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The Harmonic Minor Scale and the Melodic Minor Scale

Understanding the Melodic and Harmonic Minor scales

The Harmonic minor scale and the Melodic minor scale

   Welcome back to Playthepianos. It is very nice to have you in here. This post is a continuation of the last, and in this post, we own be taking a study on the two other types of minor scales: The Harmonic minor scale and the Melodic minor scale. In the previous post, we learnt a lot about the natural minor scale. So, today, we will finish the series on minor scales.

   What you should expect in this post:

 – Review of the minor scale

– The Harmonic minor scale

– How to construct the Harmonic minor scale

– Harmonic minor scale on all 12 keys and their fingerings

– The melodic minor scale

– How to construct the Melodic minor scale by yourself

– The Melodic minor scale on all 12 keys

   And yes, guys, as a reminder, I want to tell you that if you have not subscribed to this blog, please do so now so that you will not miss any new post we make in this blog. And like I have always said, subscription is free! You will get notified of new posts by your email address. It is a safe way of improving as a pianist. So, guys, let us not waste time again…let’s dive in.

    As you guys know, i like taking things according to procedures so that we grow smoothly. It will facilitate easy comprehension. So before you can understand the minor scale, we have to understand the meaning of the word ‘scale’ itself, pertaining to music.

   In music, a scale means a succession of notes based on intervals between each notes and the root note. A scale consists of a definite series of notes that are arranged in ascending and descending order. Like I have always said, keys create scales, scales create chords, and chords create chord progressions. So music without scales is nothing. Scales are mainly divided into two: major scales and minor scales. I have already talked about the major scale and the minor scales in my other posts. Click here to check out the major scale, and here to read about the minor scale. Both scales are Heptatonic.

   For the sake of this post, we shall do a little revision on the minor scale. The minor scale is any scale in which the interval between the first note(Tonic) and Third note(Mediant) is minor third. A minor third is a music interval that consists of three semitones. Semitones is the shortest distance or interval between two notes in music. Two semitones equal to a tone.

  There are three forms of the minor scale. The minor scale does not just exist on its own, like the major scale, it exists in this three forms:

– The natural minor scale

– The harmonic minor scale

– The melodic minor scale

   The natural minor scale is the simplest type of minor scale,and it is also the most popular type. It can be constructed with this formula: TSTTSTT. You can derive a natural minor scale by starting your scale on the sixth note or submediant of the major scale. For example, in the key of C major, we can derive A Minor scale from it if we start playing the C major scale from the sixth degree(A). So we have A minor by doing that. I have done justice to the natural minor scale, and I want you to read it and understand it well. Click HERE to read it.

   Now let us transition in to the real deal of today.

THE HARMONIC MINOR SCALE

The harmonic minor scale

    The second form of minor scale is the Harmonic Minor scale is quite similar to the Natural Minor scale, and most scales, because it consists of the same notes in both ascending and descending order of the scale, which is entirely different from the Melodic minor scale which changes the scale pattern when descending. No need to worry, you will understand

This scale is called the harmonic minor scale because it is a common foundation for harmonies (chords) in minor keys. For example, in the key of A minor, the

dominant (V) chord (the triad built on the 5th scale degree, E) is a minor triad in the natural minor scale. But when the seventh degree is raised from G♮ to G♯, the triad becomes a major triad .

   One special feature of this Harmonic Minor scale is that, it has a tension characteristic, and this is among the many reasons why the harmonic minor scale is used a lot in Jazz music.

The natural minor scale follows the same formula irrespective of which key you play – the same with all scales.

   In the Harmonic minor scale, the first, third and fifth scale degrees form a minor triad, just as the major scale forms a major triad. With this knowledge, one can easily build a minor triad in any key. The harmonic minor scale is not as complicated as the melodic minor scale. You will get it once!

   In solfa notation, the names of the notes of the harmonic minor scale in ascending order are: do, re ri, fa, so, li ti do. While in descending order, the names of the notes of the harmonic minor scale in solfa notation are: Do, Ti, Le, Sol, Fa, Me, Re, Do.

  In number notation, the notes of the harmonic minor scale include: 1, 2 b3, 4, 5, b6, 7, and 8. The “b” before the 6 means flat. The actual symbol in music is not exactly letter b, but resembles it. My device did not give me the chance to type in the right symbol of flat, that is the reason I substituted it with the letter b. Don’t forget. Flat means to go down by one step (a semitone).

