Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #82314  by 1960strat
 Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:35 am
There was thread here recently where someone had suggested to use harmonic minor notes to make your playing sound more exotic. I have been screwing around with the scale and can definately here some Jer notes in there. The question is, where to use it? Over minor chords only? Major chords? what voicings..

 #82852  by paulkogut
 Mon Jul 05, 2010 12:49 pm
Although the sounds you can get from the Harmonic Minor are “exotic” and “out there”, the process of analyzing the modes and their uses borrows directly from the good ol’ major scale.

Let’s take a look at the A Harmonic Minor (it’s the key with the least sharps/flats, so it makes the analysis a little easier)

The notes are:
A B C D E F G# A (octave)

In terms of intervals, that gives us

1, 2, b3, 4 ,5, b6 (,natural/major)7, and octave

It’s the interval between the b6 and major 7 that gives the scale it’s characteristic flavor. It’s called an “augmented second”, (although it looks like a minor third on the fretboard) The ear is really used to scales having major and minor seconds, the augmented second produces a ‘gap’ in the typical scale sound that really stands out.

The obvious place to start exploring this scale would be over an A minor chord or progression. ( try playing over the intro to “Let it Grow” or parts of “Jack-a-Roe “)

What does this scale give us in that situation? To me the thing that jumps out are the half steps between
5-b6 and 7-octave. The first one REALLY wants to resolve down, and the second one wants to resolve up just as badly. So this scale has more “tension” built in than a Dorian or Natural Minor scale.

Now it’s a matter of getting the scale onto the guitar, which is simple, but not easy. Just do all the things that you did with the Major Scale ( CAGED finger patterns, arpeggios, up/down one string, etc, etc There’s a lot to do, but broken down into small bits it becomes manageable.)

Once you’re comfortable w/ the scale around the guitar, you can build modes, just like the major scale (If you’re rusty on the major modes, now might be a good time to take a step back.....)

So if our scale is
A B C D E F G# A

starting on the second note and playing up an octave gives us

B C D E F G# A B

In terms of intervals, thats

1, b2, b3, , b5, (natural)6, b7

The b3 puts in minor mode territory. The b2 might remind one of Phrygian, but there’s also a b5, so it’s closer to Locrian. The Locrian mode of the major scale has a b6, so the common name for this mode is “Locrian natural 6th” You can use this scale over a Bminor7b5 chord for some extra color. (I realize this might not be the most useful mode for Dead tunes.............)

You can build modes from the remaining notes and come up with some interesting new colors. (To my ear, the 4th and 5th modes might be the most useful in this context)
Good luck with the new scale!

 #82855  by tcsned
 Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:59 pm
Any song with Am-E7 chords will work (or a i - V7 chord) with a harmonic minor or some of the variations. Jackaroe is a good example. Hesitation Blues (Hot Tuna/Rev Gary) is another good example of where to use that scale. If you listen to any Django Rhinehardt you'll hear that scale - Minor Swing, Douce Ambiance, pretty much any tune starting on a minor chord. I also like the Hungarian Minor which adds an augmented 4th to the harmonic minor scale.
 #82860  by ugly rumor
 Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:06 pm
Way to go, Tom! A surprise that you mention the Hungarian Minor. I use it a lot with the bass. Also I've been known to use the Spanish. I love the New Years Eve "76 Cow Palace show because of Phil's aggressive use of timing and phrasing to achieve his effect and color for the song, and he is, if not in that key, at least using passing notes that certainly reflect it. That show is one of my favorite windows into his mind.
 #82868  by Grateful Dad
 Mon Jul 05, 2010 7:52 pm
Another interesting/jazzy/improv scale is

The Melodic Minor Scale:

The next step beyond the Harmonic Minor Scale is the Melodic Minor Scale which is made by raising the 6th and 7th tones ascending and then lowering the 6th and 7th tones descending.

