Learn the C Harmonic Minor Scale and Arpeggio Patterns

c harmonic minor scale guitar

If you want to advance your harmonic minor game, start exploring the chords these modes produce and try playing them in both block chord and arpeggio forms (Example 11 and 12a for reference).

As always, find a fingering that works for you and practice to become familiar with it.

Scale position

C Harmonic Minor is one of the three common C Minor scales, along with Natural Minor and Melodic Minor. With its unique sound, this scale has long been popular with players of genres spanning neoclassical music to jazz to metal guitar and surf guitar – both classically trained as well as those playing nonclassical styles like metal. Furthermore, its characteristic tone can be used to construct chord progressions with major seventh chords from other minor scales as shown below in Table 2.

The harmonic minor scale is a seven-note scale constructed using intervals. These distances between notes on the fingerboard from one octave to another. Each scale degree contains its own specific interval that can be used to build chords using this scale – for instance, its seventh scale degree may be used to form half-diminished seventh chords (iim7(-5)), an augmented major seventh chord (IIIaug(maj7)), and major dominant seventh chords (V7).

To play this scale, it’s necessary to know its first five positions as shown below in the diagram. By shifting it up or down by an equal amount, this allows easy movement between different octaves. This practice helps develop finger independence for easier fretboard shifting when playing chords or arpeggios.

As each scale position starts on a different note, you must locate its triad chord starting there. To do this, we discussed earlier the scale degrees table which can provide all possible chords that start from each scale degree as well as which notes must be present to form them.

Once the root is altered by moving it up or down scale degrees, you must determine its name. For instance, one formed by shifting it to fourth scale degree will be known as an Edim triad (E-dim).

Once you know the name of a triad, following these charts will allow you to locate its correct fretboard voicing. Each chart shows its scale shape in different modes with suggested fingering for each string – these may differ between modes so be sure to try all of them until finding what suits you best! When practicing these scales, take your time and focus on cleanly fretting each note while relaxing your hands; practicing with a metronome may also help with timekeeping.


Harmonic minor’s harmonic minor scale contains various modes, known as church modes, used to create beautiful chord harmonies. While each mode may differ slightly in form and function, all share certain similarities that allow them to be played over similar chord types; dominant 7th chords work best with them for learning these modes.

Modes often have different names depending on which harmony it is played over, creating some degree of confusion when learning various scales. Their names either make more sense from an harmonic perspective or have bizarre spelling that doesn’t match with what scale theory dictates – this stems from centuries-old notation practices used by music theory practitioners when discussing modern chords.

As you learn harmonic minor scales, it is essential that you remember they are constructed on a major scale. This means that all notes fall within their appropriate fretboard positions and have matching fingerings; this allows for easy up and down transitions as patterns move up or down the neck. Furthermore, this knowledge can assist with creating seamless chord transitions when transitioning between chords.

As part of your prior lessons on harmonic minor and Phrygian Dominant scales, you have learned two distinct scales and which chord sequences they work well over. But it is possible to combine both scales together by taking the root note of Phrygian dominant as starting point for Harmonic Minor; just shift its first tone up one tone.

There are various ways to practice modes, but the most efficient one is when used alongside a backing track. This will give you the best opportunity to hear how the different scales sound when combined with different chords. Once you become comfortable with them, begin experimenting with them on your own by creating melodies or improvisations over backing tracks; don’t get bogged down in names alone but focus on developing an ear for their sounds instead.


The harmonic minor scale contains various arpeggio patterns that can be used to form chords and triads. To play an arpeggio, begin at the root note of the scale and work your way upward in thirds; to play an arpeggio using three notes from it for chording purposes: root note of scale + third + fifth (for basic triad); for more complex triads you may add both second + fourth notes as additional components of a triad.

This scale is commonly employed in jazz for chord substitutions and voicings, namely to add tension and drama to major key progressions. For example, it may be played over the dominant chord to add tension and drama while simultaneously creating altered sounds – for instance using Phrygian Dominant mode for coloring a minor chord while Ultra-Locrian mode to achieve tri-tone colors over functional Dominants.

Another popular application of this scale is to swap out major chords with minor ones during major key progressions, for instance if going from Cmaj to E7 (I to V). You could replace each major chord with A harmonic minor chord relative to C for an ominous sound.

Harmonic minor can also make for an interesting alternative to natural minor scale when used over the tonic chord of a minor key progression, often as an emphasis over I chord progressions. Although you could use any chord in this situation, harmonic minor is most frequently employed for tonic chord progressions in minor key.

Another unconventional use for the C harmonic minor scale is over V chord progressions in major keys. While this may add something different and unexpected to your solo, it can add tension and drama. If you’re playing over C major progression, for example, play C harmonic minor on V chord to create tension and drama within the soundscape.


The harmonic minor scale has an exotic sound due to the wide gap between its sixth and seventh degrees, making it suitable for playing over minor chords such as m6, m7, m9, and m11 while still being compatible with major chords like maj7. In this lesson we’ll look at its first and second patterns as they fit into two octaves – using these shapes as learning bases you can then apply the scale positions like arpeggios.

The first pattern represents the C harmonic minor scale’s root note – an ideal starting point and starting point for all three minor scales. Next comes G harmonic minor scale root G and then D harmonic minor scale roots as related scales all share an interval formula 1 2 3 4 5 6b 7

Another key aspect of the harmonic minor scale is its arrangement of intervals. Each note in the scale has an assigned name which indicates its relationship to its root note – these are known as scale degree names and include: tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant submediant leading note or tone and submediant leading note/tone names. Each scale degree also produces its own sound which can help identify chords which harmonize with it.

As with the other minor scales, harmonic minor has a major 7th note which can create tension when playing over minor chords. To counteract this issue, its major 7th should either be played as a passing tone or left out altogether; an alternative way of playing this scale may also involve adding in a flatted seventh to create more of a minor sound.

Moveable scale patterns provide an effective way of practicing harmonic minor scale and building dexterity in your fretting hand. Start with one pattern, and move up the neck until you can play another one – this will expand your scale knowledge while making learning arpeggios simpler.