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1 "Modes of the Harmonic Minor" Harmonic Minor While one could conceivably go about their entire guitar existence without knowledge of anything other than the Pentatonic and Diatonic Scales, it is an entirely worthwhile endeavor to expand and examine certain scales that come about through simple modifications of the Major Scale (Ionian) and Minor Scale (Aeolian). In this lesson we will look at the Harmonic Minor scale and its modes. You will find that these modes sound radically different from the Major scale modes. With the Harmonic Minor modes, you can achieve a wide variety of sounds, from a Middle Eastern sound to a Spanish Gypsy (check out the 5th mode...) sound. People often associate Harmonic Minor with the so-called Neoclassical players like Yngwie Malmsteen, but the scale goes much deeper than that, as I think you will soon find out. When you practice these, keep in mind that the Diatonic Scale exercises apply here as well (3 octave scales, sequences and patterns). Also, since I am using G Harmonic Minor for these exercises, you should expect that these modes will be similar to all the modes in Bb Major (because G Minor is the Minor mode of Bb Major). The table below shows which Harmonic modes are similar to which Major modes. (Note: They are similar - not the same!) Harmonic Minor Mode Major Mode 6. Minor 1. Harmonic Minor (Aeolian) 2. Locrian Natural 6 7. Locrian 1. Major 3. Harmonic Major (Ionian) 4. Spanish Phrygian, 2. Dorian Romanian 5. Spanish Gypsy, 3. Phrygian Phrygian Dominant 6. Lydian b3 4. Lydian 7. 5. Mixolydian 2 Relation of Harmonic Minor and Major Modes Harmonic Minor mode 1 Let's start with the first mode of the Harmonic Minor scale - the Harmonic Minor! This scale is very similar to the Minor mode (i.e. Aeolian) that you learned in the Diatonic Scales and Modes lesson. The only difference is that the 7th note is raised. That should tell you that for the most part, you can use the scales interchangeably. Doing so, will really help you develop a sound all your own. Also, this scale is often used over a Min7b5 Chord and Dom7b9 and is used in general used over II V I progressions in Minor. The important thing to note here is how similar the scale looks to the Minor scale. But it sounds much different! Harmonic Minor mode 1 Practice this like any other scale exercise. Apply scale sequences and patterns, mix things up with picking and legato, etc. And to really make things interesting, try ascending with the Harmonic Minor, and descending with the Minor. 3 Harmonic Minor mode 2 - Locrian Natural 6 In the previous exercise, I mentioned how the Harmonic Minor was similar to the Minor. Well, recall that in the Diatonic Scales and Modes lesson, we saw that the Minor mode is the sixth mode of the Major scale. So the 6th mode of the Major scale is similar to the 1st mode of the Harmonic Minor. So by similar reasoning, you can imagine that the 2nd Harmonic Minor mode might very well be similar to the 7th mode of the Major scale. And what do you know - the 2nd Harmonic Minor mode is also called the Locrain Natural 6 (Locrian is the 7th mode of the Major scale!). This scale sounds good played over a Min7b5 chord (as does the Locrian mode). Here we see the Locrian Natural 6. Notice how similar the scale shape is to the Locrian mode. The only difference is that here the 6th note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 2 - Locrian Natural 6 See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with the Locrian 6 and descending with the Locrian. Another thing to try, is playing this scale over an A Min7b5 chord. 4 Harmonic Minor mode 3 - Harmonic Major By now, hopefully you see the relation between these Harmonic Minor modes and the Diatonic modes. In the last exercise, we saw the Locrian Natural 6. So with this mode, we would expect there to be a similarity with the Major scale itself. This is of course true, and this mode is referred to as Harmonic Major. Here we see the Harmonic Major. The only difference between this shape and the Major scale is that here, the 5th note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 3 - Harmonic Major See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with the Harmonic Major and descending with the Major. 5 Harmonic Minor mode 4 - Spanish Phrygian, Romanian You probably thought this mode would have Dorian in the name, since the last mode was called Harmonic Major. That is not the case here. But think of it as the Harmonic Dorian if you want (don't quote me!). Here we see the Spanish Phrygian, Romanian mode (or Harmonic Dorian!). The only difference between this shape and the Dorian mode is that here, the 4th note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 4 - Spanish Phrygian, Romanian See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with the Spanish Phrygian and descending with the Dorian. 