(Key of C major)
A B C D E F# G# A - A G F E D C B A

Give it a try and have fun!
 #82873  by paulkogut
 Mon Jul 05, 2010 9:12 pm
I run across the 2 different ascending/descending melodic minor scales more in classical music. Jazz cats doing the melodic minor thing tend to stick with the ascending version of the scale no matter up or down (You'll even find books calling this scale the "jazz minor")

The 4th mode of the melodic minor is especially useful to add some color to a Mixolydian jam. (Try D melodic minor over a G7 chord)

Actually, for someone newer to modal concepts, I've found the melodic minor is an easier next step from the major scale than harmonic minor because of that pesky augmented second. That said, when in the middle of things,don't worry so much about correct scales, just trust your ear and try to make musical sense and things will probably work out fine............

 #82971  by wisedyes
 Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:50 am
I'm pretty sure that it was me that suggested this scale in the earlier post; I was having trouble replying due the "request timed out" thing. So, here are the most common uses for this scale, and a couple of Dead specific places it can work well.

By far, the most common use for this is over the iim7b5 and V7alt chords in the turnaround of a minor blues progression. Say you are in the key of A minor, the im (home) chord is A minor, and the ivm chord will be D minor. However, the common turnaround progression consists of a iim7b5 to a V7alt (almost always a flat or sharp 9) - so in this key, you have Bm7b5 and E7b9 (or E7#9). Use A harmonic minor over these two chords, and switch back to A natural/dorian/pentatonic minor over the A minor chord. This works because the ii chord of the harmonized harmonic minor scale is a m7b5, and the V chord is a dominant - but the scale will contain the flatted ninth. This allows you to "spell out the changes" without working too hard.

Second most common place it gets used is over a static dominant seventh type chord to provide some tonal color. Works especially well if the chord has an altered tone in it (b/# 9th or 5th). Again, think of the chord as an altered V7 and use the harmonic minor built from what would be the i minor chord. For example, I like to use harmonic minor during the jam in Cassidy for a little while right before we hit the transition to G#minor. So, since this is an altered E7 chord, use A harmonic minor for this, but concentrate on the E7 and G#dim arpeggios in the scale. Sounds great, and since the #7 chord of A harmonic minor is a G#dim, it is very easy to just slip right into the transition smoothly. HOWEVER - this will work much better in some songs with extended static dominant chord jams than others, like good in The Other One, not so good in Birdsong. Try it out and see where you like it.

Third most common use is during the turnaround of a standard 12 bar JAZZ blues. It will be over the iim and V7 chords - so think harmonic minor of the root chord, like A harmonic minor over Bm7 and E7 during the turnaround. The use of the "outside" notes in this scale instead of sticking with straight A Major and E mixolydian over these two chords really makes it sound "jazz". Listen to some jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, etc, playing jazz blues tunes and you will hear it instantly once you know you're looking for it.

One more common use and another Dead related one. A very common chord progression in many tunes (including Mississippi Half Step, Michele by the Beatles, Ain't My Cross to Bear by the Allman Bros, etc) is the descending minor-minor/maj7-m7-m6 movement. In the case of Mississippi Half Step, you are required to solo over this progression (Am/Am/maj7/Am7/Am6 or D9). So how to approach this? For the A minor chord, you would play an A natural minor scale, then switch to A harmonic minor over the Am/maj7, then to A dorian over the Am7, and then to D mixolydian over the Am6 (which is also the same chord as a D9). This is because the minor/major7 chord is the im chord in a harmonic minor scale, so again, you are spelling out the changes in the chord progression by only using some very subtle shifts.

Hope this helps out. Keep in mind that this scale is best used sparingly (are you listening, Yngwie?), and can quickly sound overdone. It works well to create tension in your lines, but remember that the tension needs to resolve.
 #112527  by ndrewoods
 Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:20 am
1960strat wrote:There was thread here recently where someone had suggested to use harmonic minor notes to make your playing sound more exotic, how to learn the guitar. I have been screwing around with the scale and can definately here some Jer notes in there. The question is, where to use it? Over minor chords only? Major chords? what voicings..

Everyone's reply was really informative eh. Well for all I know is that it is an great tool for guitar players. It us useful in songs like Yngwie-ish, neoclassical soloing, and in chordal setting. It is somehow similar to the natural minor except for a raised seventh. The raised seventh gives the harmonic minor a distinctive three-semitone interval between the sixth and the seventh note.
 #118703  by zambiland
 Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:17 am
See my post in the minor scale thread. Wisedyes covered a lot of the same ground but from a different perspective.