The Harmonic Major Scale
Whilst not as commonly employed as the other asymmetric scales, such as the Major, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor, the Harmonic Major scale is nonetheless becoming an increasingly important chord scale to be familiar with, both in terms of its harmonic structures and also its use as an improvisational resource in jazz and improvised music.
In this lesson, I’m just going to discuss the basic construction of (and harmony that is generated from) this scale in terms of triads, 7th chords and modal scales etc.
In a future lesson I’ll go into more depth about this scale and its applications, however here’s a basic overview to get you started.
Scale Construction and Diatonic Triads
The Harmonic Major scale is only one note different from a regular major scale and has a flattened 6th degree by comparison.
It produces seven triads: C Maj, D Dim, E Min, F Min, G Maj, Ab Aug, and B Dim.
The above musical example shows the scale in one octave and also the primary triads from the C Harmonic Major scale. When these triads are extended to 7th chords the following harmonic structures are created (note that these voicings aren’t necessarily meant to be played exactly as written, they are just to illustrate the chord construction):
This now gives us the following 7th chords all generated from C Harmonic Major:
Cmaj7, Dm7b5, Em7, Fmin/maj7, G7, Abma7#5 and Bdim7.
The Modes of C Harmonic Major
Like the other asymmetric scales, a Harmonic Major scale also produces seven distinct modes, which are listed below for your reference:
The modal names used here aren’t it seems universally agreed upon, and you may well come across other names for them. The names I’ve used here however are useful to know, as they are quite descriptive of their construction when compared to (better known) modes from the other asymmetric scales.
Applying the Harmonic Major Scale modes
The above modes are most commonly employed against the following chords and please note that the chord symbol list presented here isn’t 100% complete, it just shows some of the more common applications.
C Harmonic Major – Cmaj, Cmaj#5, Cmaj9#5, Cmaj(b13)
D Dorian b5 – Dm7b5, Dm9(b5)
E Phrygian b4 – E7, E7#5, E7 (b9, #9, b13), E7 (alt)
F Lydian b3 – Fmin, Fmin/maj7, Fm(b5)
G Mixolydian b9 – G7, G7b9, G13b9
A Lydian Augmented #2 – Amaj7#5, Amaj7 (#5, #9, #11)
B Locrian bb7 – Bdim, Bdim7
OK, that’s probably enough theory for the time being, so if the Harmonic Major scale and the seven modes generated from it are new to you, just take your time with all the above information.
I’ll certainly return to the Harmonic Major scale in a future lesson and explore it in more detail.