Music Theory

Here is a preview of some of the lessons included in Musicopoulos

Harmonic Minor Scale

Understanding the Origins of the Harmonic Minor Scale

As we previously discussed, the Relative Minor Scale can be used to create a solemn, sad feel in a piece of music. This effect is at its most prominent with the Relative Minor Scale when the notes are played in a descending fashion. However, when the same scale is played ascending, it doesn't sound “quite right” to the ear.

The reason this doesn't sound “quite right” to the ear is that the leading note of the Relative Minor Scale does not sound pleasant. A leading note is played before a harmony moves to the root chord, generally at the end of a section or piece of music.

When the Relative Minor Scale is played ascending, the leading note, or 7th degree of the scale, is played 1 wholestep below the root note. It is this interval that creates the unpleasant sound when ascending the Natural Minor Scale. Our ears are more familiar with the sound of a leading note being 1 halfstep below the root note.

This deficiency of the Relative Minor Scale can be resolved by raising the 7th degree by 1 halfstep, giving us the Harmonic Minor scale.

For example, if we consider the E Relative Minor scale

Harmonic Minor Example 1

Raising the 7th degree, D, by a halfstep gives us the E Harmonic Minor Scale

Harmonic Minor Example 2

As the Relative Minor Scale is an unchanged mode of the Major Scale, it is also referred to as the Natural Minor Scale. Both these name refer to the same scale and will be used interchangeably throughout these lessons.

Below is a list of the Harmonic Minor Scales