Music is a language that transcends borders, and the harmonic minor scale is one of its most intriguing dialects. This scale, with its exotic sound and unique harmonic possibilities, has fascinated musicians and composers for centuries.
The harmonic minor scale is a fascinating musical concept that has inspired composers and musicians across various genres.
In this blog post, we are going to discuss the harmonic minor chords, their construction, and some other important details. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What Makes It “Harmonic”?
The term “harmonic” in the harmonic minor scale refers to the harmony created by the raised seventh degree.
This alteration was historically used to create a leading tone that resolves to the tonic, giving a stronger sense of closure in minor key compositions.
The augmented second interval between the sixth and seventh degrees adds an exotic flavor, making it a favorite in various musical genres.
Comparison with Other Scales
- Natural Minor Scale: The harmonic minor scale differs from the natural minor scale by having a raised seventh degree. The natural minor scale follows the pattern: 1, 2, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭6, ♭7.
- Major Scale: Compared to the major scale, the harmonic minor scale has a minor third and a minor sixth. The major scale follows the pattern: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Understanding the Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale is derived from the natural minor scale, with the seventh degree raised by one semitone.
This creates an augmented second between the sixth and seventh degrees, giving the scale a distinctive sound. The notation for a harmonic minor scale is as follows:
1, 2, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭6, 7, 8
For example, the A harmonic minor scale consists of the notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G#.
Chords in the Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale serves as a foundation for various chords. The triads and seventh chords derived from this scale are unique and can be represented as:
- Triads: min, dim, aug, min, maj, maj, dim
- Extended: min/maj7, m7b5, maj7#5, min7, dom7, maj7, dim7
Typical Chord Progressions
Chord progressions using the harmonic minor scale often mix chords from other minor scales. Common progressions include:
- i – iv – V7 (e.g., Am – Dm – E7)
- ii – V7 – i (e.g., Bm7b5 – E7 – Am)
Unique Chords and Their Functions
The harmonic minor scale introduces some unique chords, such as:
- Augmented Triads (III+): Generated by major thirds.
- Diminished Seventh Chords (viio7): Generated by minor thirds.
- Dominant Seventh Chord (V7): Creates tension and resolves to the tonic.
These chords contribute to the development of modern chromaticism and offer various harmonic functions.
Application in Different Genres
The harmonic minor scale has influenced various musical styles:
- Classical Music: Composers like Mozart and Beethoven have used the harmonic minor scale melodically.
- Popular Music: Songs like Katy B’s “Easy Please Me” and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” feature the harmonic minor.
- Heavy Metal: Guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore have employed the harmonic minor in neoclassical metal.
How to Use the Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale is a versatile tool that can be applied in various musical contexts. Here’s how you can explore and utilize this scale:
Understanding the Resolution:
The harmonic minor scale is often applied when a V7 chord resolves in a minor chord.
This resolution is typical of the harmonic minor context and does not exist in the natural major or minor keys. Understanding this resolution helps in identifying songs containing the V7, and Im7 progression.
Exploring Different Genres:
From classical to jazz, pop, and metal, the harmonic minor scale has found its place in various musical styles.
Experimenting with this scale in different genres can lead to unique and expressive compositions.
Creating Melodic Lines:
The augmented second interval in the harmonic minor scale offers a distinctive melodic flavor.
Composers and improvisers can use this scale to create intriguing melodies that stand out.
Building Chord Progressions:
The harmonic minor scale provides a rich set of chords that can be used to build progressions.
Alternating between dominant 7 and major 7 chords, or experimenting with diminished and augmented chords, can lead to captivating harmonies.
Enhancing Emotional Impact:
The exotic sound of the harmonic minor scale can be used to evoke specific emotions in the listener.
Whether it’s a sense of mystery, longing, or tension, this scale can be a powerful tool in storytelling through music.
Experimenting with Modes:
The harmonic minor scale has its modes, each with its characteristics. Exploring these modes can lead to new harmonic and melodic possibilities.
Chord-Scale Relationships and Composing
Understanding the chord-scale relationships in the Harmonic Minor scale can lead to innovative compositions. For example, alternating between G dominant 7 and A♭ major 7 and building a melody out of the C Harmonic Minor Scale can create a perfect harmony.
The harmonic minor chords offer a rich tapestry of sound that can be explored in various musical contexts. From classical compositions to modern pop and metal, these chords provide a unique flavor that resonates with listeners.
Understanding the construction, application, and relationships of these chords can enhance musical creativity and open new horizons for composers and musicians alike.
Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just starting your musical journey, delving into the harmonic minor chords can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Experiment with these chords, and you may discover new musical landscapes waiting to be explored.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the harmonic minor scale?
The harmonic minor scale is a seven-note scale with a raised seventh degree compared to the natural minor scale. It’s known for its exotic sound and is used in various musical genres.
How is the harmonic minor scale different from the natural minor scale?
The harmonic minor scale differs from the natural minor scale by having a major seventh instead of a minor seventh.
This creates an augmented second interval between the sixth and seventh degrees, giving the scale its unique sound.
Can I use the harmonic minor scale in any key?
Yes, the harmonic minor scale can be transposed to any key. The pattern remains the same, and you can apply it to different root notes.
When should I use the harmonic minor scale?
The harmonic minor scale is often used when you want to create a strong resolution to the tonic in a minor key or when you want to add an exotic flavor to your melody or harmony. It’s commonly used in classical music, jazz, and even pop and metal.
- Pallesen K. J. et al. Emotion processing of major, minor, and dissonant chords: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study //Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. – 2005. – Т. 1060. – №. 1. – С. 450-453.
- Suzuki M. et al. Discrete cortical regions associated with the musical beauty of major and minor chords //Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. – 2008. – Т. 8. – С. 126-131.
- Bakker D. R., Martin F. H. Musical chords and emotion: Major and minor triads are processed for emotion //Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. – 2015. – Т. 15. – С. 15-31.
- Huron D., Davis M. The harmonic minor scale provides an optimum way of reducing average melodic interval size, consistent with sad affect cues //Empirical Musicology Review. – 2012. – Т. 7. – №. 3-4. – С. 103-117.
- Huron D. A comparison of average pitch height and interval size in major-and
Marko is a passionate composer, producer, and multimedia artist with a Master of Music degree. His career involves performing, creating, and producing his own music in his home studio using digital and analogue equipment. Marko is a multi-instrumentalist (he plays guitar, bass, piano, theremin, and other instruments). performs live acts and DJ sets, and works on feature and short films, documentaries, festivals, theaters, and government initiatives.