   In the above representations, it shows that there is a kind of unusual interval in the harmonic minor scale. Did you notice it? The interval between the b6(Flat 6) and the 7 is neither a tone nor a semitone, but an addition of both to give us one-and-half tone or three semitones. This is equivalent to a minor third or augmented second interval between the sixth and seventh degrees of the harmonic minor scale. It is this feature that distinguishes the harmonic minor scale from other types of (minor) scales.

   REASON FOR THE HARMONIC MINOR SCALE

   The scale is called the harmonic minor scale because it is a common foundation for harmonies (chords) in minor keys. For example, in the key of A minor, the

dominant (V) chord (the triad built on the 5th scale degree, E) is a minor triad in the natural minor scale. But when the seventh degree is raised from G♮ to G♯, the triad becomes a major triad .

   Chords on degrees other than V may also include the raised 7th degree, such as the

diminished triad on VII itself (vii°), which has a dominant function, as well as an

augmented triad on III (III+), which is not found in any “natural” harmony (that is, harmony that is derived from harmonizing the seven western modes, which include “major” and “minor”). This augmented fifth chord (♯5 chord) played a part in the development of modern chromaticism .

HOW TO BUILD THE HARMONIC MINOR SCALE

Harmonic minor scale theory

   The harmonic minor scale (or Aeolian ♯7 scale) has the same notes as the natural minor scale except that the seventh degree is raised by one semitone , creating an augmented second between the sixth and seventh degrees.

Thus, a harmonic minor scale can be built by lowering the 3rd and 6th degrees of the parallel major scale by one semitone.

Because of this construction, the 7th degree of the harmonic minor scale functions as a leading tone to the tonic because it is a semitone lower than the tonic, rather than a whole tone lower than the tonic as it is in natural minor scales. The intervals between the notes of a harmonic minor scale follow the sequence below:

T-S-T-T-S-TS-T

Which means,:

Tone-Semitone-Tone-Tone-Semitone-ToneSemitone-Tone in British English

And,

Whole step-Half step- Whole step-Whole step-Half step-WholeHalf step-Whole step

NOTE: The ” TS” in the above formula also means Augmented 2nd. So if you see my use Augmented 2nd, don’t get confused!

A tone means whole step, while a semitone means half step, i.e, half of a tone. A semitone is the nearest distance. Two semitones give one tone. I have already covered this in a previous post. Check it out here.

THE IDEA OF THIS FORMULA

   If you have been following up, by now you should have a glimpse of what the formula above means. This is the universal and standard formula for constructing an Harmonic minor scale in any key. Based on our past experience, let us now take an adventure into what the above harmonic scale formula pattern means.

NOTE: If you understand this, you will be able to build the harmonic minor scale on all keys, all by yourself without the help of anybody.

   Each letter of the above formula represents an interval, a distance. Before considering distance, there must be at least two locations, right? Each Tone, Semitone or Augmented 2nd represents an interval(distance) between two notes in an harmonic minor scale.  This is the basic idea behind this mysterious harmonic minor scale formula.

It means that:

Between the 1st and the 2nd degree is a TONE.

Between the 2nd and the 3rd degree is a SEMITONE

Between the 3rd and the 4th degree is a TONE

Between the 4th and the 5th degree is a TONE

Between the 5th and the 6th degree is a SEMITONE

Between the 6th and the 7th degree is an AUGMENTED 2nd

And between the 7th and the 8th degree is a SEMITONE.

So, invariably, it is:

1st degree-Tone-2nd degree-Semitone-3rd degree-Tone-4th degree-Tone-5th degree-Semitone-6th degree-Augmened 2nd-7th degree-Semitone-8th degree(octave).

AUGMENTED 2ND

   What does “augment” mean? In English language, Augment means to increase or enlarge a thing. In music, augment means to increase a note by a semitone. Therefore, augmented 2nd means increasing the major second distance between two notes by a semitone. Augmented 2nd can also mean minor third.

   Now let us apply the formula we have learnt above. Let us build an Harmonic minor scale on key C.

C, our root note, or Tonic, is our 1st note

Since the distance between the Tonic(1st degree) and Supertonic(2nd degree) is a Tone. Therefore, D becomes our Supertonic, or second note in the C Harmonic Minor scale.

