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The symbiotic relationship of Melodic and Neapolitan Major.*

What, I hear you ask, on earth is he going on about?

*Disclaimer: I make no apologies for the advanced nature and language used in this post. It is necessary for the meaning to be grasped and also sets a precedent for future conversations on the subject of modes, their origins and their uses. I recommend the book The Guitar Grimoire as a beginners guide to some scales and their modes, followed by The Modal Method which lists the other scales plus their origins and most importantly, how to use them in music. I have also used the cartoon out of respect for Professor Stephen Hawking in admitting him to be one of mankind’s greatest thinkers. No disrespect to him is intended, quite the contrary.

The Neapolitan Major (1 b2 b3 4 5 6 7) scale is derived from the Melodic minor scale, just as the Melodic minor scale is derived from the Major scale. But, there is something unique about the Melodic and Neapolitan Major relationship.

The Melodic scale has the formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7, and when its root is raised the formula becomes

1 b2 bb3 b4 b5 b6 b7, the formula for Alt bb3 which is mode VII of the Neapolitan Major scale.

Now the unique part of the relationship between the two scales becomes apparent when we look at mode II of the Melodic scale, Dorian b2. Its formula is 1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7. When its root is flattened, we have 1 2 3 #4 #5 #6 7, Lydian +#6, mode II of, yup, you guessed it, Neapolitan Major. Believe it or not, this is the only time in all 66 scales and their 462 modes that this phenomenon happens. (For those that have the book, see the table on page 70.)

But what does this mean?, I hear you ask. Well, firstly, the Melodic is the only scale that is the source of the same scale on two different roots, meaning that the Neapolitan Major can be substituted for the Melodic minor scale and can be repeated a tone higher/lower creating numerous possibilities when soloing or composing.

For example, say you are going to play A Melodic over:

1) A Dorian vamp or chord

2) over F#mb5 chord functioning as ii or

3) G#7alt in a V i progression.

Now, instead of playing said Melodic scale, the following scales A and B Neapolitan Major are played instead. Yes both of them. How? Ok, A Melodic = A#Altbb3 = B Neapolitan Major. B Dorian b2 = Bb Lydian +#6 = A Neapolitan Major. ( Yes, this terminology is necessary, so if you want to understand it and to use the modes in manifold ways, don’t shy away from modal terminology.)

Another part of this symbiotic relationship lies in the fact that if we allow the Neapolitan Major scale that has its origin in mode II of the Melodic, ie Dorian b2 becoming Lydian +#6, to function simultaneously as the other Neapolitan Major scale, namely Melodic becoming Alt bb3, then it allows us to play two Melodic minor scales too. How? Ok, A Melodic = B Dorian b2 = Bb Lydian +#6 = A Neapolitan Major = G# Altbb3 = G Melodic. There you have it, G Melodic and A Melodic can be played over any of the examples above, as well as A and B Neapolitan Major.

That now gives us the notes of A Bb B C D E F# G G#, a hypothetically speaking nine note scale. I prefer not to use scales comprised of more than seven notes but rather to juggle scales and have small sections in one scale before moving onto another.

For more on modes and modal analysis see my book at:

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