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The Harmonic Minor Scale - The Five Patterns on Scales

The minor scale for making chords (harmonies) in five fabulous patterns!

The Harmonic Minor Scale is common scale Classical and Neo-classical (Yngwie and co.), and a few modes of it are commonly used. In level of importance, I place this scale pretty low unless you are specifically looking to play classical (baroque) style music. Don't spend a lot of time on this one unless you really know why you are learning it!

Video Guitar Lesson

*note this video will be updated shortly!



With each scale I have discussed my preferences for fingering the scale. There are many approaches and so long as you have a logical one, it will be fine. I have thought about these things a lot and think I have a compelling argument in favour of each finger decision, but please contact me (via the forum) if you disagree - I am certainly up for discussing it (how sad... get a life...).

I will also add the alternative shapes and fingerings that I know are in common usage and my reasons for choosing the ones I do. There is no right and wrong.

Tips for learning scales quickly, easily and perfectly

Don't make any mistakes. Play it 4 times perfectly at a very slow speed and you will find you can speed it up without making mistakes and developing bad habits you will have to correct later.

Do not let your fingers "fold", use the tips the whole time, and definitely NO barres at any point. Ever.

T his will help train your ears into hearing the sound of the major scale, very important. So start on the lowest (pitched) root note, play up as far as you can, then go back down as low as you can, and then back up to the root note.

It is very important that you get all five of these patterns down... eventually, but please start with one at a time - much much better to be able to use one scale shape and play a solo than play five up and down and not be able to do anything with them :)

Root Notes???

A root note gives the scale it's name. Look at any of the scales and arpeggios (and most chords) on this site and you will see an R on some notes. This is note that gives the scale it's note name.

For example
Look at Position 1 below and notice that the R is on the 6th string (played with the second finger). Whatever note you put that one becomes the name of the scale. So place your second finger at the 3rd fret and you will play the G Major Scale (because the note on the 3rd fret of the 6th string is the note G). Place the second finger on the 9th fret and you will play the C Major Scale (because the note at the 9th fret of the 6th string is the note C#).

The Scale Shapes

Harmonic Minor Pattern 1

Pattern 1 (CAGED: E Shape)

This is the most commonly learnt Harmonic Minor scale pattern. It is pretty easy to play.

There a quite a few variations of this one, but this is the standard one as it fits around the chord shape well.

The most common alternative shifts the two notes behind the root onto the next string. This gets a bit stretchy for my stumpy little finger but some mange it effectively.

Note the two notes on the thinnest string with Finger 4, you would only include that top note for improvising not if you were cycling the scale, would be too awkward!

Harmonic Minor Pattern 2

Pattern 2 (CAGED: D Shape)

This is the most common one, but it's a bit sticky down the bottom!

If you had a long and dexterous little finger you could stretch up on string 5 instead of having to play two notes with Finger 1, which is pretty dang awkward!

Harmonic Minor Pattern 3

Pattern 3 (CAGED: C Shape)

Fits around the chord shape well, but is hard to play!

This one has those first finger slides that I like, and the fingering down on the 5/6 strings is a little tricky - you have to tilt your hand to get them (kinda goes against my usual principles) but seems the best option.

Harmonic Minor Pattern 4

Pattern 4 (CAGED: A Shape)

This should be the second pattern you learn. Don't forget to start on the root note, not the lowest note... this is a very common fingering for this scale.

The most common alternative is not to slide back with the first finger on the 5th string but to stretch out for it with the little finger on the 6th string. Doesn't work for me, but it might for you!

Harmonic Minor Pattern 5

Pattern 5 (CAGED: G Shape)

This is the last one :) bit awkward, but ok. Don't use this one much me...

It would be the Finger 4 stretch on the D String rather than the two notes with Finger 1. Far too stretchy for me, but might work for you!


Lesson ID: SC-704