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Theory 07: Altered Scales

Carlos Eduardo Seo (900) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Advanced · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4

In this lesson, we'll study some very special modes derived from the Melodic Minor Scale and Harmonic Minor Scale. This is our first contact with the altered scales. In order to proceed, make sure you know everything about the modes derived from the Major Scale. We'll apply these modes on improvising over jazz progressions as well.

Melodic Minor Modes

We'll derive all the modes from an example in the key of C. In the II degree, we have D Dorian as you already know. Now, by adding a sharp to the 7th, the Dorian mode becomes the ascending D Melodic Minor Scale, which we'll call "D Dorian Maj7":

*Note: remember that the melodic minor scale has different ascending and descending patterns. When ascending, it's the scale we're talking about here and when descending, it's the natural minor scale (aeolian mode).

D Dorian
D Dorian Maj7


- D Dorian: D E F G A B C D or W H W W W H W
- D Dorian Maj7: D E F G A B C# D or W H W W W W H

This is a general rule: any Dorian mode with a sharp 7th becomes an ascending Melodic Minor Scale. The interesting thing is that only one interval differs Dorian from Dorian Maj7. So you can play D Dorian OR D Dorian Maj7 over a Dm6 chord.

The other modes are derived the same way as the ones we've studied before. So, we have:

E Phrygian 6
F Lydian 5#
G Mixolydian 4#
A Mixolydian 6
B Locrian 9
C# Superlocrian


- E Phrygian 6: E F G A B C# D E or H W W W W H W
- F Lydian 5#: F G A B C# D E F or W W W W H W H
- G Mixolydian 4#: G A B C# D E F G or W W W H W H W
- A Mixolydian 6: A B C# D E F G A or W W H W H W W
- B Locrian 9: B C# D E F G A B or W H W H W W W
- C# Superlocrian: C# D E F G A B C# or H W H W W W W

The Superlocrian Mode is also known as "Altered Scale" because when it's played over a Dominant 7 chord (root - 3 - 7), it generates all the altered tensions (9b, 9#, 5b, 5#).