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Harmonic Minor

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BigMacDaddy, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. BigMacDaddy


    May 25, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    I was trying to get one of my friends to follow what I meant by a harmonic minor. He understood what natural minor was, but was having a hard time with the harmonic minor part. I finally decided to tell him that the harmonic minor is the natural minor with the 7th returned to the major 7th of the chord. Did I potentially screw that up, or is it all cool :bag:
  2. totallybacan


    Mar 30, 2009
    Maybe it could have been worded a little clearer. The harmonic minor was originally used as a way to increase the pull to tonic because of the leading tone. So all you need to tell your friend is that the 7th scale degree is the same as the Major scale 7th degree. In other words, it's a half-step/leading tone/sub-tonic/etc. Don't confuse your friend by saying it has something to do with chords, and you should be fine!
  3. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I had a longer answer I deleted, but telling them that a change made for harmonic reasons without taling about harmony seems to defeat the purpose. Changing the 7th of a natural minor gives you a V7 chord to pull your ear back to the one chord, instead of to the III chord.

    Or just play the scale and hear the immediate "Richie Blackmore" sound! :)

  4. MurvintheWalrus


    Sep 21, 2007
    Natural MInor with a raised 7th. If that confuses him, its just Natural Minor (where the nat. min. has a flat 7, then the harmonic has a raised 7th degree, so it is a half step to the octave for the resolve)
  5. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    +1. The name 'harmonic' is derived from 'harmony', and raising the 7th note in the scale gives you a major 3rd for the V(7) chord. Re: pulling to the 'i', one of my professors thought a great alarm clock for musicians would be a repeating vii° (fully dimished of course). To turn it off, you'd have to play a 'i' chord. Give it try some time and see what your musician friends do ("For God's sake, play the 'one' already!!") Love it. Thanks for posting that, JTE.
  6. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    The major scale is made up of a major chord on the I, IV, and V.

    The minor scale is made up of minor chords on the i, iv, and v.

    The dominant 7th chord (V7) is important because it a) contains a tritone that needs to be resolved and b) contains the leading tone to the root of the I chord. In many ways the dominant 7th defines the tonal center of the scale. This is lacking from minor scales.

    A benefit of the major & minor scales from a melodic point of view is that there are no large intervalic leaps, which are awkward especially when singing. That is, to sing a scale you don't have to perform any leaps larger than a whole step.

    However, from a harmonic point of view, you lose the dominant seventh chord. So a lot of people put a dominant dominant seventh in (raising the minor 7 of the scale to a major 7th). It puts a large intervalic leap (one and a half steps) into the scale, but gives you a dominant 7th chord.

    Melodically, though, you may be forgiven the occasional raised sixth or flat seventh. See the "melodic ascending" scale for examples - going from the fifth to the octave you sing it as a major scale, but descending from the octave to the fifth you sing it as a minor scale.

    Scales aren't static concepts to be memorized & tucked away, they are the way they are for a reason & more people should understand the reasons - perhaps first on an intellectual level, but more importantly be able to hear the reasons & put them to good use.
  7. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    HA. And the machine that plays the "i" chord is in the shower.
  8. Chris K

    Chris K

    May 3, 2009
    Gorinchem,The Netherlands
    Partner: Otentic Guitars
    There you go - the one and only correct answer. and pretty short as well.
  9. Somewhere there's a really good post on minor tonality, I think by HaVIC5, which explains quite clearly way how minor harmony can work in a rather sophisticated way that isn't always reducible to harmonic or natural or melodic minor but incorporates all three. Worth looking up.
  10. ayryq


    Jan 9, 2009
    My theory prof always dismissed the "harmonic minor" scale as not a scale. It's just a bunch of notes, he said. Which is to say, you wouldn't normally play the scale, but it's the collection of pitches which are most found in minor harmony.

    That didn't stop me from having to learn to play them, though!
  11. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    Bah. What is a scale but a collection of notes?

    The term originates with Pythagoras (as legend has it) who, passed by a blacksmith shop & found that the sound of the hammers on anvils was melodious. When he investigated he found that the hammers weighed in small numbered ratios to each other. E.g. 2lbs, 3 lbs, 4 lbs, 6lbs. (for example)

    So he conceived of a way of measuring notes - as if on a scale - and the name stuck.

    But if we stuck with Pythagoras, root, fifth & octave would be the only chord we have, he didn't consider any other notes to be "consonant."
  12. bassman1987


    Dec 1, 2008
    Denver, CO
    Here's a simple explanation: a harmonic minor scale is a major scale with the 3rd and 6th notes of the scale lowered by a half step. That's how I remember it!

    For example: C major = C D E F G A B C

    C harmonic minor = C D Eb F G Ab B C

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