The Harmonic Minor Scale – Building Chords

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Last week we introduced the Harmonic and Melodic Minor scales. This week we are going to build on the Harmonic Minor.

But first a quick recap in case you missed it.

The Harmonic Minor Scale is obtained by raising the b7 of the Natural Minor scale by a semitone.

This means that the 7th is only a semitone away from the root note, so a melody resolves to the root much more decisively. It can have a very Turkish/Moorish sound to it.

Changing this note affects the chords that are built on the scale. As discussed in previous articles when we built the chords based on the Major Scale, a chord is made up of every other note of the scale. The raised 7th of the Harmonic Minor leads to some very interesting chords.

So for C Harmonic Minor there are the following chords:

This order of chord types always holds true, no matter what key you are in, just alter the note name.

If we compare this order to the Natural Minor we can see some notable differences (and some similarities!):

The most interesting difference is the chord that occurs on the V. In the Natural Minor scale the V chord is a m7, but in the Harmonic Minor it is a 7th. This gives us a stronger resolution back to the tonic chord than the Minor 7th.

The VII is also notable. Not only is it a different note (B instead of Bb) but it is a Dim7. This chord acts as a leading tone chord.

Very often a chord sequence can be ambiguous, using chords from both the Natural Minor and the Harmonic Minor (especially where they are the same!) but if you see a 7th on the V chord back to the minor chord on the I, then that’s the time to get that Harmonic Minor scale working!

Some typical Harmonic Minor Chord progression –

I - IV - V Cm - Fm - G7

II – V – I Dm7b5 – G7 – Cm

Try them for yourself and get the feel of it. Enjoy!!

-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist

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