How to Play the 5th Mode of the Harmonic Minor Scale on Guitar

The harmonic minor scale is a unique, exotic sounding scale. It sounds more traditional than its brother, the melodic minor scale but more exotic than the aeolian/ natural minor scale

Just like we have modes of the major scale, we have modes of the harmonic minor scale. Lucky for you there are only two useful modes – the first one and the 5th. Before continuing, I recommend you have a basic understanding of the first mode of the harmonic minor scale, otherwise known simply as the harmonic minor scale. This lesson goes hand in hand with my How to Solo on V7 Chords in a Minor Key chord progression lesson, be sure to check that one out.

Use this lesson to:

  • Understand the theory behind this scale.
  • Learn the easiest approach to improvising with it.
  • Accustom your ears to its sound.
  • Have fun while learning.

The Scale

harmonic minor

As you can see, we are playing A harmonic minor starting on the 5th note – E.


Here is how to play this on the guitar in two positions. A white circle means that note is the root note of the scale. A number indicates what finger to use (1: first finger, 2: second finger, etc).



When To Use

  • dom7 chords in a minor key
  • VI7 chords in a I VI II V
  • any dom7 chord resolving to a minor chord

For example in the key of Bbmin, you can play this scale over a F7b9 chord.

Why I Recommend Beginner Guitarists use this Scale (and why I recommend intermediate guitarists don’t)

The magical thing about this scale is it only has one note different from the tonic minor key. That is, in the key of Cmin, we only need to change one note to play the 5th Mode of this scale to outline a G7b9 chord. This scale is an easy way to outline a V7 chord in a minor key. Check out my lesson on minor ii V I lesson too learn more about when to use The 5th Mode of Harmonic Minor Scale.

I recommend intermediate and advanced guitarists check out my lesson on the Altered scale for a better option on V7 chords in a minor key.

If you are into gypsy jazz and bebop, this scale is definitely a good one for you to get a good grasp of. It has a more traditional or ‘old-school’ sound to it than others. Life is Jazz. Life is about options. Jazz is about options. The 5th Mode of Harmonic Minor Scale is a good option for V7 Chords in a minor key. Nice!

5th Mode Harmonic Minor Summary

Scale5th Mode Harmonic Minor
ChordDom7b9, Dom7b13
NotesR, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7
C DorianC, Db, E, F, G, Ab , Bb
Chord/ Guide Tonesb3rd and b7th
Color Tonesb13, b9
Avoid Notes11
Sam's TipA nice option for V7 chords in a minor key, it will sound old school.

Thanks for checking out this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions you may have.

~ Sam Blakelock |

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