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Learn How To Play And Memorize Harmonic Minor Scales For Guitar

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The Harmonic minor scale is used in many styles of music such as classical, jazz and even Yngwie Malmsteen neo classical style metal shred. Today we are going to learn to play it! The exotic sounds of the Harmonic minor scale can be just what you need to breath new life into your guitar playing. Just like all the other guitar scale lessons I have wrote so far, an animated GIF and guitar TABs are included to help make learning the scale as easy as possible. Both the GIF and TAB show you an easy way to play and memorize them across the entire neck using alternate picking and suggested fingering.

Prerequisite reading

If you haven't already done so you may want to read my lesson on How to play Major and minor scales over the entire fretboard


Scroll down to watch the looping animated GIF lesson to learn the suggested fingering and alternate picking of the Harmonic minor scale.

The Harmonic minor

The Harmonic minor scale is derived from the Natural minor scale by raising the seventh degree by one semitone (half step). Classical composers of ages past realized this was a good thing to do because it made for better sounding harmonies (hence the name Harmonic minor) by creating a way for the resolution from the seventh degree to the tonic/root note of the minor scale sound more definite. You can read more about some of the music theory behind minor scales at Wikipedia.

For this lesson I will use the F# Harmonic minor scale for demonstration but the rules presented here apply to all Harmonic minor keys!

Harmonic minor scale compared to the Natural minor scale

harmonic minor scale

Notice in the picture above that the Harmonic minor has the same notes as the Natural minor with exception of the raised 7th degree. F# minor is the relative minor scale of A Major. So F# Harmonic minor has the same notes as A Major except the E is now an E#

How to play and memorize the Harmonic minor scale for guitar animated GIF

By splitting up the Harmonic minor scale into 5 easy to learn patterns you can memorize the entire scale all over the entire guitar fretboard a whole lot easier. Below is an animated GIF that shows you how to do just that.

how to play the harmonic minor scale guitar gif

The notes that fall outside of the boxes in the animation are repeats. Where Box pattern 5 ends, box 1 repeats. Also just before box pattern 1 begins, pattern 5 ends.

Guitar TABs on how to play the Harmonic minor scale

The GIF animation can take a while to loop through the whole thing so you may find it easier to use the guitar TABs below. The TAB also gives the suggested fingering and picking.

How to play harmonic minor scale guitar tab

You can save the above images for future reference by right clicking on them and then and "save as".

Moving to new keys

Once you have all the patterns memorized you can easily change to new keys by sliding all 5 boxes as a whole to elsewhere on the fretboard. The root note of the new key will always be two frets behind the first note of Pattern 1 on the Low E (6th) string. In the GIF the root notes are the red dots. As an exercise to do on your own, you should make it a point to find other places where the root note occurs in different boxes and strings. See also the Moving to new keys section of the Major scale lesson.


Practice and hard work lead to huge results. So be sure to practice your scale playing daily. Find new patterns within the ones I show here so that you may gain new insights on your own. I hope this lesson shows you how easy it is to memorize the Harmonic minor scale. Now all you have to do is hone your skills through practice. Be sure to subscribe below for instant email notifications when I publish new guitar lessons like this.

learn how to play and memorize harmonic minor scales for guitar

Posted September 12, 2015, 7:15 am in: Guitar lessons


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