For the Mediant, the distance between the Supertonic and Mediant is a Semitone. So Eb becomes our Mediant.

   If you follow the formula for constructing the Harmonic minor scale correctly, you will have this:

F is our fourth note or sub-dominant,

G is our fifth note or dominant,

Ab is our sixth note or sub-mediant,

THE TRICKY INTERVAL

Now, when we check the rule (T-S-T-T-S-TS-S) again, the distance between the 6th and 7th degrees is the combination of a Tone and a Semitone (TS). This means that the interval must be the addition of a Tone and a Semitone. Knowing fully well that our interval is between A flat and some unknown note, we can figure the seventh note. Which note gives an interval of a tone with Ab? That must be Bb. But Bb is not the final answer because the interval must be the addition of a tone and a semitone. Now between Bb and what gives a semitone interval? That is B.

Therefore, B becomes our 7th note, just like the major scale.

Finally, you MUST always add the root note again to make it a complete scale. According to the rule, C is added again, in the next octave.

The Harmonic Minor differs from the Natural Minor by the sharpened seventh note, and this minor scale is consequently not played in the same way as the relative major scale.

THE HARMONIC MINOR SCALE OF ALL 12 KEYS WITH DIAGRAMS AND THEIR FINGERINGS

A

Harmonic minor scale on Key A

Notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G#, A

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

A# / Bb

Harmonic minor scale on Key A# or B flat

Notes: A#, C, C#, D#, F, F#, A, A#

Fingerings (LH): 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2

Fingerings (RH): 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4

B

Harmonic minor scale on Key B

Notes: B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A#, B

Fingerings (LH): 4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

C

Harmonic minor scale on Key C

Notes: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

C# / Db

Harmonic minor scale on Key C# or D flat

Notes: C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, C, C#

Fingerings (LH): 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3

Fingerings (RH): 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3

D

Harmonic minor scale on Key D

Notes: D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C#, D

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

D# / Eb

Harmonic minor scale on Key D# or E flat

Notes: D#, F, F#, G#, A#, B, D, D#

Fingerings (LH): 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2

Fingerings (RH): 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3

E

Harmonic minor scale on Key E

Notes: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D#, E

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

F

Harmonic minor scale on Key F

Notes: F, G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, E, F

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4

F# / Gb

Harmonic minor scale on Key F# or G flat

Notes: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, F, F#

Fingerings (LH): 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4

Fingerings (RH): 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3

G

Harmonic minor scale on Key G

Notes: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G

Fingerings (LH): 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1

Fingerings (RH): 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

G# / Ab

Harmonic minor scale on Key G# or A flat

Notes: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, G, G#

Fingerings (LH): 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2

Fingerings (RH): 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3

Harmonic Minor Scales Altogether

A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G#, A

A#/Bb: A#, C, C#, D#, F, F#, A, A# (theoretically correct is B#, E# and G## instead of C, F and A)

B: B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A#, B

C: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

C#/Db: C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, C, C# (theoretically correct is B# instead of C)

D: D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C#, D

D#/Eb: D#, F, F#, G#, A#, B, D, D# (theoretically correct is E# and C## instead of F and D)

E: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D#, E

F: F, G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, E, F

F#/Gb: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, F, F# (theoretically correct is E# instead of F)

G: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G

G#/Ab: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, G, G# (theoretically correct is F## instead of G)

THE MELODIC MINOR SCALE

Melodic minor scale

     The third type of minor scale is the melodic minor scale. The Melodic minor scale is differential from the natural minor scale by the sixth and seventh scale degrees, which are raised by a semitone while ascending, and different from the Harmonic minor scale by raising only the sixth degree of the scale. It is not that complicated – believe me!

   The uniqueness of the melodic minor scale lies in the fact that this scale uses different scale formulas while ascending and descending. Thus, it is not all the same notes that appear in ascending order of the scale that also appear when descending down the scale. There are many ways to derive the melodic minor scale, and they are pretty easy.

The distinctive sound of the harmonic minor scale comes from the augmented second interval that exists between the sixth and seventh scale degrees. While some composers have used this interval to advantage in melodic composition, others felt it to be an awkward leap, particularly in vocal music , and preferred a whole step between these scale degrees for smooth melody writing. To eliminate the augmented second, these composers either raised the sixth degree by a semitone or lowered the seventh by a semitone.

