4th Mode of Harmonic Minor With Jens Larsen

This lesson will to show how you can use the 4th harmonic minor mode as a nice surprising sound to use on a tonic minor chord like the first 4 bars of a minor blues.

Ultimate Guitar
It can be useful to have more than on scale sound that you can throw after common chords like minor 7th chords, since that gives you the option to vary your solo and create new sounds over the same progression.

In this lesson I want to show how you can use the 4th harmonic minor mode as a nice surprising sound to use on a tonic minor chord like the first 4 bars of a minor blues.

It is normal in jazz to vary the sounds, scales or extensions that you use over a type of chord so that you interpret parts of the song different in each chorus. That is a way of keeping the solo interesting and surprising for the listener. You probably already know how to use Dorian, melodic and harmonic minor over a tonic minor chord. This is an extension of that row of choices.

What Does It Give Us

The examples in this lesson are all using a Cm7 chord, and since Cm7 is the 4th chord in G harmonic minor, that is the scale we'll use. Here is an example of a G minor harmonic in the 10th fret:

To have something to work with let's just check out the diatonic triads of G harmonic minor and look at what extensions they contain if you related them to C.

If we interpret the notes relative to a C root we get:

G, Bb, D - 5, 7, 9

A C Eb  - 6, 1, b3

Bb D F# - 7,9,#11

C Eb G - 1, b3, 5

D F# A - 9 #11, 6

Eb G Bb - b3, 5, 7

F# A C - #11, 6, 1

As you can see (or maybe hear) the #11(F#) is one of the defining notes for this sound.  Probably that and the natural 6th(A) are important. to the sound so structures containing those note should work well, like the BbAug and D major triads.

When I study new sounds like this I often start off by finding the chord voicings that makes the sound clear and then try to use them while comping the song to hear how it fits in the context where I want to use it. Since this sound is very much part of some surprising notes high in the chord (#11 and 13) we need to play the extensions and the normal notes at the same time somehow. This is because if we play a Cm7(#11) with no 5th it sounds like a Cm7b5 which is a completely different chord. There are two ways we can do this: First we can play a huge chord with a lot of notes (like the one in the first bar of example 3) Another more practical way is to find several chord where the sum of the notes will give you a complete picture of the sound. The second bar is an example of that where I play Eb and D major triads over a C pedal to illustrate the sound of Cm7(#11,13).

Example Lines for M7(#11,13) Lines

In the last part of the lesson I want to try to give you some examples of the kind of lines I make with this scale on a m7 chord. All the examples are meant to be played over a Cm7 chord but you could also try them over an EbMaj7(#9#11) chord.

In the first example the melody starts out with a fairly natural choice of notes only conveying a Cm7(9) sound. From the 2nd bar the introduction of the D7 arpeggio and the Eb triad really emphasizes the Cm7(13#11) sound. The line ends on a sustained F# which is the #11 over Cm7.

The 2nd example is using the Eb and D major triad pair,  alternating between the two, not unlike the idea I introduced in the example 3 on comping. The triads are connected by choosing to continue on a neighboring note where the first one ended. The end of the line is a small scale run which comes to rest on the 13(A) of the chord.

The final example starts of with a complete Ebmaj13(#9#11) arpeggio, which could also be seen as stacking the entire scale in 3rds. The 2nd bar of the example is mainly a melody built around the Bb augmented triad in inversions. The line ends on the #11(F#) of Cm7.

As always you can download the examples as a PDF here: 4th mode Harmonic Minor

About the Author:
By Jens Larsen. There are more lessons on his website. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This lesson really inspired me to pick my guitar and play around with harmonizing scales, i've been struggling a bit with making chord progressions, as sometimes i feel like i'm stuck to the chords of the major/minor scale. So I've been looking for chords from modes or harmonic minor to spicy it up. Any chance you have a lesson on writing progressions or anything related? And, do you give skype lessons or something? Thanks for all the great lessons, Cheers from Brazil!
    Thanks man! That's great to hear!! I don't really have lessons on making chord progressions, the best I can offer in that respect is to check out some songs and analyze them? And then that depends on the genre too.. I do sometimes give skype lessons, but I am a bit busy. If you are interested then go to my website and find my e-mail address and we'll talk more via e-mail about it!
    nargis · Oct 16, 2015 01:13 AM