• Warning: Play these harmonic minor chords at your own risk

    in Chords & Progressions

    chords101pic.jpgIf you’re a regular reader, you know that we’ve been on minor scales and chords for about a week.

    First you learned the ins and outs of the natural minor scale. Then I gave you a pop quiz on them in this post.

    When you thought it was over, I introduced a minor chord progression found commonly in salsa music.

    Then we took it a step further and studied harmonic minor scales.

    And yesterday, we learned the melodic minor scale.

    (Sorry for bombarding you with links. I just thought it’d be a good idea to catch you up just in case you missed one of my prior posts).

    Today, I’m going to introduce you to the corresponding chords of the harmonic minor scale.

    As you know, the harmonic minor scale is basically the same as the natural minor scale except that it has a raised 7th tone.

    C natural minor
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

    C harmonic minor
    C D Eb F G Ab B C

    You’ve already learned the corresponding chords of the natural minor scale in prior posts.

    Now, let’s build the chords for the harmonic scale.

    All we do is start from the first tone of the scale and play every other note. This creates block chords from only scale tones. You’ll never find tones in these chords that are outside of the harmonic minor scale (the same rule applies to the diatonic chords of the major and natural minor scales).

    Let’s work in the minor key of C and start with triads (three-toned chords).

    If you take every other note of the C harmonic minor scale, you’ll get these chords:

    (Note: I’m using two octaves because as you get further in the scale, you’ll run out of notes)

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    C D Eb F G Ab B C D Eb F G Ab B C

    See how I did that?

    Now let’s actually analyze what these chords are:

    1st tone – C minor
    2nd tone – D diminished
    3rd tone – Eb augmented
    4th tone – F minor
    5th tone – G major
    6th tone – Ab major
    7th tone – B diminished

    Think about it…

    The only chords that are different from those of the natural minor scale are the ones that include the raised 7th. So any chord that has the 7th in it is affected. All other chords are left alone.

    Like the 3rd chord. In the C natural minor scale, normally it would be Eb major (Eb + G + Bb) but because the “Bb” is now raised to “B,” that makes this chord an Eb augmented chord (Eb + G + B) instead of a major chord.

    Same thing with the 5th chord. In the C natural minor scale, it would be G minor (G + Bb + D) but because “Bb” is now raised to “B,” that makes this chord a G major chord (G + B + D) instead of a minor one.

    And finally for the 7th chord. In the C natural minor scale, it would be Bb major (Bb + D + F) but because “Bb” is now raised to “B,” it changes the whole entire chord to B diminished (B + D + F) instead of the major chord it was.

    Now keep in mind… these are just 3-fingered triads.

    In my next instructional post, I’ll talk about the seventh chords of the harmonic minor scale because they change quite a bit when you add that extra tone.

    For now, become a pro at these and you’ll be good to go!

    Until next time.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Jermaine

    Can anyone list the chords from other harmonic minor scales based on the instructions above?

    Reply

    2 Jose

    They would always be min, dim, aug, min, maj, maj, dim.
    It’s called 3tone harmonization and the harmonic minor scale will always have the formula:
    Im- II dim-IIIb aug- IVm- V- VIb- VIIdim
    just plug in your notes from the scale formula: I-II-IIIb-IV-V-VIb-VII
    see the pattern? So if we plugged in D, a major 2nd from that is E, a minor 3rd from D is F, a perfect 4th from D is G, pefrect 5th is A, minor 6th is Bb, and major 7 is C#
    so you get the scale D,E,F,G,A,Bb,C#. Plug that in to your 3tone harmonization formula and you get: Dm, Edim, Faug, Gmin, A, Bb, C#dim.
    So with that simple scale formula you can get plug in any note you want and you’ll get the harmonic minor scale always! Of course there are also formulas for the major scale, minor scale, melodic minor scale, and even the different modes of the scales! Such as Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, mixolydian, and Locrian. Ionian mode is the major scale actually and Aeolian is the Minor scale, that why I didn’t mention them with the others. :3 lulz!!! I’ve spoken too much( >_<) this is probably going to confuse you even more, but I really do hope it makes some sense! Sorry again for being music theory freak D:

    Reply

    3 Jose

    And just to clear up the formula, they are based on intervals: unision, minor&major 2nd, minor&major 3rd, perfect 4th, augmented 4/diminished 5th(Aug4th and dim 5th are the same thing, also know as a Tritone), perfect5th, minor&major 6th, and minor&major 7.
    the formula is Im- IIdim- IIIb aug- IVm- V- VIb- VIIdim
    I is your root note and will always be Minor
    II is the major 2nd from your root and will always be Diminished
    IIIb is the minor 3rd from your root and will always be Augmented
    IV is the perfect 4 from the root and will always be Minor
    V is the Perfect 5 from the root and will always be Major
    VIb is the minor 6th from root and will always be Major
    VII is the major 7th from root and will awlays be Diminished
    lol, I really do hope you know your intervals! Or this will make even less sense (-__-‘) if you don’t know intervals, learn them! They are very important!!!! If you already know, (^_^) then good!

    Reply

    4 Linda Johnson

    I understand how to form all the natural, harmonic and melodic scales. My question is when will I learn where to use the chords made from this scale.

    Reply

    5 BRIAN AKA TRUMUSIC1SOUL

    1)D F A D MINOR
    2)E G Bb E DIM
    3)F A C# F AUG
    4)G Bb D G MIN
    5)A C# E A MAJ
    6)Bb D F Bb MAJ
    7)C# E G C# DIM

    D HARMONIC MINOR SCALE….TRU-DAT-THERE???

    Reply

    6 Alex

    Very interesting blog. We’ll go to him more often.

    Reply

    7 Obzor

    Great article. Do not stop!

    Reply

    8 Milton

    God bless you.
    I’ve learned more watching, listing and reading your lessions than I’ve learned with the teachers I’ve had these past 2 years. I am not saying they were not teaching, they just didn’t explain and show the “tricks of the trade,”. I am 59 years old and don’t have the time to start learning piano as if I was 6 years old. I’ve been taking lessons for about 2 years off and on. I think I’ve been doing very good because I played a little by ear. I just didn’t know “why,” things sounded the way they did and the theories behind progessions, tri-tones, and where to place certins cords to make a progession sound better etc,.
    I am certainly going to start spending my piano lessons money on your teaching video lessons and tips.

    Thank you very much,
    Milton

    Reply

    9 tyson

    Wow I’m just challenged by you learning piano @your age I love your passion.

    Reply

    10 Peter

    Thanks for your help in learning the keyboard. I learn alot from your lessons

    Reply

    11 Divin Jacob

    I understood that the primary chords in major scale are the 1st,4th and 5th notes.Similarly is there any such primary chords in minor scale?

    Reply

    12 MARTINI RAG

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    C E G A E C a C D E D DEFED C a C E Eb D C E~Eb (trill 3x) D C

    Reply

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