   While ascending through the scale degrees of any Melodic minor scale is divided into two scales. The first scale is the minor scale, and the second is the major scale. The minor scale occurs in the first three notes of melodic minor scale, while the major scale appears in the remaining notes starting from the fourth degree upwards. Note that the melodic minor scale formula for ascending motion is different from that of descending order. When you are ascending through the scale, you are using the melodic minor scale, but when you are going down the scale you are using the natural minor scale.

Like any other scale, the Melodic minor scale follows the same formula irrespective of which key you play.

   In the Melodic minor scale, the first, third and fifth scale degrees form a minor triad, just as the major scale forms a major triad. With this knowledge, one can easily build a minor triad in any key.

   In solfa notation, the names of the notes of the harmonic minor scale in ascending order are: do, re ri, fa, so, la ti do. While in descending order, the names of the notes of the harmonic minor scale in solfa notation are: Do, Te, Le, Sol, Fa, Me, Re, Do.

  In number notation,

The ascending melodic minor scale can be notated as

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

while the descending melodic minor scale is

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8

NOTE: The letter “b” before some of the notes represents flat. In music, the flat symbol looks like “b” but is not actually “b”.

Note that in ascending order, the Semitones occur between the 2nd and 3rd degrees, and 7th and 8th degrees, and while descending, Semitones occur between the 6th and 5th, and 3rd and 2nd degree. Unlike the Harmonic Minor scale, the Melodic Minor scale does not have the Augmented 2nd.

HOW TO BUILD THE MELODIC MINOR SCALE IN ANY KEY

Melodic minor scale theory

   In ascending order, the Melodic minor scale can be derived from the Natural Minor scale by increasing the sixth and seventh degrees of the natural minor scale by a semitone, that is, by adding sharps to the sixth and seventh degrees. This is the melodic minor scale. But then, on descending down the scale, the sharpened notes will become natural notes.

   For instance, in key A, the natural minor scale gives us these notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. Now, we want to derive the melodic minor scale from it by raising both the sixth and seventh degrees of the A natural minor scale. The sixth and seventh degrees are F and G respectively. Each note is then raised by a semitone to give F# and G#. Now, we have this: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A (in ascending order). But when descending it is a different ball game. Those raised notes will become natural. They will be lowered by a semitone to give us the default notes. This gives us A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A. This is the A natural minor scale.

   Another way to build this scale is by simply following the scaw building formula. All scales have formulas, even the complicated melodic minor scale. On moving up the scale formula or rule is T-S-T-T-T-T-S, while on descending, the scale formula is T-S-T-T-S-T-T. The first formula is the Melodic minor scale formula, while the second formula is the natural minor scale formula. If you have been following this blog, interpreting the formulas will be super easy for you.

T stands for Tone (or Whole step)

S stands for Semitone (or half step)

The first formula (T-S-T-T-T-T-S) simply means

TONE-SEMITONE-TONE-TONE-TONE-TONE-SEMITONE

While the second clearly means

TONE-SEMITONE-TONE-TONE-SEMITONE-TONE-TONE

  Each tone and semitone represents the interval between two consecutive scale degrees.

It makes more sense when the notes are stuck in-between each scale degrees:

First degree (T) Second degree (S) Third degree (T) Fourth degree (T) Fifth degree (T) Sixth degree (T) Seventh degree (S) Eight degree.

So between the first and the second degrees is a Tone or whole step

Between the second degree and the third is a Semitone or half step

Between the fifth and the sixth degree is a Tone or whole step.

This is based on the formula (TSTTTTS)

With this idea, the melodic minor scale can easily be formed.

Let us try to build the melodic minor scale in key C using this formula method.

Of course our first note will be C because we are trying to build a scale on C.

To find our second note of the C melodic minor scale, the interval between the first and second notes of the scale is a Tone(or whole step). Then our second note is definitely D. Because the interval between C and D is a tone, and it is in ascending motion.

Now we know our first and second notes.

For the third note, the interval between the second note and third note is a Semitone (or half step). What is the third bote then? It is Eb.

To fund the fourth note of the melodic minor scale, the interval between the third note and fourth note of the scale is a Tone. Therefore, F becomes the fourth note.

