Harmonic Minor Scale – Part 1

Author: Ed Cupler

The Harmonic Minor scale is based on the Natural minor scale or Aeolian mode. The only difference is the sharp 7th. Play the example below to hear the difference one note makes.

A Natural minor scale = A B C D E F G A

E|----------------------------------------------5--7--8----|
B|-------------------------------------5--6--8-------------|
G|-------------------------------5--7----------------------|
D|----------------------5--7--9----------------------------|
A|------------5--7--8--------------------------------------|
E|--5--7--8------------------------------------------------|

A Harmonic minor scale = A B C D E F G# A

E|----------------------------------------------5--7--8----|
B|-------------------------------------5--6--9-------------|
G|-------------------------------5--7----------------------|
D|----------------------6--7--9----------------------------|
A|------------5--7--8--------------------------------------|
E|--5--7--8------------------------------------------------|

Notice the 3 fret difference between the F and the G#. Not only does this one note difference give the scale a more classical sound. It is also likely to modify the way most guitarists will approach the scale. Making some patterns more accessible thus more appealing.

Visit Jamplay for guitar lesson subscriptions
Click here to visit Jamplay.com

I’ve decided to stay within the key of A for the following examples. Most of these licks can be transposed into different keys by moving the patterns up or down the fretboard. I would also encourage you to make up your own guitar licks based on the Harmonic minor scale using the ideas learned from these examples.

Harmonic Minor Example #1

The following example #1 is a common riff used with the harmonic minor scale. This simple yet effective riff descends chromatically through three octaves of the A Harmonic minor scale ending on the sharp 7th.

Audio example:

Normal Speed

 

Slow Speed
E|--19-h20-p19-p17-\16-------------------------------------|
B|----------------------18-17-15---------------------------|
G|--------------------------------17-16-14-\13-------------|
D|----------------------------------------------15-14-12---|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

E|---------------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|-15-14-12-\11~~~~~~~~~~~~--------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

Harmonic Minor Example #2

The following example is a common technique utilizing only the 2nd 4th 6th and 7th notes (B D F G#) of the scale. Giving a diminished sound to the licks.

Audio example:

Normal Speed

 

Slow Speed
E|-----------4-h7/10------------7-h10/13--------16---------|
B|--------6------------------9-----------12/15-------------|
G|--4-7---------------7-10---------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

E|-------19---------23-------------------------------------|
B|-15/18------18/22----------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

 

Harmonic Minor Example #3

This next example #3 is a common technique that uses half step hammer-on and pull-off licks that occur throughout the A Minor Harmonic scale. This one moves in an ascending fashion.

Audio example:

Normal Speed

 

Slow Speed
E|---------------------------4-h5-p4-h5---7-h8-p7-h8-------|
B|--------------5-h6-p5-h6---------------------------------|
G|-4-h5-p4-h5----------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

E|-12-h13-p12-h13----16-h17-p16-h17----19-h20-p19-h20------|
B|---------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

E|-19-b20-r19~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~-------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

Harmonic Minor Example #4

This next example #4 is a chromatic riff that speeds through the A Minor Harmonic scale starting at the high A note on the G string then proceeds an ascending three note per string sequence then stutters the lasts few notes on the high E string before ending with a whole step bend.

Audio example:

Normal Speed

 

Slow Speed
E|--------------------16-17-19--20--19--17--19--22--b24~~~~|
B|-----------15-17-18--------------------------------------|
G|-14-16-17------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

Harmonic Minor Example #5

This next example #5 uses a combination of hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides throughout this A Harmonic Minor riff.

Audio example:

Normal Speed

 

Slow Speed
E|-16-h17-p16-13----13-\12-13-16-p13-p12-\10--12-h13-p12---|
B|---------------15----------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|

E|--p10-12-p10-----10--------------------------------------|
B|--------------13-----12-h13-p12-p10-12-p10-\9-10~~~~~~~~~|
G|---------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------|
Visit Jamplay for guitar lesson subscriptions
Click here to visit Jamplay.com
  • Title 1
  • Title 2
  • Content goes here .. (1)

  • Content goes here .. (2)