20 Minutes To… Learn the harmonic minor scale
It’s not just for shred! Learn about this versatile and exotic scale, which has lent its unique flavour to jazz, pop, funk and many more genres
Despite its reputation as a staple of neo-classical shred, the harmonic minor scale is actually very versatile. Take a look at this simple chord progression: Am-em. Easy, right? These are the first and fifth chords in the key of A minor (which includes the notes: A B C D E F G). Now, if you change Em to E you’ll introduce a G# note. It’s a simple chord change but this lone note changes our scale from A minor to A harmonic minor (A B C DE F G#). Simply jam around these two chords and you’ll be in harmonic minor territory. The Latin vibes of Santana’s Smooth are a prime example – the track opens on an AM-E progression and Carlos solos with the A harmonic minor scale. Another example is Newborn by Muse, which opens on Em and B chords. It’s the same progression, just in the key of E minor this time.
Read on, try our chords, riffs and licks, and add a little of this exotic-sounding scale to your own playing.