8. Natural; harmonic and melodic minor scales

Like time, we talked a bit about cadences and we said that we could replace the V chord by a dominant 7th chord to add a little bit of tension.
And another reason why this Vth degree creates a tension with the Ist degree, is because of how the chord itself is built.

In the scale of C major, the Vth degree chord, which is G, is built with the root note G, the major third B and the perfect fifth D.
This note B is very close, just a semi tone away from the tonic C of our scale. And this fundamental have such as strong role in this scale, that this B wants to climb up this little semi tone to go to the tonic. That's why it's called the leading tone. Because it creates this friction that generally leads to the tonic.


If we look at a minor scale, like A minor, the Vth degree is supposed to be a minor chord. Right?
But when you use this chord to make a cadence, (so V - I in A minor would be Em to Am).
When you make a cadence, you can make it major to have this leading tone a half step below the tonic and add friction to you chord progression. So the E chord would lead more easily to this A chord, using this leading tone.


In fact any dominant chord (chord of Vth degree) that is preparing a cadence can be made major, in any tonality.

So in A minor it allows you to use the note G# that is normally not in the scale (to build our E major chord on the degree V).


The minor scale as we've seen it so far, is actually only one kind of minor scale, that we call the natural minor scale.


This possibility to play a major chord on a fifth degree of a minor scale adds an altered note, and that actually creates an alternative minor scale that is called harmonic minor scale.


Harmony is the combination of several tones played simultaneously, thus chords.
This harmonic minor scale allows us to have a major chord of the Vth degree, and therefore create better authentic cadences in a minor tonality.

In the same way we did the video about scales, we can transpose this scale to any tonality, as long as we sequence of intervals that build it.

So the sequence of intervals that build it is:
1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1,5 - 1/2


This scale is great harmonically, but melodically this 1,5 tone between the 6th and the 7th note is quite a big gap. As to make a great melody, smaller intervals are often preferred.

This bothered composers enough for them to create a third minor scale, by raising this 6th note by a semi tone. The gap between the 6th and the 7th note being now reduced to only 1 tone. This is what we call the melodic minor scale. And the sequence of intervals that defines it is 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2


In fact this melodic minor scale is just like the major scale, except that the 3rd is minor.

The handy thing is that when you are using a minor tonality, you can rather freely use the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales at the same time, depending on the context.

Mainly using the natural scale, then using the harmonic scale for cadences and the melodic scale for certain melodic movements.

Which can make minor tonalities very rich in possibilities.


So when we play a chord of Vth degree, its third will create a tension. And we can emphasis this tension by making the chord a 7th chord.
For a G chord it will become G B D F.
The interval between the B and the F here is a diminished fifth, and this is very dissonant.