Harmonic Minor Diatonic Modes

Well by know most of you have mastered the diatonic modes, so this lesson covers the're harmonic counterparts. The Harmonic Minor scale is very exotically middle eastern sounding, and its modes are used throughout all genres of music.

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Okay, so for those of you who don't know what a mode is, its basically the same notes of the scale being played from a different note of that scale. For example, the C Ionian (major) is CDEFGABC, so the D Dorian scales (which is the second mode of C major) is DEFGABCD. Every key has 7 differnt modes, one for each note of the scale. If you were to take the 6th mode of C major, A Aeolian, this is the normal normal minor scale. Today I'm going to try discuss the HARMONIC minor scale, which is is similar to the aeolian except with a raised 7th. So sticking in the key of C maj/A min, the notes of the normal A minor scale would be ABCDEFGA. In the harmonic minor scale we're going to raise the it to a major 7th changing it to ABCDEF G# A. I will tab each harmonic mode with the natrual counterparts to help you visualize the difference. For the tab of the harmonic minor scale I will ( ) the root note of the mode and * the changed note. The first mode of the A Harmonic Minor Scale is the A Harmonic Minor. The natural A Aeolian scale is like this:
e|---------------------------------------13-15-(17)-----------------------|
B|----------------------------13-15-17------------------------------------|
G|--------------------12-(14)-16------------------------------------------|
D|-----------12-14-15-----------------------------------------------------|
A|--(12)-14-15------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
 
The harmonic minor scale is this:
e|---------------------------------------13-16*-(17)-----------------------|
B|----------------------------13-15-17-------------------------------------|
G|--------------------13*-14-(16)------------------------------------------|
D|-----------12-14-15------------------------------------------------------|
A|--(12)-14-15-------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
The only interval difference between the harmonic minor and aeolian scale is the raised 7th. This mode sounds good played over minor chords. The next mode would b the B Locrain. The normal Locrain is this: B Locrain (Minor)
e|-----------------------------3-5-(7)-------------------------------------|
B|---------------------3-4-6-----------------------------------------------|
G|--------------2-(4)-5----------------------------------------------------|
D|-------2-3-5-------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-(2)-3-5-----------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Just like the first mode, to get the harmonic counterpart we need to raise all the G's to a G#. The interval change for the Locrain mode is changing from a minor to a natural 6, hence the name Locrain Natural 6:
e|-----------------------------4-5-(7)-------------------------------------|
B|---------------------3-5*-6----------------------------------------------|
G|------------2-(4)-5------------------------------------------------------|
D|-------2-3-6*------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-(2)-3-5-----------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
This sounds good played over Min7b5 chords The third natural mode would be the Major/ C Ionian.
e|---------------------------------------5-7-(8)---------------------------|
B|-------------------------------5-6-8-------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------4(5)-7--------------------------------------------|
D|---------------3-5-7-----------------------------------------------------|
A|-------(3)-5-7-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Once again, we must raise all the Gs up a half step resulting in the C Harmonic Major:
e|---------------------------------------5-7-(8)---------------------------|
B|-------------------------------5-6-9*------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------4-(5)-7-------------------------------------------|
D|---------------3-6*-7----------------------------------------------------|
A|-------(3)-5-7-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
In this mode, the 5th is the raised interval. The next mode of A natural Minor is D Dorian:
e|---------------------------------------7-8-(10)--------------------------|
B|-------------------------------6-8-10------------------------------------|
G|------------------------5-(7)-9------------------------------------------|
D|-----------------5-7-9---------------------------------------------------|
A|--------(5)-7-8----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Raise the 4th, G and we get the Spanish Phrygian/Romanian scale:
e|---------------------------------------7-8-(10)--------------------------|
B|-------------------------------6-9*-10-----------------------------------|
G|------------------------5-(7)-9------------------------------------------|
D|-----------------6*-7-9--------------------------------------------------|
A|--------(5)-7-8----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
This modes is harder to remember because the word "Dorian" isn't in the harmonic version. The next A Aeolian mode is the E Phrygian:
e|------------------------------------------8-10-(12)----------------------|
B|-----------------------------8-10-12-------------------------------------|
G|---------------------7-(9)-10--------------------------------------------|
D|-------------7-9-10------------------------------------------------------|
A|---(7)-8-10--------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
For the key of E, G is the minor third, so when we raise it, it becomes a major third, forming the Phrygian Dominant Scale:
e|------------------------------------------8-10-(12)----------------------|
B|-----------------------------9*-10-12------------------------------------|
G|---------------------7-(9)-10--------------------------------------------|
D|-------------7-9-10------------------------------------------------------|
A|---(7)-8-11*-------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
If I'm not mistaken, the Phrygian Dominant is the official Jewish Scale, but that's just according to Wikipedia. This is usually played over dominant 7 chords. The penultimate mode would be the F Lydian scale:
e|-----------------------------------------10-12-(13)----------------------|
B|--------------------------------10-12-13---------------------------------|
G|-----------------------9-(10)-12-----------------------------------------|
D|--------------9-10-12----------------------------------------------------|
A|---(8)-10-12-------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G is the second in this scale, so when we raise it it becomes the Lydian b3. In my opinion the name of this mode is decieving, because the 3rd, A, of the Lydian scale isn't flattened, but the raised second does form a flat 3rd.
e|-----------------------------------------10-12-(13)----------------------|
B|--------------------------------10-12-13---------------------------------|
G|-----------------------9-(10)-13*----------------------------------------|
D|--------------9-10-12----------------------------------------------------|
A|---(8)-11*-12------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
The last natural mode for A minor is the G Mixolydian:
e|---------------------------------------------12-13-(15)------------------|
B|-----------------------------------12-13-5-------------------------------|
G|---------------------10-(12)-14------------------------------------------|
D|------------10-12-14-----------------------------------------------------|
A|---(10)-12-14------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
This mode is rather tricky because the ROOT is raised a half step. I don't think this mode has a real name, but lets just call it the Harmonic Mixolydian. So here's the Gb Harmonic Mixolydian.
e|---------------------------------------------12-13-(16)*-----------------|
B|-----------------------------------12-13-5-------------------------------|
G|---------------------10-(13)*-14-----------------------------------------|
D|------------10-12-14-----------------------------------------------------|
A|---(11)*-12-14-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
So these are the Harmonic Minor modes, enjoy!

