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The Harmonic Minor Scale

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first column here on insane guitar. My name is Brian Koenig, and I am an aficionado of metal/shred guitar. One of my favorite players (and founders) of this genre is a Swedish guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen. While there are many facets of his style, a predominant characteristic of his music is his use of the Harmonic Minor scale. To get the initial shape and style under your fingers, check out Ex. 1 and Ex. 2. Ex.1 depicts what is called the Natural Minor scale while Ex.2 is the Harmonic Minor scale. Both examples are in E. The Harmonic Minor gets its sound from raised scale degree 7. This creates an exotic sounding Augmented 2nd (minor 3rd) interval between scale degrees 6 and 7.

Example 3 shows the scale in two octaves.

You can utilize the essence of the Harmonic Minor scale by playing Examples 4 and 5. They are the same set of notes but use different fingering patterns. Practice Ex. 5 using allfour fingers and with slides.

Ex. 6, 7,and 8 are all scalar examples from Yngwie songs (6-Icarus Dream Suite, 7- Far Beyond the Sun, 8-Rising Force) Make sure the notes of each run are even before increasing the speed. Also be sure to practice these examples both picked and legato as well as ascending too.

Ex. 9-11 are some cool sounding sequences using the Harmonic Minor scale. These work well as fragments in solos or as right hand- left hand warm-up exercises. Example 9 is a sequence of descending fours, while Example 10 is the descending scale in thirds. Example 11 is an ascending triplet sequence with a neat sound.

There are TONS of other things that can be done with this scale which I will get to in the months to come. I hope this has given you either a new scale to work on or at least a refresher on an older concept. Until next time, Enjoy!

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