The Harmonic Minor scale is one of more limited usefulness than the Major scale, but it yields some interesting possibilities. Let's see how this scale is constructed: If we have A harmonic minor, the pitches are A, B, C, D, E, F, G#, A. There are two ways of describing this scale:
- Natural minor with a raised 7th
- Major with flat 3rd and flat 6th
If we look at this scale according to the first example, we see something useful. The raised 7th is known as a "leading tone" because it leads your ear up to the tonic. If you know your theory, you know that the chord that contains the leading tone is the V. What is the V7 chord of A minor? E7 is. What if we took this harmonic minor and used it over a E7? To experiment, we will start the A har. min. on a E:
That gave us the 1, 3, 5, 7, b9, 11, b13. Wow, those are colorful notes. Seems that if you are in A minor and hit a E7 of some kind, the A Harmonic Minor scale gives you an interesting option. Here's another even less common usage: Start the scale on the F. What do we get then?
Over an F major chord, we would have 1, 3, 5, 7, #9, #11, 13. How's that for an unorthodox sound? I also see some interesting triads in that scale, like C augmented.
The key to getting these sounds in your ear is rote repitition. If you can "hear" it, it becomes easier to incorporate into your playing. Try it out yourself. Now get up from the computer and GO PRACTICE!