Harmonic Minor Scale Forms Pt.1

In this video guitar lesson we will begin to study how to play the harmonic minor scales on the fretboard. If you still haven't read the PDF tutorial on "Understanding Minor Keys" make sure you do so before watching the video. You can find it in the music theory lessons archive.

For this video lesson I have broken up the harmonic minor scales into the 3-notes per string format. That will require us to learn 7 scale forms, one for each scale degree in a harmonic minor scale.

For those of you who followed along with the major scale studies on this site, it will be the exact same concept.

In this particular video, I do a little bit of explaining then show you the first 3 scale forms. Part Two will cover the last four.

Don't forget to download the PDF TAB download for this lesson below.

Harmonic Minor Scales Pt.1 TAB PDF

These scale forms require a few large stretches due to the augmented 2nd found in them, but I think you will find this 3-notes per string format to be the easiest way to play this scale type.

Stay tuned for Part Two, then after that we will work on visualizing these scale forms in all keys!! See ya then!!

If these free lessons help you, please donate to keep new ones coming daily. Thanks!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Harmonic Minor Scale Forms Pt.1


  1. fretfanatix on March 26, 2010 at 3:36 am

    yaaay im feeling a little bit special right now Carl lol.Ive been wanting help with this scale for some time so thanx.
    Ever since i first picked up a guitar I’ve loved that Egyptian kind of sound that comes with this scale but when ever I’ve toyed with it it didn’t sound like i would hear in my head :(.
    Im finding the theory side of the site a big help to cant wait for part 2
    you rock keep it up

  2. Carl Brown on March 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Great I am glad you are digging the harmonic minor lessons. I will have Pt.2 up probably later today or sometime tomorrow, gotta finish up the next song lesson first. ๐Ÿ˜›

    But, I am so glad the lesson was just what you needed, my plan was for the minor scales theory lesson to compliment the video lessons, so I hope that it worked out for ya. After the harmonic minor I will be doing melodic minor THEN we will start to talk about the modes of harmonic minor. Talk about some Egyptian or exotic sounding scales, wait till you hear some of the modes of harmonic and melodic minor. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Cheers!! Carl..

  3. tweedguitar on April 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Hey Carl , Thanks for keeping the 3 note per string approach to the minor forms . This structured singular approach is providing the firm foundation I have sought for years !!! I assume you aren’t doing natural minor because we would simply go from the 6th degree using the major scale forms . Is that the concept ?
    Thanks for your guidance

    • Carl Brown on April 17, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      Yes you have the minor concept correct. The natural minor scale is already part of the major scale. We will however be doing melodic minor in the near future. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. raul8001 on January 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm


  5. Devin on January 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you so much Carl, haha huuge help for me! Your the man!

  6. Bryan on March 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

    such a nice lesson…im from manila and been looking for a good teacher from the net, finally i have one, thanks to you bro..please dont get tired helping guitarist..GOD bless. More power..

  7. oscarmat on May 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Your Comments
    Your site is great Carl. I have just found it. I will be here for sure. Please continue doing it. We need you man. One way or another we will bring you back what you are giving us today. Take care!.

  8. Jed Wunderli on May 22, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Alex Lifeson of Rush uses this scale in some of his playing – check out YYZ. Carl – YYZ would be a good song lesson. Hint, hint.

  9. Onkel on June 28, 2011 at 11:37 am


  10. Gaurav on February 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Does all the seven shapes work like the 5 shapes of pentatonic ??

  11. Billy on November 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Carl, I had a question that has been becoming more convoluted the more opinions I’ve received on it. So when switch to the relative minor do you play in an inverted fashion. I.e G major relative minors E minor; now do you play the G major scale backwards so using it would be A# as the root on your pinky, or do you Find E on the fret board? or do you slide down and use A# as the root with your index? If you could help me out here I’d be very obliged.

    • Carl Brown on November 19, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      If you are referring to the scales across the fretboard I visualize each scale degree along the 6th string and assign a scale pattern to each in mind. In other words I spell out the entire harmonic minor scale across the 6th string and each of the 7 scale degrees will get its own scale pattern. It gets easier the more you do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Billy on December 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I see what you mean. I totally said that wrong, haha. What I meant to say was when you put pinky on the E note on the 5th fret 5th string do you play the scale backwards starting on E so play it ascending, but play it in a descending fashion. (if that makes sense) Because, you’re in Gmaj, or better yet Emin would you play the first scale pattern? and than would you want to end your noodling on the E? Then lets say I went one degree over to F# on the 5th string would I play the second pattern starting there? Mainly what bugging me is the way you play the minor scales. Only reason is because I a buddy who has been studying theory in school for quite some time and almost has his degree in it. He said that you’re supposed to play the major scales or pentatonic scales backwards when you play the minor scales.

    • Carl Brown on December 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      I think what your buddy is referring to is the melodic minor scale which in traditional use is played as melodic minor ascending then natural minor when descending in order to have good voice-leading.

      However, that really isn’t an issue these days and when you improvise suing the melodic minor scale using the normal melodic minor scale 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 in any direction is fine. Classical pianists/guitarists still practice the melodic minor scales the traditional way, but for any other musician it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that the particular minor scale you decide to use works well with the underlying harmony.

      Hope this helps!


  13. Billy on December 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

    It did thank you brotha! Yeah melody is everything haha.

  14. Billy on December 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Wait I had a question about your last comment. Natural melodic minor? I thought there was only natural, melodic and harmonic. Is there modes of each of those minor scales?

    • Carl Brown on December 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      Hey Billy, yes there are modes for melodic and harmonic minor. They are used all the time in jazz and fusion music.

      There are no modes for natural minor however since that in itself is a mode of the major scale. The modal name for natural minor is Aeolian. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Billy on December 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Ahh I see. I didn’t even know there were modes of melodic and harmonic. I thought there was only Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Dorian. If those are the modes of the minor scales then I actually know what you mean. If those aren’t the modes will you tell me the names of the modal sounds for minor scales?

    • Carl Brown on December 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Hey Billy, there actually isn’t a completely uniform way of naming the modes of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales like there is with the major scale modes but I will list below the most common terms used for each.

      Melodic Minor:
      1. Melodic Minor
      2. Dorian b9
      3. Lydian Augmented
      4. Lydian Dominant
      5. Mixolydian b6
      6. Semi-Locrian
      7. Super-Locrian

      Harmonic Minor:
      1. Harmonic Minor
      2. Locrian #6
      3. Ionian Augmented
      4. Romanian
      5. Phrygian Dominant
      6. Lydian #2
      7. Ultra-Locrian

      Keep in mind that a lot of musicians just name all of the modes as just an altered major scale mode like “Lydian #2” which just simply says it is a Lydian mode with the second degree raised a half step.

      The process of learning these modes on the guitar is not any more difficult that the regular major scale modes and they produce some very exotic and cool sounds. ๐Ÿ™‚


  16. Michelle N on August 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Carl! My question is when you wrote “In this video guitar lesson we will begin to study how to play the harmonic minor scales on the fretboard. If you still haven’t read the PDF tutorial on “Understanding Minor Keys” make sure you do so before watching the video. I looked in the music theory lessons archives, and didn’t see it named as such. I only found “Understanding Minor Scales” Is that the same as the Understanding Minor Keys?


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