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Harmonic And Melodic Minor Scales...


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#1 aspiringmusicteacher

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 13:00

My student is having problems understanding the difference between a harmonic and melodic minor scale? I've tried everything from playing them on his instrument (the recorder) to showing him the structure on a piano, and even writing him a factsheet explaining everything. Am I missing something?

It sounds like a daft question, but how do YOU teach the difference to your pupils?


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#2 ad_libitum

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 14:16

I've just woken up from a long nap (migraine) so I hope I'm not too groggy and get this right lol!

I'm going on the basis that they've already been explained and understand the difference between the natural and harmonic minor.. An easy way to put it is just that the melodic raises the 6th as well as the 7th ascending, and lowers them both on the way down.

Something I noticed (I'm sure it's not big news though!) is that when playing a melodic scale descending you are actually playing the relative major - just starting on a different note.

edit: Also, can they at least hear the difference?

The way it sounds to me is that it starts off like a harmonic minor, but then has a major sound towards the last few notes.
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#3 Andy-piano-flute

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 16:01

Maybe try to explain it as playing the major scale ascending of the note you're starting on -& flatten the 3rd note of it. Then descending you play another major scale- this time it's the relative major. So they can imagine it as 2 major scales put together (with the 3rd flattened on the way up).
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#4 jacobvaneyck

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 16:14

Have you tried getting him to write out the different scales? Starting with the major, the relative natural minor, harmonic and melodic. If he can sing OK you could try singing each one in solfa so he hears the harmonic finishing fa see lah, and melodic as fee see lah, and with letter names after that.

Just another though but if you play piano you could even get him playing C major and A minor on the piano or keyboard. It's not rocket science after all, as long as he accepts you are not trying to teach him the piano, just show how scales work.
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#5 Cyrilla

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 16:42

Sorry - I'm not an instrumental teacher - but I always teach the natural minor first, then relate the harmonic and melodic minors to that (all in solfa, naturally rolleyes.gif - which makes it all very, very clear...).

smile.gif
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#6 ad_libitum

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 17:09

QUOTE(Cyrilla @ Sep 9 2007, 05:42 PM)  

Sorry - I'm not an instrumental teacher - but I always teach the natural minor first, then relate the harmonic and melodic minors to that (all in solfa, naturally rolleyes.gif - which makes it all very, very clear...).

smile.gif



That's the order I teach them in as well. It's comforting to hear that you do the same, for some reason smile.gif

Probably because I'm so new to teaching and these little things give me a boost that I'm on the right track blush.gif
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#7 salrec

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 21:08

I have a pupil who thinks of the harmonic ones as being "the snake charmer" ones, and the melodic ones as being "the sad ones". Don't know if that helps, it seems to work for him!
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#8 Glass Mountain

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 22:22

I teach my pupils to think of the minor starting note as the Major scale but flatten the 3rd note on the way up, eg if it's A minor, play the notes of A Major but without the C sharp.
Notice the 3rd note that was flattened, eg in A minor you would have played a 'C'. Therefore, coming down it's just simply C Major.
I don't teach this way when I'm teaching the theory, but for playing the scales this seems to work a treat!
Hope this helps
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#9 Guest: SueHM_*

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 22:37

I think most people probably start off learning the difference between harmonic and melodic scales by the sound and only later come to understand what the actual differences in structure are. The simplest approach with your pupil would seem to be to write out the scales and get him to play them from the music at first, memorising later when he is more comfortable with playing them.

When it comes to explaining the theoretical structure, I start with the major scales, looking at key signatures and the pattern of tones and semitones in the scale. Each type of scale (minors, modal scales etc) has a different pattern of tones/semitones that is the same whatever the key. For students who can get their heads round it, the circle of 5ths is a useful concept in order to have a system to work through.

The student needs to understand the relationship between major and relative minor (ie go down minor 3rd or 3 semitones to get to relative minor) and hence what the key signature of the minor key is. Then to make a harmonic minor, sharpen the 7th note ascending and descending. To make a melodic, sharpen 6th and 7th notes ascending and play as per key signature with no alterations descending.

Harmonic scales contain the notes that are most often used in the chordal harmony of minor pieces. Melodic scales are different ascending and descending because melodies in minor keys tend to use different notes depending on whether they are ascending or descending (sorry can't give you a theoretical reason for this, just know it is the case).

Hope this helps,

Sue
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#10 Guest: BusyBee_*

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 06:51

QUOTE(SueHM @ Sep 9 2007, 11:37 PM)  

Harmonic scales contain the notes that are most often used in the chordal harmony of minor pieces. Melodic scales are different ascending and descending because melodies in minor keys tend to use different notes depending on whether they are ascending or descending (sorry can't give you a theoretical reason for this, just know it is the case).

Hope this helps,

Sue



Yes - I explain to a 'ready' pupil that the 7th is raised in the harmonic to enable a major chord V in the minor key, to get the 'right' sound at a perfect cadence with the semitone pull of the leading note (the raised 7th). I call it the 'harmony' minor scale. The reason for the melodic version - I think - is to eliminate the augmented 2nd between the 6th and raised 7th degrees which is awkward for singers (there are rules in SATB writing to avoid augmented ntervals in the melody line). Raising the 6th and 7th and flattening on the way down makes a nice smooth line to sing - the 'melody' minor scale smile.gif
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#11 jenny

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 07:17

QUOTE(salrec @ Sep 9 2007, 10:08 PM)  

I have a pupil who thinks of the harmonic ones as being "the snake charmer" ones, and the melodic ones as being "the sad ones". Don't know if that helps, it seems to work for him!


Most of my young students only play harmonic at the moment and they like to call them "the Egyptian ones" to distinguish them from their major scales!

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