The 7 Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale

  • The mode names, in order, are:
    Harmonic Minor, Locrian Sharp 6, Ionian Sharp 5, Dorian Sharp 4, Phrygian Dominant, Lydian Sharp 2, and Super Locrian bb7

  • Each mode has a different sound quality.


    2 of the modes are Major (Happy sounding). These are: Ionian Sharp 5, Lydian Sharp 2
    3 of the modes are Minor (Sad sounding). These are: Harmonic Minor, Dorian Sharp 4, Locrian Sharp 6

    2 of the modes are Dominant (Creating tension). These are: Phrygian Dominant, Super Locrian bb7


  • To get different modes over the key of C, we will need to play the Harmonic minor scale of other keys, but maintaining the root note as C. So the root will always remain as C, even though we are playing Harmonic minor scales in other keys.

    These modes are as follows:
    1. C Harmonic Minor          :
    C Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 1)
    Play this scale over minor chords or power chords
    2 patterns of the HARMONIC MINOR mode


    2. C Locrian Sharp 6          :
    Bb Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 2)
    Play this scale on the root of half diminished chords
    2 patterns of the LOCRIAN SHARP 6 mode


    3. C Ionian Sharp 5      :
    A Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 3)
    Play this scale on the root of Maj7#5 chords
    2 patterns of the IONIAN SHARP 5 mode


    4. C Dorian Sharp 4          :
    G Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 4)
    Play this scale on the root of minor chords
    2 patterns of the DORIAN SHARP 4 mode


    5. C Phrygian Dominant 6  :
    F Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 5)
    Play this scale on the root of dominant 7th chords or 7#5 and 7b9 chords
    2 patterns of the PHRYGIAN DOMINANT mode


    6. C Lydian Sharp 2        :
    E Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 6)
    Play this scale at the root of Maj7 or Maj7#11 chords
    2 patterns of the LYDIAN SHARP 2 mode


    7. C Super Locrian bb7        :
    Db Harmonic Minor scale over the C root (Diagram 7)
    Play this scale on the root of diminished 7 chords
    2 patterns of the SUPER LOCRIAN bb7 mode









  • On the guitar, a good approach is: for each mode, to remember 2 patterns and where the root is in the pattern.

    For the first pattern - the root is on the 6th string (Low E).
    For the second pattern - the root is on the 5th string (A).

    By memorizing it this way - you will associate the mode scale fingering to where you will play chords on the guitar with the root being on 6th or 5th strings.

    After you memorize the 2 patterns for each mode and the root position within the pattern, you can connect the rest of the patterns for that mode, by using your existing knowledge of the 5 scale shapes of the Harmonic Minor scale.

  • Practice switching through all 7 modes in one key!
  • Then practice playing only one mode at a time in all 12 keys.
  • The funnest ways to practice modes - is to use them in improvisation over backing tracks. You can also just use a sustaining chord with a drum machine groove on top of it.

    Also, not only are you practicing your modes and pattern knowledge this way, but you are also practicing phrasing, and training your ears to learn what sounds good. It's a 3-in-1 deal!

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