Harmonic minor scale degrees I.



A Harmonic Minor

Full scale

1st degree - Minor

2nd degree - Locrian

3rd degree - Major

4th degree - Dorian

5th degree - Phrygian

6th degree - Lydian

7th degree - Mixolydian

Flash animation




The four types of minors section described the differences of the four kinds of minor scales. Out of the minor scales, the natural minor scale is considered the reference, since its structure is an integral part of the basic scales. My recommendation is that first you practice this scale, playing it over and over again, and particularly with scale patterns. However, the second type, which is the harmonic minor, is as important in the long run    as the natural minor, especially because classical composers such as Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, Paganin, Chopin and Malmsteen, who got inspired by those composers, undoubtedly preferred the harmonic minor to the natural minor.


The harmonic minor scale degrees are very useful not only musically but also technique wise, and let me tell you why: In fact, the of the basic scales trichord structures can be made up of three fingering combinations being...


1-2-4 low third, a.k.a Phrygian low third (this is how the Phrygian scale starts)


1-2-4 high third, a.k.a Major high third (this is how the Major scale starts)


1-3-4 low third, a.k.a Minor low third (this is how the Minor scale starts)


In addition to these, the harmonic minor scale incorporates the following two fingering combinations thanks to the altered 7th degree:


1-2-4 high third, a.k.a Phrygian dominant high third (this is how the Phrygian dominant scale starts)


1-3-4 high third


These two fingering combinations make the harmonic minor scale degrees pretty challenging to play (compared to the basic scales).


A Harmonic Minor scale


First let's take a closer look at the full scale structure of the Harmonic A Minor:


A-B-C-D-E-F-G sharp-A


So here's the situation: these notes in the above mirror image should be grouped into trichords to make the optimal scale structure. The basic principle of the optimal scale structure is described in the Basic scales I. section.


Below you will find the Harmonic Minor scale degrees:


The first degree of Harmonic A Minor scale ...



... incorporates a high third (with 1-3 fingering) on the B string...



...The first and foremost thing you come across with is, apart from it looking very difficult to play, that this is a totally new fingering combination, due to the altered note on the seventh degree. As a matter of fact, this is the most significant difference of the harmonic minor scale when compared to the natural minor, which apparently obviously affects the fingering combinations involved in the scale structures. Some guitarists might find this altered fingering combination odd and try to rearrange the fingering in their own way, probably resulting in only 2 picks on the string (with 1-4 fingering). This would certainly ruin the trichord law plus make the scale shorter. What I think about this is that the homogeneousness of your technique is the most important thing; you can always find other alternatives but always remember the basic rules.


Another difference between the harmonic minor scale and the basic scales is that each of the basic scale degrees can be used as a separate tonality (hence the absolute denomination of the scales), whereas in the case harmonic minor you just can't do the same thing; The harmonic minor defines only one tonality, and this is the first scale degree (hence the relative denomination of the scales). I describe this in detail in introduction of the Phrygian dominant scale section.


Yet, it would still be useful to introduce an absolute scale denomination for the harmonic minor scale degrees. My students usually successfully comprehend the basic scales and the relation between them in a few months, and this is why I find using the same scale denomination for the harmonic minor scales a very useful thing; for them to see the relation between the basic scales and the harmonic minor scale degrees.


Here I want to add that this sort of denomination of the harmonic minor scales only makes the scale identification easier.


1st degree - Minor


2nd degree - Locrian


3rd degree - Major


4th degree - Dorian


5th degree - Phrygian

This scale degree can also be played on open strings on lower pitches.


6th degree - Lydian


7th degree - Mixolydian


Here you can check out the above scale structures altogether in a Flash animation, and also the corresponding open-string scales. A detailed explanation you can find in the Harmonic minor scale degrees II. section.


Flash animation



www.music-instrument-guitar.com - Harmonic minor scale degrees I.