There are many types of scales used in guitar music. In this article we will discuss how to play the harmonic minor scale.

What is a Guitar Scale?

A guitar scale is an arrangement of notes played in succession from lowest to highest. Scales are arranged such that the ending note is the same as the starting note albeit one octave higher.

The Harmonic Minor Scale

The Harmonic Minor Scale isn't a diatonic scale like the major scale, owing to the distance between the notes. You can derive the harmonic minor scale from the natural minor scale. The natural minor scale, which is diatonic, is also called the Aeolian mode. By taking the natural minor scale and raising the subtonic by one half step to create a leading note, we can derive the Harmonic Minor scale.

The harmonic minor scale contains seven notes. The intervals in the notes of the harmonic minor scale are: Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, One and a half steps, Half Step.

Playing the Harmonic Minor Scale on the Guitar

To play the harmonic minor scale on the guitar, start by playing the first three notes on the lowest string. Locate the tonic note, then play the supertonic a whole step (two frets) above the tonic, and the mediant a half step above the supertonic.

Next play the notes using the same fret distances as the previous string. To play the last two notes of the scale, shift your hand over one fret from the starting point and play the leading note, followed by the tonic a half step above the leading note.

Minor Scales on the Guitar

The harmonic minor scale is very common in tonal music. Songs that are in a minor key will use notes derived from the harmonic minor scale.The melodic minor scale, derived from the harmonic minor scale, is common in classical music but much less common in popular music..

The two octave minor scale is not very much fun to play on the guitar because it involves extensive position shifts and not very logical fingering patterns.

harmonic minor

The Freygish Scale

However, a mode of the harmonic minor scale, the Freygish scale, is lots of fun to play because you start off with two semitones. This exotic-sounding scale is used often in Arabic music, or music with an Arabian flavour, as it resembles an Arabic maqam.


Licks that use the Harmonic Minor Scale

In this article I show two licks in the Tommy Emmanuel song "Luttrel". These licks are composed using notes from the A Minor Harmonic Scale.

Licks that use the Freygish scale

In the article on how to create a guitar lick, I examine the lick composed by Vlatko Stefanovski for the Gypsy dance. The scale used is the Freygish or Gyspy scale. But this scale contains the same notes as the C Minor Harmonic scale.