single melodic minor pattern to solo with. But before we do that, a bit of explanation on what the melodic minor scale is. Super simple explanation, though a big difference in sound: the melodic minor scale is just a major scale with its major third turned into a minor third. Example:

C Major: C D E F G A B

C Melodic minor: C D Eb F G A B

And here’s a pattern for D melodic minor. Why D melodic minor? Hang tight: play first and we’ll answer questions in a bit.


Get acquainted with this pattern and play it over the G7 chord. If you already know a few major scales, this pattern is real close to one you know: the D major scale. As just mentioned, there’s just one note difference between the major and melodic minor scales.

What did you think of the sound? That gets us into answering the question: why are we using a scale whose root is D to solo over a G7 chord? Is it magic, or are we just playing scales at random?

No, we’re not just choosing any scale. Let’s look at the notes in G7 and those in the D melodic minor scale:

G7: G B D F

D melodic minor (starting with G): G A B C# D E F G.

You see that the D melodic minor scale contains the G7 chord with no conflicts. That is, every note in G7 is found in D melodic minor.

But notice something else: The D melodic minor scale has just one accidental: C#. The whole scale is extremely close to the C major scale — just one note different. This means that if you’re playing a tune that uses the C major scale and come across a G7 chord, you can play the D melodic minor scale instead of the C major scale; you will sound interestingly different, but not so different to where you would consider the sound wrong or ugly.

Next time: another way of using the melodic minor scale to play over a Dom 7 chord.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – October 15, 2005 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

Scales and Soloing Series