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Harmonize Minor scale

Posted by hfd 
Harmonize Minor scale
June 24, 2017 04:11AM
Hi, I'm confuse. I want to harmonize Minor scale.But,there is the natural,harmonic,melodic.Please Can you explain to me how to harmonize them and do I have to harmonize each one different then other ones, And why just put at the key signature F#,D#,C#. instead of adding D#,C# next to the notes, Thank you

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/24/2017 04:14AM by hfd. (view changes)
Re: Harmonize Minor scale
June 25, 2017 12:06AM

The "default" minor scale is the "natural minor" scale (called Aeolian). It's one of the "diatonic modes" and is a relative of the major scale (called Ionian). So E Natural Minor - the scale you are talking about - is a relative of G major, in other words it has an F#. If you harmonise the G major scale, when you get to chord vi, which is a vi minor triad, that is the relative minor of G, it's the E minor triad. That's where Aeolian sits in relation to G major. When you write music in E minor, you have a key signature of one sharp, the F#, just like you do with G major.

The Aeolian scale is defined by the following tones & semitones: TsTTsTT. In other words it has a major 2nd, a minor 3rd, a perfect 4th, a perfect 5th, a MINOR 6th, a MINOR 7th, and a perfect octave. I wrote "minor" in capitals because they are minor for the Aeolian scale - this is not the case for harmonic and melodic scales.

So to harmonise the Aeolian scale, it's the same as harmonising the major scale, except you're starting on chord vi. But you call it chord i, so you shift your centre of gravity to chord vi, rename it chord i, and use the same sequence of chords as Ionian. So it's minor, diminished, major, minor, minor, major, major (and back to minor again).

Now, the two other scales have something special about them. Firstly the harmonic minor:

This exists to enable people to play a major V chord. As you saw from harmonising the minor scale, chord v was a minor triad. But quite often you want a major triad for chord V, even in a minor key, so you have a strong major 3rd note on that V chord, that leads effectively up to the i chord. But this is a deviation from the Aeolian set of notes. So you have to give the scale a new name, it's no longer completely related to Ionian or any of the diatonic modes, it's a sort of mutant, and it's called Harmonic Minor. "Harmonic", because that means "related to chords", and it exists so you can play an effective major V chord in a minor key. In the key of E minor, the V chord would be B, and would need a D# in order to be a major chord, as you have pointed out. The reason you don't include the D# in the key signature is a) becuase you'd have to naturalise it as often as you'd have to sharpen it, as it's normally only sharpened on the V chord - that's what it's for, after all. But also b) because the sharps system is configured for diatonic modes, ie Ionian, Aeolian, and the other 5 modes in that family. They have a strict order of sharps, based on the circle of 5ths (F#, C#, G#, D# ...) Harmonic minor isn't in that family, it's a mutation, and the D# is not the next sharp in the sequence, so you just aren't allowed to write D# after F# in a key signature. It'd be like wanting to write a "P" but with the little line in a "Q" included.

Anyway, the Harmonic minor has a major 7th, to enable that V chord to have a major 3rd, got it? It's TsTTs(3s)s. So harmonsing it is: minor, diminished, augmented, minor, MAJOR, minor, diminished (and back to minor again).

Melodic minor is the same as harmonic, except this time the 6th interval is also a Major 6th. So it's another deviation from Aeolian which had a minor 6th. Its intervals are TsTTTTs. It's also not in the diatonic family of 7 modes; it's not in the harmonic minor family of 7 modes either; it's in an entirely new family - the melodic minor family (which has 7 modes of its own, all of which are useful, but that's another story).

Melodic minor exists to enable the major V chord (in the same way as harmonic does), but also for MELODIC reasons, ie over that V chord, to play effective melodies, or tunes, that lead effectively up to the i chord, but also that avoid that (3s) interval that the harmonic minor had. With harmonic minor, that awkward jump didn't matter because harmonic minor was only concerned with harmony, ie chords. It didn't matter that the 2 note on the V chord was still a minor 2, because you don't play it in the chord. But if you want to play or sing melody and avoid the difficult 3-semitone jump, you have to raise the 6th as well as the 7th, so on the V chord you play a major 2 as well as a major 3. Hence the melodic minor scale as the intervals TsTTTTs. See the raised 6th and 7th? So harmonising it gives you minor, minor, augmented, major, major, minor, diminished (and back to minor). As you pointed out, E melodic minor aslo has a C#, but you can't put it in the key signature because F# and C# is the key sig for D major and B Aeolian (and E Dorian, which is not your scale, because you want E Melodic, which has a major 7th D# as well, which you can't put on the key signature, as written above) and anyway, you'd be constantly having to naturalise it, as you'd only want to be sharpening it on the V chord, just like with the raised 7th in harmonic minor, above.

Hope that helps!

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 06/25/2017 12:19AM by Viz. (view changes)
Re: Harmonize Minor scale
June 25, 2017 12:47PM
I would avoid mixing "keys" with "modes". They are entirely different things belonging to different historical eras with very different theoretical frameworks.

So talk about "Aeolian mode" or "the minor key", but mixing the two is only going to cause confusion.

So let's stick to the minor key.

And there only is ONE minor key for any given tonic (or starting note). There are however several minor scales (melodic, harmonic, natural).

The Harmonic Minor scale uses the pattern: T S T T S T+S S
For example: A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A

The Natural Minor uses the pattern: T S T T S T T
For example: A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A

The Melodic Minor scale ascends using the pattern T S T T T T S, but descends the same as the natural minor.
For example: A-B-C-D-E-F#-G#-A -Gnatural-Fnatural-E-D-C-B-A.

The minor key uses the notes from all of these scales. So the key of A minor for example can contain both F natural and F#, as well as G natural and G#. - In other words, the sixth and seventh notes of the minor key are variables.

The key signature of piece in a minor key (that's the thing at the start of the printed music that lists the number of flats and sharps) essentially treats it as though it were the natural minor scale. So the key signature of A minor contains no flats or sharps, even though during the course of the piece you will almost certainly encounter F#s and G#s (these are accidentals and are indicated only as and when necessary).

So in A minor, the available (diatonic) notes are A,B,C,D,E,F,F#,G,G#.
So D minor (D-F-A) and D major (D-F#-A) are both possible chords for example.

The hallmark of tonality is the dominant to tonic cadence, and to put in simply, this works best when the chords are major.
So in A minor, we make V, the first chord, E major with the G#. This becomes the leading note which resolves up to the tonic (A).
The raised sixth (F#) is used on approach to the G# to avoid the augmented interval and make it smoother melodically.

How you harmonise a melody effectively in the minor key depends on a number of factors. A good harmony book (such as in the link below) will help. Alternatively, feel free to post an example for specific comments.

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
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