The Wicked Brothers of Doom

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Using the Harmonic minor to produce the blues sound

Yes, I’m not kidding. Today I’m going to show you how you can use the Harmonic Minor scale to produce some cool blues rock lines. The sound of any scale is deeply influenced by what chords you play with it. This is why your regular C-Major scale has a mode for every note in the scale. The “mode” is really an expression of the sound you get when you play this scale with that chord. But I’ll get more into that in a later article. My point is this: If you modify the harmonic minor scale a little bit you can use it to produce a blues type of sound instead of a metal doom kind of sound.

When I figured this one out I was really excited, because the blues scale and the Harmonic minor are the two scales in my vocabulary that can sound the “darkest” The harmonic minor scale turns the “Blue” in the Blues into pure Black! If you do it right no one in the audience will notice that you changed the scale, they’ll get this creeping sense of “somethings wrong and I don’t like it” type of feeling, and that can be useful at times! So how do you do it? Well first let’s define where we are: We’re still in the key of E. So let’s look at your our number one Blues shape in the twelve fret:

Now we’ll use the D-Harmonic Minor scale to go with our E-Blues scale so that would make us move down one whole step (Two frets) and play the Harmonic minor there.

Now there’s one note in the D-Harmonic Minor that we don’t like and that’s the F, so let’s get rid of that (It sounds very dissonant over any chord in the key). This leaves us with this rather odd shape:

Now luckily there’s a much cooler way to play the remaining six notes. If you lay them out in three octaves you get one simple pattern that you can learn in a couple of minutes:

Try this pattern out before you go on and notice how that shape revolves around your number one blues shape:

But there’s more goodies to come: Here's my all time favorite, second choice of blues scale patterns – the one with the root note on the A-string:

You’ll see that the D-Harmonic Minor (Minus the F) lies neatly across that one too. It’s the same pattern only inverted. Now spend a couple of minutes playing around with that as well:

But it doesn’t stop there! Because if you skip the notes D and A you’ll have a diminished triad from bottom to top:

Now you have a chance to integrate the diminished triads, we’ve talked about in a previous article. These two three-octave scale shapes cover all the basic blues scale shapes, so you can also use them as a nice bridge from one shape to another. Have fun with it!

“Secretly, I wanted to look like Jimi Hendrix, but I could never quite pull it off.”

Bryan Ferry