I had a request from someone on the help page to provide an example of a harmonic minor chord progression. So here it is!
Firstly, when talking about “harmonic minor progressions”, this can mean two things:
1) A chord progression over which you can play a harmonic minor scale lead/solo.
2) A chord progression that solely uses chords built around the degrees of the harmonic minor scale (known as a modal chord progression).
Harmonic minor is a modal system as well as just another scale for using in your solos. When building chord progressions around this scale, we use the degrees of the scale as the chord root notes and build the appropriate chords on each of these degrees, giving us a chord scale.
However, harmonic minor is a very tense scale, so to make our chord progression flow more melodically, we need to be quite selective of which chords and tones we use from that parent harmonic minor scale.
Take a look and listen below. This is a very typical harmonic minor progression in the key of Eb (E flat), and so it will be compatible with solos in Eb harmonic minor.
E flat minor (Ebm)
A flat minor (Abm)
B flat augmented 7 (Bbaug7)
F diminished (Fdim)
F diminished with B bass note (Fdim/B)
B flat augmented 7 (Bbaug7)
E flat minor Major (EbmM7)
So, we begin on the root chord, or tonic (i), of Eb harmonic minor which is obviously Ebm. You’ll notice I end with a more flavoured minor Major 7th chord (the major 7th being a key tone from harmonic minor) which gives us that rather dissonant, dark quality.
Another important chord in harmonic minor progressions is the dominant V chord (in this example: Bbaug7). By augmenting the dominant 7th chord in this position, we can enhance that V tension before returning back to the i tonic. It’s common to exploit this tension by playing phrygian dominant (also known as the Spanish scale) over the V chord, which is simply harmonic minor starting on its 5th tone.
In this example, I extend this unresolved tension by moving to another staple harmonic minor chord – the diminished ii chord in the scale. This begs to collapse back into the V chord (well, it does the way I hear it!).
So harmonic minor is all about seeing how much tension you can squeeze out of harmonic minor’s tones (grouping them together to create chords), with the minor tonic being the only real resolution point (although you could argue the minor iv chord – Abm in this example – provides a “safe” resting point).
I’ll be expanding on the theory behind harmonic minor, as a modal system, on my main site, but in the meantime, try and get a feel for the sound harmonic minor offers, both as a lead scale and a chord scale. The chord shapes used in this example are movable, relative to where the minor tonic lies.
Hope this helped, Edward and everyone! Any questions, use the comments function below and I’ll expand (not literally).