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Music Theory for Guitar - Harmonic Minor

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Natural minor Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Melodic Minor

As said in the previous lesson on the natural minor, the natural minor scale has no leading note. It means that we do not get the same pull towards the tonic as we do in the major scale. If we play a minor v-i change, it is not as strong lead as the parallel major V-I. The v-i has the 5-1 move even though the voice leading will often be 5-5, which give some resolution. But it lacks the the 7-1 leading note to tonic move. The 7b-1 does not have the same strength.

In major, the cadence could be reinforced by extending the dominant tirad to a dominant 7th. If we try to do something similar with the minor dominant triad, it does not help very much. A minor 7th does not have the same power as a dominant 7th. As you probably remember, the most important notes of the dominant 7th chord are the 3rd and the 7th, which give the tritone. In a G7, with the notes G-B-D-F, we get the tritone B-F. But a minor 7th has a minor third, and the Gm7 has the notes G-Bb-D-F. The interval Bb-F is a perfect fifth, a stable interval that does not have the unsettled drive of the tritone.

The result is that a natural minor key cannot be established as solid as a major key, through the dominant-tonic cadence. That might be just what we want: A major key gives a solid harmonic framework, but this framework might also lock you in. It is easier to slip away from a key that is less solid, and improvisers take advantage of this. You might find it easier to improvise in a minor key compared to major. But having said that: Sometimes we want a stronger minor key. The answer is the Harmonic minor.

You get the harmonic minor by raising the 7b to a 7. In A-minor you change the G to a G#, which gives you the notes A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A. If we compare the natural minor and the harmonic minor, it will be like this:

xxxx

The raised 7th causes some difficulties when it comes to the fingering of the A harmonic minor.

xxxx

If we harmonize the notes 1, 4 and 5, we get the primary chords i, iv and V. In A-minor this will be Am, Dm and E. It gives us the stronger V-i change, which is of course the purpose of the harmonic minor scale. If we extend E to E7, we get our restless friend, the tritone back into our dominant harmony, and the V7-i has very much the same effect as the V7-I. There are however a few differences you should notice.

If we compare the voice leading when going from a G7 1. inversion to C and G7 1. inv. to Cm there are a few differences that one should notice. The G stays the same in all chords, and does not move in the two examples. But the important tritone B-F does not resolve to the basic third in the minor chord (C-Eb), as it does in the major (C-E).

The F resolves in one way to the Eb. But it is a whole note step, and the F does not function as a leaning note in Cm as it does in C. There is a leading note move from D to Eb, but this does not give a direct tritone resolution.

G7 C G7 Cm
G = G G = G
F - E F (Eb)
D D - Eb
B - C B - C
G7-C G7-Cm

If we add the rest of the chords in a harmonized harmonic minor, we have to pay the price for what we gained by raising the 7th. We go back to A-minor for these chords. The is the same as in C-major and A-natural minor. But if we raise the G to G#, then the C-major does not fit. We get a chord with the notes C-E-G#, which is a C augmented (Caug or C+). Dm and E are primary chords, and F does not change. We still have the notes F-A-C in the harmonic minor. But when there is no G in the scale, then there is no G-chord either. We have to build the last chord on G#, and the next notes will be B and D. And as the interval from G# to B and from B to D are both minor thirds, we get a diminished chord - G#°. The relation between E7 and G#° is the same as the relation between G7 and , meaning that they can substitute each other.

The raised 7th in the harmonic minor is there to give us the dominant 7th chord, and not to complicate the rest of the harmony. You will often hear the C and not the Caug in A-harmonic minor. But you can use the Caug, even though you do not have to. You might even use the G to harmonize the D and the B. If we summarize you can use these chords:

Am - - C - Caug - Dm - E - F - G#°

Confused? It will get worse in the next lesson, when we introduce the Melodic minor.

Guitar Secrets Harmonic Minor Revealed Book/CD

Written by Don Mock

Legendary guitarist and educator Don Mock exposes the closely-guarded 'secret' soloing techniques of jazz and rock giants, revealing easy ways to create ultra-cool sounding lines and patterns by substituting simple harmonic minor patterns over dominant 7th chords.

This book/CD package contains over 60 music examples, lines, licks and patterns. All music is written in standard notation and tablature.

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RefNr: WB0055B
Pages: 41
Format: Method
Medium: Book/CD
Series:
Publisher: Warner Brothers

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Natural minor Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Melodic Minor