The Mystical Romanian Scale

Freshen up your improvisations and scale knowledge with this mystical and exotic scale: the Romanian scale. Jam track included!

Ultimate Guitar
The Romanian scale is actually the 4th mode of the harmonic minor scale. It has a rich and exotic sound when played and features the following intervals:

Root, 2nd, minor 3rd, sharp 4th, 5th, 6th and flat 7th.

I think of it as a Dorian scale but with a sharpened 4th. And so when one improvises in the Romanian scale, I find that the journeying and slightly sad sound of the Dorian is expressed, plus that special and ethereal magic of the sharp 4th (often referred to as a flat 5th) which can be found in the Lydian mode (made hugely popular by Steve Vai and notable others).

Here is the three-notes-per-string scale diagram:

And here are the notes from the neighboring shapes for you to incorporate when comfortable:

Have a go! Play over this jam track I made and put your new knowledge into practice!

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About the Author:
By Alfred Potter

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Would be nice to see actual tabs O: But still great "guide"!!! Thank you! =)
    Is the phrygian dominant a mode of the harmonic minor? Im curios now, since Lifeson plays an exotic varian of all 7 G Major modes in his YYZ solo which includes B Phrygian dominant
    Yes, the 5th mode of the harmonic minor, in fact. For some reason, it's the only mode of the harmonic minor that is commonly used (Yngwie, neoclassical and whatnot).
    I was taught phrygian dominant was the fifth mode of harmonic minor scale with a raised 3 (already implied) in addition to a raised seventh. 1 b2 #3 P4 P5 b6 #7 1 b2 #3 P4 - Phrygian dominant 1 2 b3 P4 P5 b6 #7 1 - Regular Harmonic minor. I believe he referred the word dominant already implied harmonic minor. Either way this is a cool scale with lots of leading tones.
    Yes and I can't believe that the phrygian dominant is the only popular mode besides the root harmonic minor. As far as I know, this jam track of mine is the only Romanian jam track on YouTube =\ I want people to know how cool this stuff is!
    Love this scale. Of course, I'm half Romanian so there is a reason for it. If you like this, check out the fourth mode of harmonic major, it's essentially this scale with a raised 7th.
    Idk why, but I've never even considered the possibility of there being a harmonic major scale.
    So there are 7 modes of the harmonic minor??I gotta look into that.
    Yes. Most scales are just modes from another scale. Like the Natural Minor scale is just the 6th mode of the Mayor Scale. So playing the A Minor scale over a C Mayor chord, are the same notes as playing the C mayor scale.
    Good chat going on here! I was thrilled when I learned that the A minor scale had exactly the same notes as the C major scale. And even more thrilled when I learned that there was a whole other set of 7 modes for the harmonic minor!
    I'm more interested in the chords that he's using in the background (because that's i/2 of what makes a mode sound like a mode). What chords are using in the jam track?
    Of course, I should have mentioned! Well it goes Am (6-string barre chord), Adim (with an unaltered 5th added to make the barre chord easier. it goes 5, 6, 7, 8, 5, 5.), then back to Am, then a Cmaj7 on the a string followed by a B7also on the a string
    Thank you! I will have definitely have some fun experimenting with this one! Cheers!
    hey alfred, I love this scale, but your reply about the chords in the backing track have confused me..I get the Am, the A dim, with an unaltered 5th, but what does 5,6,7,8,5,5, mean? thank you
    hey VoievoDa, thank you for your responce,but to be honest I have no idea what you mean? E means 5, and Bmeans 5? I'd like to know what the chords are in the backing track. Do you know the actual chords, in any event thanks for trying to help.
    Hi Jedog Sorry for the late reply, UG doesn't notify me when a new comment is posted... =/ Barre the entire 5th fret row. Then second finger on fret 6 of the A string, third finger on the 7th fret of the D string, and finally pinky on the 8th fret of the G string
    hey thanks, alfred, but i'm really looking for is the chord chart for the backing track..if you have it great, if not thanks again for your post, i love this scale.