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Harmonic Minor

The above graphic shows the A major scale, constrasted against both the natural minor and harmonic minor scales. Notice the harmonic minor scale differs from the natural minor scale in just one note; the raised seventh. This note is the strongest degree of the scale; it creates tension. Holding the seventh degree of the scale, then resolving it up a half-step to the root builds tension then releases it.

This graphic shows two fingerings for the harmonic minor scale. I use either one, depending on which direction I am moving diagonally along the neck. Root notes of the scale are marked in red, and the last two notes are bracketed to illustrate that the scale is, at this point, extending beyond two octaves.

This illustration is just a jumping-off point for learning the harmonic minor scale. Once comfortable with the sound of the scale, guitarists should teach themselves to play the scale all over the fretboard in different positions, up one string, etc. either by using their ear to figure out the correct notes, or by following the scale steps illustrated above and below.

The following chords occur naturally in the A harmonic scale:

DIATONIC CHORDS: Am Bdim CAug Dm E7 Fm G#dim

The i, iv, and V7 chords are easy to compose a song around. The dim and Aug chords take a little more thought, but will expand your thinking and improvising. Have fun!

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