Harmonic minor scale

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The harmonic minor scale is a heptatonic scale that can be built using the following steps between notes: 1, ½, 1, 1, ½, 1½, ½.

An example of the scale is A, B, C, D, E, F, G#. This example is shown below in traditional notation and in guitar tablature notation.

Harmonic minor scale in traditional notation

Harmonic minor scale in guitar tablature notation

The harmonic minor scale is the natural minor scale (A, B, C, D, E, F, G in this example), but with the raised seventh note (G# in this example).

The fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale uses the steps ½, 1½, ½, 1, ½, 1, 1 (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D in the example above) and is known as the Spanish gypsy scale because of its use in flamenco. Flamenco uses the Phrygian scale, but allows for alternating between a normal and a raised third on the Phrygian scale, and between a normal and a raised seventh on that scale. An example of the Phrygian is E, F, G, A, B, C, D and the raised third is the G# that results in the Spanish gypsy scale.

Modes of the harmonic minor scale

The fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale is known as the Spanish gypsy scale, and has steps ½, 1½, ½, 1, ½, 1, 1 (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D in the example above).

Three-note chords on the harmonic minor scale

The following are common triads built on the notes of the harmonic minor scale.

  • On the root of the scale (on the tonic): minor chord (e.g., Am composed of A, C, E) or suspended chords (Asus4 = A, D, E and Asus2 = A, B, E).
  • On the second note (on the supertonic): diminished chord (Bdim = B, D, F).
  • On the third note (on the mediant): augmented chord (Caug = C, E, G#).
  • On the fourth note (on the subdominant): minor chord (Dm = D, F, A), diminished chord (Ddim = D, F, G#), or suspended chord (Dsus2 = D, E, A).
  • On the fifth note (on the dominant): major chord (E = E, G#, B), augmented chord (Eaug = E, G#, C), or suspended chord (Esus4 = E, A, B).
  • On the sixth note (on the submediant): major chord (F = F, A, C), minor chord (Fm = F, G#, B), or diminished chord (Fdim = F, G#, B).
  • On the seventh note (on the leading tone: augmented chord (G#aug = G#, C, E) or diminished chords (G#dim = G#, B, D).

Four-note chords on the harmonic minor scale

The following are seventh chords built on the notes of the harmonic minor scale.

  • On the first note: minor-major seventh chord (e.g. Ammaj7 composed of A, C, E, G#).
  • On the second note: half-diminished seventh chord (minor seventh chord with a flat fifth, Bm7b5 = B, D, F, A) or a diminished seventh chord (minor seventh chord with a flat fifth and a diminished seventh, B*7 = B, D, F, G#).
  • On the third note: augmented major seventh chord (Cmaj7#5 = C, E, G#, B).
  • On the fourth note: minor seventh chord (Dmin7 = D, F, A, C) or half-diminished seventh chords (Dm7b5 = D, F, G#, C and D*7 = D, F, G#, B).
  • On the fifth note: dominant seventh chord (E7 = E, G#, B, D) or augmented seventh chord (E7#5 = E, G#, C, D).
  • On the sixth note: major seventh chord (Fmaj7 = F, A, C, E), half-diminished seventh chord (F*7 = F, G#, B, D), or minor-major seventh chord (Fmmaj7 = F, G#, C, E).
  • On the seventh note: half-diminished seventh chord (G#*7 = G#, B, D, F).

Intervals on the harmonic minor scale

The harmonic minor scale is composed of the following intervals.

  • A major second, e.g., the interval between A and B is equal to two semitones.
  • A minor third, e.g., the interval between A and C is equal to three semitones.
  • A perfect fourth, e.g., the interval between A and D is equal to five semitones.
  • A perfect fifth, e.g., the interval between A and E is equal to seven semitones.
  • A minor sixth, e.g., the interval between A and F is equal to eight semitones.
  • A major seventh, e.g., the interval between A and G# is equal to eleven semitones.

See also:
Scale, Scale (index)



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