What is a harmonic minor scale?

The harmonic minor scale is a variation of the natural minor scale that features a raised seventh degree. It is often used in classical, jazz, and other genres to create a distinct sound and add tension to melodies and harmonies. The formula for the harmonic minor scale is as follows:

1 – 2 – ♭3 – 4 – 5 – ♭6 – 7 – 1

For example, in the key of A minor, the notes of the A harmonic minor scale would be:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G♯ – A

Compared to the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale has a raised seventh (7) degree, indicated by the G♯ in the example above. This alteration creates a unique interval of an augmented second between the sixth and seventh degrees, which contributes to its distinctive sound.

The harmonic minor scale is particularly useful for creating dominant seventh chords and establishing a dominant-tonic relationship. In classical music, it is often employed in melodic and harmonic minor key passages, and it is also frequently used in jazz improvisation, giving musicians more options for melodic variation and harmonic tension.

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