Soloing over a minor iim7b5-V7-i progression is often played with either melodic minor harmony or harmonic minor harmony. Some musicians prefer the melodic minor sound, while others prefer using the harmonic minor sound. I will demonstrate both sounds over this next two-post series.

Jazz melodic minor soloing is a very hip sound.  Over a minor ii-V-i, the melodic minor sound is used thus:

  • Over the iim7(b5) chord, use a melodic minor scale up a minor third from the root.  Ex.  Em7(b5)=G melodic minor
  • Over the V7 chord, use a melodic minor scale up a half-step from the root.  Ex.  A7=Bb melodic minor
  • Over the imin69, use the melodic minor scale based on the root.  Ex. Dmin69=D melodic minor

This is a cool concept, but unless you have some examples, you may not quite know how to apply the concept adeptly.  We want to sound like we are playing JAZZ, not playing scales.  Here are 8 licks to help you understand how you might use melodic minor over a ii-7(b5)-V7-imin69 progression.  All of the licks are in D minor, and thus use:

  • Em7(b5)=G melodic minor G A Bb C D E F# G
  • A7=Bb melodic minor Bb C Db Eb F G A Bb
  • Dmin=D melodic minor D E F G A B C# D

Some example tunes you can use to practice this sound:

Alone Together.  (first four chords are a minor ii-V-i, and it soon moves to a minor ii-V-i based on the four chord)

Whisper Not (various minor ii-V-i progressions in different keys)

Softly As in a Morning Sunrise


Stella by Starlight (click to view my post on melodic minor harmony in this song!)

Enjoy practicing this sound, transposing it to other 11 other keys, and incorporating this concept into your playing!

8 Melodic Minor Licks Over ii-V-i in D Minor pdf

Melodic Minor Soloing pdf

30 Days to Better Jazz Playing


  1. Why not just learn fingerings for the Locrian Natural 2 Scale, then the Altered Scale, and finally the Melodic Minor Scale, and apply these scales to each passing chord in the minor ii-V-i?

    To me that is a more fundamentally sound and more immediately musical way to accomplish the same thing.

    Telling people they can navigate the whole progression with "one scale" is not really true. They will actually be employing three different scales, but they will be seeking to accomplish it with a trick–employing one fingering that they already know, just shifting it around. Here's the problem: there's no such thing as a free lunch. Grappling with the constantly moving harmonic situations you encounter in improvisation by considering the problem a matter of moving this scale up a minor third, or moving that scale up a half step, is actually HARDER than it is to just bite the bullet and learn the scale to superimpose over each chord and then commit that scale to muscle memory.

    In a one hour lesson I can have a competent student playing meaningful musical ideas with these minor ii-V-i scale sounds, but ONLY by having him learn three distinct one-octave versions of three separate scales as reckoned from their respective roots, in one overlapping position on his instrument. If I tell him to try taking that one melodic minor that he already knows and move it around in specified intervals, it's going to be a long time before he produces anything that sounds like music. First of all, just calculating the transposition will slow him down a bit. Secondly, he won't be conceptualizing the harmony he is playing as a specific collection of pitches in relation to the chordal harmony (you only get that when you think of scales as reckoned from their roots, especially when you are starting out).

    The one-scale-fits-all approach is a shortsighted shortcut. It's part of the gobbledy-gook of jazz academia that gets in the way of music. If you are trying to incorporate sounds like the altered (superlocrian) scale or the lydian dominant scale in your playing, don't learn them as modes of the melodic minor! Learn them as scales on their own and then you can bang them out exactly when and where you need them, without thinking of another scale first and then thinking of what interval to move that scale. Makes sense, right? Of course the goal for all of us is to reach a point where we can make all those scale sounds without thinking of them as scales at all, because we hear them in our minds and execute them naturally without any analytical effort. But getting there takes many, many years. Eventually those of us who stick to it will get there (or pretty close) regardless of which approach we take, but I maintain that the shortcut of thinking about one melodic minor scale and then moving it around on your instrument is actually a longcut.

    • Hi Jimmy,

      It's very true that Locrian #2 is the same pitch collection as the melodic minor a minor third up. D locrian with a raised 2nd=F melodic minor.

      It's very true that the altered scale/a.k.a. superlocrian/a.k.a. diminished whole tone/a.k.a. dim whit scale, or whatever you want to call it, is the same as melodic minor a half-step up. G altered scale=Ab melodic minor.

      I think it is healthy and good to conceptualize these scales in BOTH ways because I find that you may end up playing different ideas depending on how you are conceptualizing the pitch collection. For example, arpeggiating the 1, b3, 5, 7, 9, and even 11 works well when you are thinking of the melodic minor versions of the scale.

      Over Dmin7(b5) you can try a F melodic minor arpeggio to the 9 and it's got a great sound. It's a sound, a tool, one among many things you can use over that chord. That's just one example. It's still the D locrian #2 pitch collection, which is the same pitch collection as F melodic minor.

      Over G7alt you can use an Ab melodic minor arpeggio to the 9 or 11 and it sounds killer. You might miss these sounds by only conceptualizing it as a G altered scale. But you'll hit other cool ideas by thinking G altered instead of Ab melodic minor. I think it's good to experiment with both. While we're at it, why not try thinking Db lydian dominant over G altered? That's STILL the same pitch collection as G altered or Ab melodic minor, and you'll play the change differently if you conceptualize it differently. That's not "first lesson" material, I agree, but eventually some will be ready to tackle approaching the same chord changes in several different ways. It's not about the "scale" anyway, it's about finding a good pitch collection for your melodies. A scale is just a way of conceptualizing the pitch collection.

      I agree that it takes years to really become a good improviser, and these things concepts don't come easily. It takes a long time to be able to use these ideas competently.



  2. you can get some beautiful sounds from this lesson. Thanks. Would like to see a lesson on a montuno riff that could be used as backing for a whole song , with some minimal changes to keep it interesting.

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