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Harmonic Minor b5

Add some flavor to harmonic minor scales with the flat 5

This month I’d like to share a cool little trick with the harmonic minor scale. Just like adding a b5 to a pentatonic scale to make it a blues scale, we are going to add a b5 to a harmonic minor scale for some additional flavor. We are still going to apply this scale the same way we would a normal harmonic minor scale. All the examples today are going to be in G harmonic minor. G harmonic minor is G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, resolving to G, and the formula for that is 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7, 8. When you add the b5 it becomes G, A, Bb, C, Db, D, Eb, F#, and resolves again to G. I can’t stress enough that you will still use this scale the same way you would a normal harmonic minor scale. The G harmonic minor chord scale is G minor, Adim, Bbaug, Cmin, Dmaj, Ebmaj, F#dim. If you are a metalhead, just use power chords. I’m using alternate picking for all of the examples this month, so rip it up, my friends!

Example 1 is a single-position, three-note-per-string form to help get you acquainted with the sound.

Example 2 is a fast, multi-position ascending run using sixteenth-note triplets. Now we’re having fun! Watch all the position shifts and take it slow at first.

Example 3 is a fast, descending run using multiple positions as well.

I’m not the first guy to do this. Be sure to check out guys like Uli Jon Roth, Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, and Jeff Loomis for more examples of this idea in action.

Have fun!

Rusty Cooley
Rusty Cooley has been playing and teaching for over 20 years, and has recorded as a solo artist, with his band Outworld, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. He has six instructional DVDs and a signature model 7-string guitar, the RC7 by Dean Guitars. Visit Rusty online at