Hungarian Gypsy Minor Mode: Cultivating Jazz Lines from Other Cultures

A scale used in gypsy jazz

The Hungarian gypsy minor scale can be seen as a harmonic minor scale with a #4 (or b5). Guitar players such as Jimmy and Stochello Rosenberg and Bireli Lagrene commonly use this scale in jazz gypsy music. Middle Eastern oud music also makes use of this scale. In their culture, the name of this scale is nawa athar maqam (“maqam” means mode in Middle Eastern music).

Example 1

This example demonstrates that the Hungarian gypsy minor scale works perfectly over an Ami7 Latin groove. Notice the melodic feel that the #4 (D#) brings to the line. Download Example Audio...

Example 2
This example uses the A Hungarian gypsy minor scale over an Ami7 funk groove.
Download Example Audio...

Example 3
Here’s an ascending lick that’s repeated in three octaves. It works very well over an Ami7 fusion groove. Download Example Audio...

Example 4
This example over an E–F progression has a Russian flavor. It uses string-skipping technique throughout. Download Example Audio...

Example 5
Here’s another example of Russian guitar style with fast picking using A Hungarian minor.
Download Example Audio...

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