Watch the Harmonic Minor online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Modes That Matter

Shifting gears we take a look at another scale that serves as a parent to a modal system--harmonic minor. This spooky sounding scale is perhaps the most minor of them all with its seductive texture, which is made possible by yet another unique formula attribute. Check it out, the formula for harmonic minor is as follows: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7. Taking a close look you’ll see there is a tritone between 2-b6 just like Aeolian, but the interval to key in on is the step-and-a-half between the b6 and the 7. It is that stretch from b6 to 7 that makes the harmonic minor scale have that “thing”.

Just like Mixolydian is a major key signature’s dirty little secret, harmonic minor is the shadow lurking behind a minor key signature. Remember, minor key sigs indicate the natural minor scale (Aeolian mode) is behind it all. The problem is that scale doesn’t have the “X” factor the harmonic minor scale does and that’s the V chord it creates. That V chord in a minor context is big and it needs to be there. So while many tunes may look like their pure bred natural minor tunes, just look to see if there’s a V chord (or exntension there of) and don’t be surprised if harmonic minor made a visit to the compositional kennel.

In these next three segments you’re going to see how to apply the harmonic minor scale over metal, bossa and surf. With a trio like that you know this scale has got some juice!