Note: Semitone (or half step) means an interval in which a note is directly beside a the reference note. Example is E and F, F and Gb, B and C, D and Eb, and so on

Tone (or whole step) means two semitones. It is an interval in which there is a note in between two notes. For example, the interval between F and G is a tone. Also, between A and B, Db and Eb, E and Gb, and so on.

If you keep building up the harmonic minor scale on C, you will get this:

    C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

The pattern changes while descending to give the C natural minor scale:

    C, Bb, Ab, G, F, Eb, D, C

  But hey, are you still finding this difficult or confusing? Below is the melodic minor scale of all twelve keys with diagrams.

MELODIC MINOR SCALE OF ALL 12 KEYS WITH PICTURES

A

Melodic minor scale on key A

Notes (ascending): A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A

Notes (descending): A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A

A# / Bb

Melodic minor scale on key A# or B flat

Notes (ascending): A#, C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, A#

Notes (descending): A#, G#, F#, F, Eb, Db, C, A#

B

Melodic minor scale on key

Notes (ascending): B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#, B

Notes (descending): B, A, G, F#, E, D, C#, B

C

Melodic minor scale on key C

Notes (ascending): C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

Notes (descending): C, Bb, Ab, G, F, Eb, D, C

C# / Db

Melodic minor scale on key C# or D flat

Notes (ascending): C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, C, C#

Notes (descending): C#, B, A, G#, F#, E, D#, C#

D

Melodic minor scale on key D

Notes (ascending): D, E, F, G, A, B, C#, D

Notes (descending): D, C, Bb, A, G, F, E, D

D# / Eb

Melodic minor scale on key D# or E flat

Notes (ascending): D#, F, F#, G#, A#, C, D, D#

Notes (descending): D#, C#, B, A#, G#, F#, F, D#

E

Melodic minor scale on key E

Notes (ascending): E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D#, E

Notes (descending): E, D, C, B, A, G, F#, E

F

Melodic minor scale on key F

Notes (ascending): F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F

Notes (descending): F, Eb, Db, C, Bb, Ab, G, F

F# / Gb

Melodic minor scale on key F# or G flat

Notes (ascending): F#, G#, A, B, C#, Eb, F, F#

Notes (descending): F#, E, D, C#, B, A, G#, F#

G

Melodic minor scale on key G

Notes (ascending): G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G

Notes (descending): G, F, Eb, D, C, Bb, A, G

G# / Ab

Melodic minor scale on key G# or A flat

Notes (ascending): G#, A#, B, C#, Eb, F, G, G#

Notes (descending): G#, F#, E, Eb, C#, B, A#, G#

MELODIC MINOR SCALE OF ALL KEYS ALTOGETHER

A

Notes (ascending): A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A

Notes (descending): A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A

A# / Bb

Notes (ascending): A#, C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, A#

Notes (descending): A#, G#, F#, F, Eb, Db, C, A#

B

Notes (ascending): B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#, B

Notes (descending): B, A, G, F#, E, D, C#, B

C

Notes (ascending): C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

Notes (descending): C, Bb, Ab, G, F, Eb, D, C

C# / Db

Notes (ascending): C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, C, C#

Notes (descending): C#, B, A, G#, F#, E, D#, C#

D

Notes (ascending): D, E, F, G, A, B, C#, D

Notes (descending): D, C, Bb, A, G, F, E, D

D# / Eb

Notes (ascending): D#, F, F#, G#, A#, C, D, D#

Notes (descending): D#, C#, B, A#, G#, F#, F, D#

E

Notes (ascending): E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D#, E

Notes (descending): E, D, C, B, A, G, F#, E

F

Notes (ascending): F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F

Notes (descending): F, Eb, Db, C, Bb, Ab, G, F

F# / Gb

Notes (ascending): F#, G#, A, B, C#, Eb, F, F#

Notes (descending): F#, E, D, C#, B, A, G#, F#

G

Notes (ascending): G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G

Notes (descending): G, F, Eb, D, C, Bb, A, G

G# / Ab

Notes (ascending): G#, A#, B, C#, Eb, F, G, G#

Notes (descending): G#, F#, E, Eb, C#, B, A#, G#

   That does it, guys. You are now a melodic and harmonic minor scales guru. Remember to practise the scale on all keys, starting off at a slow tempo. Thanks.

Resources:

Pianoscales.org

Wikipedia.org

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