Guitar Scales: the Harmonic Major

Harmonic major scale C
Haha! Now this is a rare scale indeed! Perfect if you’re into pulling sounds out of the guitar that make people turn their heads. The Harmonic Major scale was named by Rimsky-Korsakov, and has also been called the “lydian diminished scale”.

Scale Construction

There are a few different ways to think about this scale, the first is to just take the harmonic minor scale and then make it “major” by raising the third note by one fret.

So we take this scale:

e -------------------------------------------------7--8--10--
B ---------------------------------------6--9--10------------
G -----------------------------5--7--9-----------------------
D --------------------6--7--9--------------------------------
A -----------5--7--8-----------------------------------------
E --5--7--8--------------------------------------------------

Which has the notes: A, B, C, D ,E , F#, G…and we raise the third note- changing that C into a C#. The scale now looks like this:

e -------------------------------------------------7--9--10--
B ---------------------------------------6--9--10------------
G -----------------------------6--7--9-----------------------
D --------------------6--7--9--------------------------------
A -----------5--7--8-----------------------------------------
E --5--7--9--------------------------------------------------

…with the notes: A, B, C#, D, E, F, G#

If you’re not so familiar with the harmonic minor scale, or just want another take on it, you can also think of it as the major scale with a flat 6:

e -------------------------------
B -------------------------------
G --------------------4--5-------
D --------2--3--5--6------------
A --3--5-------------------------
E -------------------------------

Using the Scale

One of the best ways to figure out when to use a scale, is by harmonising the first chord in that scale. If we do that with the harmonic major scale, we get these notes:

A, C#, E, G#

Which are the notes of an “A major 7” chord. Therefore it’s pretty safe to assume that this scale will work over an A major, or A major 7 chord when soloing. If you really want to get the flavour of this scale, though, you’ll also want to add the flat 6 (a.k.a. the flat 13) to that somewhere too.

So, you could play the A harmonic major scale over an “A major flat 13” (or Amajb13) chord. Sounds technical, huh? All we’ve done is taken the notes of the scale and made a chord from them- that’s how we know the chord and the scale will go together!

Here is a version of an Amajb13 chord:

e --4---
B --2--
G --2--
D --3--
A --0--
E -----

The notes are (from thickest to thinnest string): A, F, A, C#, G# (or root, flat 6/13, octave, major third, major 7th).

You may also want the flat 13th as the highest note:

e --1---
B --2--
G --1--
D --2--
A --0--
E -----

Now its: root, 5th, major 7th, major 3rd, flat 13th…either way: it’s a pretty crazy sound. As I mentioned earlier, this scale will also work over your standard major, or major 7 chord anyway…so you could try that.

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