In this Music Theory For Bass lesson we look at the modes of the harmonic minor scale

What Is The Harmonic Minor Scale?

The harmonic minor scale is exactly the same as the natural minor scale except the 7th is raised to make it major instead of minor.

C Harmonic Minor Scale – C D Eb F G Ab B

This is different from the natural minor scale as it contains a B instead of a Bb.

C Natural Minor Scale – C D Eb F G Ab Bb

Making Modes From The Harmonic Minor Scale

We can build modes from the harmonic minor scale in the same way we did with the major scale. To do this, we simply start each mode from a different degree of the harmonic minor scale and keep the same notes. The modes of C harmonic minor look like this:

Mode 1 – C Harmonic Minor – C D Eb F G Ab B
Mode 2 – D Locrian Natural 6 – D Eb F G Ab B C
Mode 3 – Eb Ionian Augmented – Eb F G Ab B C D
Mode 4 – F Dorian #11 – F G Ab B C D Eb
Mode 5 – G Phrygian Dominant – G Ab B C D Eb F
Mode 6 – Ab Lydian #9 – Ab B C D Eb F G
Mode 7 – B Ultralocrian – B C D Eb F G Ab

Again, like the major scale, we can learn a specific scale pattern for each mode. The notation below shows a one-octave pattern with the root on the A string for each mode. Work through them until you can move each one around the neck comfortably.

Applying Modes To Music

It can be difficult to understand how to apply and use modes in real situations, especially if you try to learn them all at once. A good place to start is to learn the chords of the harmonic minor key first. This will give you enough knowledge to see how they can be used to outline harmony, which is the most important function of the bass. Once you have these down, you can fill in the gaps by learning the relevant scale for each chord.

To find an arpeggio within a scale, start from the root and go up in thirds (take every other note). For a basic triad, you need the root, the 3rd and the 5th. To extend the chord you can also add the 7th.

Here is a list of every scale in the harmonic minor key and the triad and 7th chord that goes with it.

Mode 1 – C Harmonic Minor – C minor – Cm Maj7
Mode 2 – D Locrian Natural 6 – D Diminished – Dm7b5
Mode 3 – Eb Ionian Augmented – Eb Augmented – Eb Maj7#5
Mode 4 – F Dorian #11 – F Minor – Fm7
Mode 5 – G Phrygian Dominant – G Major – G7
Mode 6 – Ab Lydian #9 – Ab Major – Ab Maj7
Mode 7 – B Ultralocrian – B Diminished – B Dim7

Triads

Seventh Chords

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