6 Harmonic Minor mode 5 - Spanish Gypsy, Phrygian Dominant I said once that when it comes to arpeggios, the Dominant 7th is my favorite. Well, when it comes to scales, this one is it! Sometimes, I will go on the internet, tune into some Spanish Gypsy music station, and just go nuts with this mode. It is almost as if the music takes possession of your fingers. I find that type of music to be the easiest to improvise over. Anyway, enough rambling. This scale is often used over the V chord (Dom7, Dom7b5, etc). So if you are in C Major, this scale would sound nice over a G Dom7, for example. Here we see the Spanish Gypsy, Phrygian Dominant. The only difference between this shape and the Phrygian mode is that here, the 3rd note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 5 - Spanish Gypsy, Phrygian Dominant See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with the Spanish Gypsy and descending with the Phrygian. 7 Harmonic Minor mode 6 - Lydian b3 As you probably expected, we are now at the mode that most closely resembles the Lydian mode. Here we see the Lydian b3. The only difference between this shape and the Lydian mode is that here, the 2nd note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 6 - Lydian b3 See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with the Lydian b3 and descending with the Lydian. 8 Harmonic Minor mode 7 We have now reached the end of our Harmonic Minor modes. This time we have a nameless mode. We can't have that. So how about we call this the Harmonic Mixolydian? Here we see the 7th Harmonic Minor mode (recently renamed Harmonic Mixolydian...). The only difference between this shape and the Mixoydian mode is that here, the 1st note is raised. Harmonic Minor mode 7 See exercise 1 for any special instructions. Also, try ascending with this mode and descending with the Mixolydian. 9 Description of the Harmonic minor scale A harmonic minor scale consists of 7 different notes. The intervals from note to note are : tone - semitone - tone - tone - semitone - tone and a half - semitone The scale can also be described as two tetrachords separated by one whole tone. one minor tetrachord : tone - semitone - tone one gypsy tetrachord : semitone - tone and a half - semitone The two tetrachords for the C harmonic minor scale are : (minor tetrachord) C - D - Eb - F <-- tone --> G - Ab - B - C (gypsy tetrachord) The key signature for the harmonic minor scale is the same as its related major scale with its tonic note 3 semitones above. For example the C harmonic minor scale is related to the Eb major scale, and shares that scale's key signature (3 flats). The harmonic minor scale was originally derived from the natural minor scale, by raising its 7th note. The natural minor in turn is the Aeolian mode of the major scale 3 semitones higher. All three scales use the same key signature. Eb major scale = Eb - F - G - Ab - Bb - C - D - Eb C natural minor = C - D - Eb - F - G - Ab - Bb - C C harmonic minor = C - D - Eb - F - G - Ab - 10 Harmonic minor Locrian 13 Ionian #5 Dorian #11 Mixolydian b9b13 Lydian #9 Locrian b4bb7 The Harmonic Minor is a fairly common scale, familiar to most intermediate musicians. However, one seldom sees a complete modal breakdown of this scale, though the 5th mode (sometimes called the Harmonic Phrygian) is used often in Flamenco and Metal musics. The other modes of this scale offer just as rich a potential as the two common modes; while not technically "exotic scales" (exoticism in music is essentially a western term meaning music - or scales - designed to evoke the sounds & images of "far-away lands"), many of these modes blur the lines between exoticism and standard scales. Immerse yourself in these for a while - one at a time - and see what you come up with. Note the notation is in the key of A so the listener can hear the differences between the modes properly. Now, we'll jump right in! The Harmonic Minor (A-A) is "A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A" Listen! The second mode (B-B) spells "A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F#-G-A" Listen! 11 The third mode (C-C) spells "A-B-C#-D-E#-F#-G#-A" Listen! The fourth mode (D-D) spells "A-B-C-D#-E-F#-G-A" Listen! The fifth mode (E-E) spells "A-Bb-C#-D-E-F-G-A" Listen! The sixth mode (F-F) spells "A-B#-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A" Listen! 12 The seventh mode (G#-G#) spells "A-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-A" Listen! In the past, I have run workshops that focus exclusively on such modal breakdowns, so my advise is to focus on ONE mode per week for the next 7 weeks. Write a little etude (practice piece) each week that uses one of these modes. You'll be surprised at the doors that open for you!
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