GBol Arts

Music Notes Archive

The Harmonic Minor Scale - Part 2

George with Guitar

Now that we have constructed the Harmonic Minor scale, let’s take a look at the harmonized Harmonic Minor scale. As with the Major scale, we get the harmonized Harmonic Minor scale by building in thirds up from each note of the scale. This gives us the series of chords spelled out by the scale, as well as suggesting where we can use the scale in our improvisations.

We will use the A Harmonic Minor scale as our example. Remember from last month’s article, that this is the relative minor to C Major, so sharping the fifth note of the C Major Scale will give us the notes of the A Harmonic Minor scale, or A, B, C, D, F, G#, and A. Now, we build up in thirds from each of these notes to get our harmonized scale. Starting on A, this gives us A, C, E, and G#, or an Am7 chord. Moving on to B we get, B, D, F, and A, or Bm7b5. Next we have C, E, G#, and B, which is a Cmaj7#5 chord. Our next series is D, F, A, and C, or a Dm7 chord. The V chord ends up being, E, G#, B, and D, or E7, just as it is in the key of A Major. The next chord is F, A, C, and E or Fmaj7. Last we get G#, B, D, and F, a G#dim chord.

Notice the difference between the II, V progression in a Major key as opposed to a Minor key. In A Major you would have Bm7, E7, while in the minor you have Bm7b5 to E7. This is a good way to spot potential changes into a minor key. Look for a m7b5 chord, and if it is followed my a dominant 7 chord a fourth away, you have your change into a minor key.

The V chord bears looking into in a bit more detail. Take the base chord, E7, and see how each note of the scale relates to it. Starting with A, this would be the eleventh, B the fifth, C the sharped fifth, D the seventh, E the root, F the flat nine, and G# the third. This allows us to use this scale over not only E7, but also E7#5, E7b9, E7#5b9, E7sus4, E11, E11#5, E11b9, or E11#5b9. You can use this thinking for any chord and the parent scale of that chord to find other extensions or alterations that may be contained in the scale. Try this with all of the chords in this scale to see what other variations may be there.

What these last two columns have showed is how to take something you know, and use it as the basis for something new. They also show you that there are more variations of the chords contained in the scale that those that you get by simply harmonizing the scale. Remember that these variations are the same in every key, once you learn the formula. That is why it is good to think in terms of progressions (II, V, I) rather than chord names, (Bmb5, E7, Am). Do this with all of your scales, so you know what the full potential is in each scale. This will greatly increase your improvisational pallet and take you ideas to a new level.