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Part I - An Intervalic Approach to the Harmonized Minor Scales
by Earles L. McCaul

Most players know the Harmonized Major Scale and it’s chords (ie: Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7 and Bm7-5) but few are aware of the corresponding Harmonized MINOR scales (yes, there are MORE than one) and their chords. Since many players learned their scales and modes by intervals, that is as sequences of whole- and half-steps, below is a simple explanation of the Harmonized Minor scales and their chords based upon “intervals.”

Although most people readily recognize the eight notes (root to octave) comprising the DEGREES of the Major scale (ie: I, II, III, IV, V, VI,VI, I’), few recognize that it actually consists of two “hidden” sequences. When the Major scale is viewed as a combination of two four-note sequences, or tetrachords, a repeated intervalic pattern becomes apparent.

Specifically, the “first” four notes of the C Major scale are C-D-EF which have the intervalic spacings of: one whole step between C and D; one whole step between D and E; and a half-step between E and F; or, an intervalic sequence of (1-1-½). Similarly, the “last” four notes of the C-Major scale are G-A-BC which have the same intervalic spacing sequence of (1-1-½)! And, there is a whole step between the F-note of the first tetrachord and the G-note of the second tetrachord, so a Major scale can be viewed as consisting of two MAJOR tetrachords connected by a whole step, ie:

Major scale = (C-D-EF)(-)(G-A-BC) = (M)(1)(M) = (1-1-½)(1)(1-1-½)

Four distinct interval sequences exist:

   Major interval (M) = (1-1-½)
   Minor interval (m) = (1-½-1)
 Natural interval (n) = (½-1-1)
Harmonic interval (h) = (½-1½-½)

The NATURAL minor scale (which is based upon the “relative-6th degree” of the C-Major scale) and the 'descending' MELODIC minor are identical, they BOTH consist of a MINOR interval sequence and a NATURAL interval sequence:

Natural Minor = (m)(1)(n) = (1-½-1)(1)(½-1-1)

The 'ascending' Melodic minor consists of a MINOR- and a Major-interval sequences:

Melodic Minor = (m)(1)(M) = (1-½-1)(1)(1-1-½)

The HARMONIC minor consists of a MINOR- and a Harmonic interval sequences:

Harmonic Minor = (m)(1)(h) = (1-½-1)(1)(½-1½-½)

And, that’s it! Start on the Root note and “finger” the frets per the scales' interval sequence.


Part II will show “how to” create the Harmonized CHORDS for Major and Minor scales using these same intervalic sequences. For a pdf version of Part II Click Here.


Earles L. McCaul is a long time Tucson, Arizona guitarist that over the years has contributed other interesting lessons including "A Simple' Short-Cut Method For Creating Jazz Chords" as well as arrangements of Moonlight In Vermont, One Note Samba , and Girl From Ipanema.


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