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    jared12369
    You could do that. Because like if its a C major chord, then C lydian and C mixolydian contain the required CEG in it. Modes are basically the same scale on different keys, so if its an A minor progression, all the modes from C Ionian, D Dorian, E phrygian, etc, will all sound okay. Sometimes like if the progression is Am, C, F, G, then while the rhythym/bass is playing the Am chord, the lead will play an A minor lick. When it goes to C, he does something in C major, when the chord shifts to F he does an F lydian thing, and does a G mixolydian thing on the G chord. All these modes contain the same notes as each other so it will sound good. Another thing is, sometimes a song will be in the key of a mode. Like most times we just think of it as something major, or something else minor, but some songs vary from the major/minor thing, for example by adding the dominant 7 instead of major 7. In this case, it probably would be in whatever mixolydian, such as songs like AAR's dirty little secret, or Greenday's Warning. I mean, most people would just say "its in A major" but since it does contain the dominat 7 its more mixolydianish.
    countrychris01
    Again, another lesson that teaches nothing about the harmonization of this. Playing a Phyrgian dominant over the &th chord will no always work, and there are better scales to choose, depending on the placement of the altered tone in the 7th chord. This explains the Eb in the Phrygian dominant, and the chord to use it over is a E7b9....playing a phrygian dominant over any 7 chord insinuates the b9 note, so may not be correct in all circumstances.
    lawizeg
    Great lesson! I love this. So helpful to know modes outside of the major scale. Great job. Thanks a lot.
    Mr. Song
    Why is there an Eb instead of an E in the locrian mode? Surely it'd still be E?
    jared12369
    Yeah I music theory is facinating, and plus, if you are every talking with more advanced guitarists who don't know much theory, they will actually like respect you more even though they own you if you use big words like "phrygian" or whatever that they don't know ;D
    Theon
    Good information, thnx for the post. It may be noobish of me, but I would like to ask as to "how" and "when" modes are used in a song? When people say "use this mode over a major chord", does it mean I can use a F lydian mode over a F chord at any time, despite the key of the song? Sorry, I had to ask.. it is bugging me.. XP
    ryanb9213
    I learned the mode names as so; Harmonic Minor Locrian #6 (or natural six likes yours) Major Augmented (or #5) Romanian Phrygian Dominant Lydian #2 (or b3 like yours) Ultra Locrian (instead of Harmonic Mixolydian) My point being the last diatonic mode Ultra Locrian. But good job. I see no errors. More people should learn theory, I find it to be very fun.