The Harmonic Minor

We’ve identified that what we mean when we say ‘minor’ usually means a scale starting from the sixth note of a major scale.

Let’s look at the tones and semitones between the notes of a major scale:

 

   T    T     S     T    T    T     S
C     D     E     F    G     A     B    C

 

If you play this scale and stop at the B you’ll feel a strong put towards the C – it feels like the scale wants to finish. That’s because there is a semitone between the 7th note and that final C.

 

But if you play A minor:

 

   T    S     T     T    S    T     T
A     B     C     D    E     F     G    A

the gap between the G and the last A is a tone. This doesn’t pull nearly so strongly.  So to close that gap and make the movement stronger we can sharpen that G.

This gives the notes:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G# and A.

We can identify this as being a natural minor with a sharpened 7th degree and this is called a harmonic minor.

But now look at that gap between the F and the G#.  The gap between these notes is 3 frets – a tone plus a semitone.

This works really well for building chords that pull us strongly forward – hence the name – and it has a great deal of character as a scale, but it can be tricky to sing.

So the next thing to understand is the melodic minor.

Playing the harmonic minor

Again, we’ll focus on 6 note shapes.

This first set of diagrams shows all the notes of the A harmonic minor.  Notice they’re the same notes as the C major scale, but we’ve changed all the G’s to G#.

And here’s how to finger these shapes: