The Harmonic Minor Scale is one of many existence proofs that scales are not made up of half steps and whole steps…
Here, for example, are the notes in the C Harmonic Minor Scale identified by letter name, scale degree (numbers), and Solfege syllable…
- The scale structure of the Harmonic Minor Scale is always 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7-1, no matter what key you are in.
- The Solfege syllables of the Harmonic Minor Scale are always Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-Le-Ti-Do, no matter what key you are in.
- The only thing that changes when you change keys are the letter names.
Comparative Scale Study
Notice that all minor scales use the same [five-note] penta-scale: Do–Re–Me–Fa–So.
The only notes one needs to fuss over are b6(Le), 6(La), b7(Te), and b7(Ti).
Play and sing the Natural Minor Scale and Harmonic Minor Scale side-by-side, slowly enough to hear the melodic-harmonic difference between Ti and Te. Pay special attention to the unique pull each note has toward Do.
Ti has an extremely strong melodic-harmonic pull towards the key center 1(Do). This attraction is so strong that it is called the leading tone because it leads the ear back to the key center Do.
This particular minor scale is called “harmonic” because Ti is the tension-filled tone that defines the dominant (V) chord. The V chord is essential to making the overwhelming majority of European classical music tick. We will learn more about this when we study chord progressions. That said, this does not mean that the “natural” and “melodic” minors are “un-harmonic” or that the harmonic minor is un-melodic or un-natural!
Solfege Ear Training
Reading and singing the Solfege syllables out loud is a very effective way to internalize the unique sound-feeling of each note in a musical scale. Reminder: It is absolutely essential that you sing these out loud… and to play and sing slowly enough to allow the unique sound-feeling of each solfege syllable to make an impression on your mind’s ear.