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Piano Power: Harmonic Minor Scales
By Richard Prokop, Greenacres Press, Inc.
(more articles from this author)
2003-03-18
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Note: The following is an interactive article requiring the use of Finale 2002 or Finale Notepad. Finale Notepad may be downloaded for free from CodaMusic at: www.codamusic.com/coda/np.asp. For further instructions about downloading and viewing files in this article, see: "Reprinted Cadences and a Free Finale Notepad Download."

To form a harmonic minor scale, take any natural minor scale and raise itís seventh step a half-step. (See Example 1). If you are wondering how the scale got itís name, it is because of the more frequent use of the major V chord within minor keys during the early 18th century, as mentioned in the previous article.

Letís look at an example using C minor:

If we substitute the minor V chord (G-Bb-D) with a major V chord (G-B-D), the Bb is raised to a B natural in the adjusted chord. A problem arises if we improvise or write a melody in C natural minor (C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C) over the major V chord. There is a clash between the Bb in the scale and the B natural in the adjusted chord (see Example 2). A less dissonant solution is found using the harmonic minor scale in the melody line (see Example 3).

To recap, the harmonic minor scale was introduced as a way of adapting to the changing harmony within the minor scale.

As an assignment,

* Listen to the scales in Example 4.

* Print out the file and practice playing them in all keys until it is easy to do.

* Rewrite all of the scales on a sheet of manuscript paper. As with languages, the writing of music will enhance your ability to read it more easily.


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