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Guitar Theory: Natural/Harmonic Minor Scales

Most guitar players use the minor pentatonic scale when they start to learn about scales and play lead guitar solos. It is usually a simple entry to learn more about music theory for guitar.

In this lesson I will share with you some useful tips and simple facts about more related minor scales. E Natural Minor and E Harmonic Minor

The backing track we have today for this guitar lesson is an extended one. It has plenty of space for you to lay your musical ideas and solos. The chord progression used is a simple one based on the chords included in the E Natural Minor scale or the E Aeolian mode.

Chords included in the E natural minor scale

Em F#dim G Am Bm C D

The fifth chord (the dominant) is supposed to be minor. It should be Bm

The backing track chord progression is i VI iv V or 1645

Em C Am B

As you can see the last chord (dominant chord) is supposed to be Bm based on the chord scale of E minor, but for a different color it is B here so the right note to be played along in harmony would be a 7 instead of a b7.

So we play E Aeolian (natural minor) along with all chords until we reach the B chord then we switch to E harmonic minor. 

Look at the diagrams below. You will see that

both scales Natural and Harmonic share exactly the same notes, except the 7th.

The 7th note in this scale is the note that comes right before the root E. In case of harmonic minor the 7th note is neutral (not raised or lowered) so it is major like the 7th note in the major scale. In case of the Natural Minor scale the 7th note is lowered a half step so it is a flat 7th or b7.

Look again at the diagram you will see that Natural minor has the note D. It is the only note different from the Harmonic minor which has a D# instead.

This note makes all the difference because it is the note that makes the harmonic minor the right scale to be played along with the B chord since it has the note D# instead of the note D in case of the B minor chord.

More improvisation tips in the video.

Use this lesson as a reference for minor scales. Same concept and some relation we explored today between E natural and harmonic minor scales can be applied to all keys. It is a rule that they share exactly the same notes except the 7th.

Once you understand this clearly it will make things much easier for you. You understand one rule and apply not only to these two scales, but to all modes related to them.

For example (more about this in a future lesson) if you look at the Phrygian mode you will see that it is only one note different from the Phrygian dominant mode.

Phrygian mode is the 5th relative mode to Aeolian (Natural minor) and Phrygian dominant is the 5th relative mode to Harmonic minor.

If you like more ballad backing tracks you can check these volumes on Bandcamp or Spotify



Have a good time,


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