The harmonic minor scale is one of several minor guitar scales that can be used in improvisation. The harmonic minor scale is so named because, particularly in baroque and classical times, it was this scale, rather than (for example) a natural minor or melodic minor scale, which would have been used to harmonise music in a minor key.
If you play a harmonic minor scale on the guitar unaccompanied what you hear may be reminiscent of classical music, particularly that from the Baroque period. This is because when writing music in a minor key, composers of the day would generally harmonise their lead lines using notes from the harmonic minor (rather than the natural or melodic minor scales) – which is how it acquired its name.
Notes In A Harmonic Minor Scale
Compared to natural minor scales (also known as Aeolian modal scales), which have no additional accidentals (sharps or flats) to those already in their key signatures, the seventh degrees of harmonic minor scales are raised by a semitone. For example, the notes in a one octave A natural minor scale are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A , whereas the notes in an A harmonic minor scale are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G#, A , despite there being no G# in the key signature (the key of A minor has no sharps or flats).
Harmonic Minor Guitar Scale Diagrams
Below is a selection of harmonic minor guitar scale diagrams:
Once you have learned one or two of the above harmonic minor scale guitar diagrams, take a look at this page: Improvisation With Harmonic Minor Scale, where you will be able to hear the scale in use and also play your own solos over a specially recorded backing track.