Harmonic Major Scale | Hub Guitar

Harmonic Major Scale

In a previous lesson we talked about the harmonic minor scale, which is created for the purpose of creating new harmonies within the natural minor scale. In this lesson, we’ll compare a few “minor-ish” scales, and talk about a new synthetic scaleA new scale created from altering the common diatonic scale. possibility that emerges from this comparison.

Minor-ish Scales

The minor-ness of a scale is a product of how many minor notes it has. In any diatonic system, only the tones 2, 3, 6 and 7 are described in minor form. Alterations to the fourth and fifth, such as ♯4 are described as augmented or diminished (or sometimes just “altered”, meaning either or both of the two.) Since the natural minor scale does not have ♭2, we can toss that out and say that the minor-ishness of a scale relates mostly to its 3rd, 6th and 7th degrees.

If we list all possible scales that can be produced by altering these degrees of the major scale, we’ll end up with 6 possibilities. We can even arrange some common scales and modes according to how “minor” they sound.

Scale Name1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
Mixolydian Mode123456♭7
Harmonic Major12345♭67
Melodic Minor12♭34567
Dorian Mode12♭3456♭7
Harmonic Minor12♭345♭67
Natural Minor12♭345♭6♭7

The harmonic major scale is the only possible combination which is neither considered a part of minor scale harmony, nor derived as a mode of the major scale. So it presents some new and unique possibilities. It revolves around a tonic chord which is that stable and happy major chord we have become so familiar with, but the ♭6 lends to it a powerful darkness.

Harmonic Major Notation

Harmonic major example compared to the relative (harmonic) minor.

One interesting feature of the harmonic major scale is that it shares the chromatic note implied by its relative minor (if also in harmonic form). For instance, the C major scale has a relative minor scale of A minor. And if you turn that scale into a harmonic minor, you’ll raise the 7th, adding G♯. Enharmonically, that G♯ is the same as the A♭ needed to build a C harmonic major. Of course, they don’t share all of their notes; the C harmonic major does not have an A♮, and the A harmonic minor does not have a G♮.

Chords Constructed from the Harmonic Major Scale

Chords that can be built using the harmonic major scale.

One great way to exploit the features of this scale is to “pretend” you’re in C major with a I-V, then turn it around into something different altogether with a IIo or a IV-.

Example Chord Progression


Hear an Example

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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