A Harmonic Minor

The Harmonic minor scale is a natural minor scale with a raised 7th degree or note. Changing this one note not only alters the sound but alters how the fingerboard looks drastically. The 3 note per string patterns that work with the diatonic scales are gone. There are a lot of new diaganal patterns like the one in Example 1 that sound cool, can be played really fast and also help keep your pinky low.

Players like Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen developed their signature sound by using this scale a lot. Example 2 shows a lick simular to what Randy Rhoads did in both "Mr. Crowley" and "Revelation Mother Earth". This lick can be played with fast trills, or really slowly, and still sound very cool.

Example 3 is a single string run that I used in the song "1700" from "World Abroad" by my band No Walls.

Example 4 is an Am arpeggio followed by an E major arpeggio. Both of these chords work together really well (think Bull fighter). I encourage students to not only learn licks and patterns using the Harmonic minor, but also improvise and create your own melodies with this exciting scale. Slash used Harmonic minor to add an exotic twist to the "Sweet Child O Mine" solo. Check out what Marty Friedman did with it in "Hanger 18". I think you get the idea. Go try it for yourself and make a truly exotic twist on your solo.


Mike O'Malley's instrumental power trio is called No Walls and their latest CD is entitled "World Abroad". He has been playing guitar for almost 30 years and graduated from Music Tech in Minneapolis in 1988.

O'Malley currently has 45 guitar students that range in all ability levels and styles.

Mike O'Malley