The Harmonic minor scale is a very distinct sound and it is one of the cornerstones in the songs we play. It is also just a beautiful color that you can add to your solos. In this video, I am going to show you how you can apply the harmonic minor scale to some chords and get some great sounds.
I sometimes see people comment that you don’t need the harmonic minor scale, I think this video will clearly show you why you don’t want to miss it.
I am going to apply it to 3 chords, and to have some chords that you can use we need to just check out the diatonic chords in harmonic minor.
A harmonic minor – What we use it for and why
A harmonic minor is: A B C D E F G# A
The diatonic 7th chords of A harmonic minor would be:
AmMaj7 Bø Cmaj7(#5) Dm7 E7 Fmaj7 G#dim
The 3 chords that I am going to focus on are the 3 last diatonic chords: E7, Fmaj7 and G#dim.
Two are extremely common and in a lot of songs and one is a very specific sound that is a great way to change things up a bit and a good introduction to poly chords.
One way to understand Harmonic minor is to see it as a minor scale that Is changed so that we have a dominant chord.
The A natural minor scale has these diatonic chords:
Am7 Bø Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7
A harmonic minor A B C D E F G# A has these diatonic chords:
AmMaj7 Bø Cmaj7(#5) Dm7 E7 Fmaj7 G#dim
You want to have a dominant chord to really hear that the piece is in A minor. This is the primary function for A harmonic minor
E7 – In Minor and in Major
In this scale we have an E7 with a b9 and a b13:
E G#B D F A C
You get this chord by stacking 3rds in the scale.
This gives us these E7 chords shown below. Of those three the E7(b9,11) is not that nice, but the E7(b9,b13) is a great description of how the dominant sounds.
And some of the arpeggios that work well for this chord would be:
Using E7 from harmonic minor
You can use the E7 in a minor II V I like this:
But it also works great in a major cadence as a surprising sound that quickly resolves back to the tonic:
G#dim – More than just A minor progressions
If you look at the A harmonic minor scale and the key of A minor then the G#dim is a dominant chord that wants to resolve to the tonic
Notice that I don’t use harmonic minor on the tonic chord, I am using melodic minor which is a more common tonic minor sound.
The “difficult” dim chord
But in Jazz we mostly come across subdominant diminished chords, and here the harmonic minor scale is also very useful. Mostly the diminished chord is then written as an Abdim chord like this in F major:
Am7 Abdim Gm7 C7 Fmaj7
The way you arrive at the A harmonic minor scale here is by altering the F major scale:
F major: F G A Bb C D E F
And if you want to fit the dim chord in there then we need an Ab(or G#) and a B:
F G# A B C D E F = A harmonic minor
An example of a line sounds like this:
Fmaj7(#9,#11) – Harmonic Minor Poly Chord
This chord is not very common, in fact I don’t think it is in any Jazz Standards I know. It is however a great different sound that you can use to play something surprising in a solo. Monk used this chord in Round Midnight and Wayne Shorter uses it in Speak No Evil.
This chord is in fact the diatonic chord on F in the scale:
A harmonic minor: A B C D E F G# A
Fmaj7(#9,#11) : F A C E G# B
You could look at this as being an E major triad over an F major triad.
The way you usually play this chord on guitar is like this where you leave out the 5th of the lower triad:
A line using this sound as a substitute for a tonic F major chord:
Melodic Minor – The Other Cornerstone
Harmonic minor is a cornerstone in tonal harmony and is what you want to use for a lot of essential chords in a key. Another very important and also very beautiful minor sound that sounds really great on especially tonic minor chords is melodic minor. If you want to check out this scale and how to use it then this video will really give you something to work with.
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