The Harmonic Minor Scale | Guitar Diagrams and Charts

What's The Harmonic Minor Scale?

The harmonic minor scale contains seven notes. The interval pattern formula is 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b6 - 7. It is built the same as the natural minor scale (Aeolian mode) but the seventh degree is raised by one semitone. 

C natural minor scale (Aeolian mode) C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
C harmonic minor scale C D Eb F G Ab B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7

 

Harmonic minor scale

What's the Difference Between Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor?

The melodic minor scale is built the same as the harmonic minor scale but has a major sixth (6) instead of a minor sixth (b6) giving the formula 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7. They both have a major seventh.

Comparison melodic and harmonic minor scale

Comparison With Aeolian Mode

The main difference with the Aeolian mode (natural minor scale) is the seventh that is minor (b7) for the Aeolian mode whereas it is major (7) for the harmonic minor.

C natural minor scale (Aeolian mode) C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
C harmonic minor scale C D Eb F G Ab B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Comparison aeolian and harmonic minor

Harmonic Minor Scale Application

Theoretically the harmonic minor scale should be played over minMaj7 chords, but it can also be used over minor chords like m6, m7, m9, m11, m6/9. Playing the harmonic melodic scale over a minor 7 chord creates tension because of the major seventh. To attenuate this tension you need to resolve you lick on a proper note.

Harmonic Minor Scale - One Octave Diagrams

Here are four diagrams to play the harmonic minor scale on your guitar. Each shapes contains tones within the space of one octave.

The most easy way to learn the scale is to play it starting from the tonic (1 in the graphic). Be sure to practice them in twelve keys.

 

 

Harmonic minor scale guitar 1

Harmonic Minor Scale - Two Octave Diagrams

These two shapes show the harmonic scale within the space of two octaves. Remember to practice them slowly, the speed will come later.  You can also practice these shapes in quarter notes, eighth notes or even sixteenth notes.

Harmonic minor scale two octave shapes 2

Harmonic Minor Scale - 3 Notes Per String 

Here below in the diagram, the G harmonic minor scale is presented in 7 different shapes covering the whole neck. Each shape contains 3 notes per string. The first position starts with the tonic (1), the second with the second (2), the third with the b3 and on and on. Keep in mind that all these shapes are movable.

Harmonic minor scale guitar positions 1

How To Harmonize The Harmonic Minor Scale?

Here are the chords built from each degree of the harmonic minor scale. Triad chords are made of three notes stacked in thirds and tetrad chords made of four notes stacked in thirds too. For example the first chord, C minor(maj7), is built by stacking C, Eb, G and B respectively root, minor third, perfect fifth and major seventh.

Once the harmonic minor scale is harmonized we get a major seventh chord (sixth degree), one augmented chord (III), two minor chords (degrees I & IV), one minor seventh flat fifth chord on the second degree (II), one dominant seventh chord (V) and one diminished seventh chord on degree VII.

Augmented chords are necessarily majors and diminished chords are minor.

Degrees

I II III IV V VI VII
C Harmonic minor scale C D Eb F G Ab B
Triad chords Cm Ddim Eb Aug Fm G Ab Bdim
Tetrad chords C-maj7 D-7b5 EbMaj7#5 Fm7 G7 AbMaj7 Bdim7

 

Chords formulas

Quadrad chords in the key of C minor.

Chords  Notes  Formulas
CmMaj7 C-Eb-G-B 1-b3-5-7
D-7b5 D-F-Ab-C 1-b3-b5-b7
EbMaj7#5 Eb-G-B-D 1-3-#5-7
F-7 F-Ab-C-Eb 1-b3-5-b7
G7 G-B-D-F 1-3-5-b7
AbM7 Ab-C-Eb-G 1-3-5-7
Bdim7 B-D-F-Ab 1-b3-b5-bb7
Harmonic minor mode harmonization

Seventh Chords (Drop 2 and Drop 3 Voicings)

The five diagrams below show how looks drop 2 and drop 3 chords from the harmonic minor scale harmonized in thirds. Each chord type is represented by a color code.

  • Green for the chord of the first degree (minMaj7).
  • Brown for the chord starting on the second degree (m7b5).
  • Blue for the chord starting from the third degree (Maj7#5).
  • Red for the chord of the fourth degree (min7).
  • Grey for the chord starting on the fifth degree (dom7). 
  • Orange for the chord starting from the sixth degree (Maj7).
  • Purple for the chord starting on the seventh degree (dim7).

How to The Harmonic Minor in Arpeggios?

When playing one by one each of the chords from the harmonic minor scale we get seven arpeggios:

  1. MinMaj7 ► 1 b3 5 7
  2. m7b5 (half-diminished) ► 1 b3 b5 b7
  3. maj7#5 ► 1 3 #5 7
  4. min7 ► 1 b3 5 b7
  5. Dom 7 ► 1 3 5 b7
  6. Maj7 ► 1 3 5 7
  7. Dim7 ► 1 b3 b5 bb7

These arpeggios are very useful to improvise over jazz chord changes. Learning them will expand your theoretical knowledge and your guitar technique.

The transcription below show how to play the seven arpeggios from the C harmonic minor scale. As you will hear, each arpeggio is played ascending and descending. Be sure to play them in all twelve keys all over the guitar neck, trying to vary the positions and fingerings. 

Harmonic minor arpeggios for guitar

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Last edited: 03/04/2021

Comments

  • Arun Kaji Shrestha
    • 1. Arun Kaji Shrestha On 04/04/2021
    Thank you Sir.
    • Stef Ramin
      • Stef RaminOn 04/04/2021
      You're welcome
  • Pivo
    • 2. Pivo On 02/14/2021
    Hey Stef,
    I think I found what Phil was talking about in his comment: the tablature for Ebmaj7#5 as found in the image titled "harmonic minor mode in seventh chords" has a flat B instead of a natural one, as there is no flat B in the harmonic minor scale.
    Also, thanks a lot for this guide, the colored charts are fantastic!
    • Stef Ramin
      • Stef RaminOn 02/14/2021
      Hi, The natural symbol in the first bar works for all the following bars including Ebmaj#5 (E-B-D-G). My software don't display the natural if it is already noted. Thank you ;)
  • phil
    • 3. phil On 01/30/2019
    Thanks for this really helpful page.
    Just noted there should be a 'natural' symbol on the B shown in notation for Ebmaj7#5?

    P.
    • Stef Ramin
      • Stef RaminOn 01/30/2019
      No need natural symbol. Thanks for your comment