I’ll use C Harmonic Minor in this case – but this idea will work on any root.
Before we get too far into the lick side of this let’s look at the chords to see what we can play this over.
Here are the diatonic triads and 7th chords.
Harmonic Minor Notes:
- C Harmonic Minor is spelled C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C – and from the root note the step and a 1/2 between the Ab and the B is a very distinctive sound of the scale.
- This scale has a lot of cool arpeggios and chord scale associations, but the most commonly used scales and modes are the root scale and the mode based on the 5th of the scale (R, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7). Having said that, modes starting on the b3 and 4th add some really cool sounds as well.
Now let’s talk about visualizing the scale.
I’ve talked about my approach to Harmonic Minor briefly in part 9 of this series – but as a brief review:
Major Scale/Modal Visualization Review
- The guitar fingerboard can be divided into 3 sets of two strings. Any 2-string fingering pattern that starts on the B string can be moved to the same starting pitch on the D or the low E string and keep the same fingering.
- The major scale can be broken down into seven two-string modes that follow a specific order based on its scale degree from the parent scale (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian). The two-string patterns are modular and can be adapted to positional playing.
- Instead of thinking of individual modes when playing, I tend to think of larger tonal systems (i.e. I think of C Major all over the fingerboard instead of D Dorian or A Aeolian.)
- By thinking of the fingerboard in a larger scale – it makes it easier for me to navigate Melodic and Harmonic Minor as – solely from a fingering/sonic visualization standpoint – I just see it as variations of the Major scale patterns.
To visualize Harmonic Minor patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale. (i.e. to visualize C Melodic Minor just play C major but change every E to Eb, and change every A to Ab).
It’s important to note that all of the fingering conventions mentioned here are solely to assist with visualization as Melodic and Harmonic Minor really aren’t directly related to the Major scale sonically.
Here’s C Major
Here’s the audio.
In all the audio examples, I’ve played the example first as sextuplets – then at a slower tempo (i.e. 16ths) – then as sextuplets again.
Here’s C Harmonic Minor
(the only differences are
the E has been changed to Eb and
the A has been changed to Ab)
Harmonic Minor short cuts:
To visualize Harmonic Minor Patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale.
(i.e. to visualize C Harmonic Minor just play C major but change every E to Eb and every A to Ab).
Here are the pattern adaptations. In a situation like this, it can get confusing to remember a formula like “Dorian b2, b5” so as an alternative you may just want to try remembering something like “Pattern 1” for Ionian b3, b6, “Pattern 2” for Dorian b2, b5, etc.
Now let’s take this not-peggio idea from the last lesson and apply it to C Harmonic Minor starting from G.
In each of the following I’ll show the 2-string pattern followed by the 4-note “notpeggio” extraction from that fingering and then show the multi octave form.
Note: The extraction always starts from the second note of the 6-note pattern – so while the first example is extracted from the F Lydian fingering – it’s viewed as a G based pattern.
Note: this G-based pattern is the same as the C major and the C Melodic Minor G shape. It’s functional but a little plain sounding over a G major chord.
Note: this R-3-#4-5 extraction works great as a lydian sound from the Root (Ab Lydian in this case) or a Dorian Sound over the vi (F minor in this case)
Note: even though the original shape is different, this R-b3-b4th-b5 extraction is the same as the Melodic Minor pattern and is something you may want to explore over diminished chords.
Note: this C pattern shape is the same as the C-Based C Melodic Minor pattern.
Note: this R-b3-4-b5 extraction is right out of the D-Blues scale and can be used in the same context (just remember to resolve the Ab!)
Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-3-4-b5 (i.e. major b5 (add 11) sound mixed with the min3-min2-augmented 2nd construction and the added chromatic weight from the G to Ab makes it sound a bit harmonically unsettled over an Eb root. I think it’s one of the more interesting sounds of the scale along with the final extraction….
Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-b3-#4-5 (i.e. minor add (#11)) sound is a really nice spice to incorporate in your melodic ideas!
Here’s an audio sample of the 3/4 measures in ascending order from G
P.S. If you like this post – you may also like: