North Fremantle Guitar Lessons

Harmonic Minor Scale Formula

20 July 2017

So, what is the Harmonic Minor scale?

Well, it is a cool series of notes that can really spice up a tune.

How do you create it?

There are probably many ways to approach this. My preferred approach is to use the Natural minor scale.

Create the Natural minor scale

Do you know what the Natural minor scale is?

If not, read on, otherwise skip down to the next heading (Intervals of the Harmonic minor Scale).

The Natural minor scale is simply the Major Scale but starting from the 6th note.

The C Major Scale is:

  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B

The C Major scale starting from the 6th note (A),
AKA the A Natural minor scale:

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G

The Major scale intervals:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

The intervals for the natural minor scale will look different as the relationship between the notes has changed:

  • 1
  • 2
  • b3
  • 4
  • 5
  • b6
  • b7

Create the Harmonic minor scale

Now the juicy bit.

You can play the A Natural minor scale on the A string, simply A,B,C,D,E,F,G

A Natural minor notes
A Natural minor notes

To make it the Harmonic minor scale, make the 7th note a natural 7 rather than a b7:

  • 1
  • 2
  • b3
  • 4
  • 5
  • b6
  • 7

The A Harmonic minor scale:

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G#
A Harmonic minor notes
A Harmonic minor notes

Measure the distnce between the notes

  • A to B is a Tone
  • B to C is a semi-Tone
  • C to D is a Tone
  • D to E is a Tone
  • E to F is a semi-Tone
  • F to G# is a Tone and a semi-Tone
  • G# to A is a semi-Tone

So the formula is:

  • T
  • sT
  • T
  • T
  • sT
  • T + sT
  • sT

Doesn't role of the tongue that well, does it?

Harmonic minor scale in Different Keys

There are a couple of ways I use to work out the Harmonic minor scale for a different key:

  • Do the method described above which is to find the Major Scale, then the relative minor scale, then make the 7th note natural and not flat.
  • Use the scale's intervals to work out what the notes, a worthwhile exercise.
  • Create a scale shape and simply move it up or down the neck to the key you want.

Each way is valid and has it's own pros and cons.

Below is a link to diagram of common scales to help you.

Harmonic minor scale is versatile

Django Reinhardt exploited this scale for Gypsy Jazz. Yngwie Malmsteen exploited this scale for his Neo-Classical shredding.

Django Reinhardt Style Lick
Django Reinhardt style lick
Yngwie Malmsteen Style Lick
Yngwie Malmsteen style lick

I like seeing it as a repeated lick for each octave

Harmonic minor repeated lick each octave
Harmonic minor repeated lick each octave

Instead of starting the scale on the 6th string, you can start it on the 5th and it kind of becomes inverted, making your phrasing different, nice!

Inverted Harmonic minor repeated lick each octave
Inverted Harmonic minor repeated lick each octave

Play the A Harmonic minor chord over an E major chord or E7 chord and you will hear it's cool vibe.

FYI: The E chord is the 5th chord in the scale from A Harmonic minor.

This is just a brief overview, there are more cool things to get from the scale. Read Harmoninc minor Scale Chord Formula.