9 – Harmonic minor

Subjects Covered

  • Chords
    • Minor chord progression
  • Scales
    • The harmonic minor (the spooky scale)
  • Musicality
    • Letting strings ring in a solo and basic syncopation
  • Exercises
    • Basic syncopation exercises

The main points for this whole course are

  • keep your hands relaxed
  • keep your guitar in tune
  • play in time, with the rhythm
  • musicality always beats technicality
  • practice too slow instead of too fast
  • play along to records whenever you can
  • play with other people whenever you can

Chords – The Eastern European Folk Song and the Brooding Minor Song

Points to remember

  • keeping the rhythm is more important than playing all the notes
  • play in time

The Eastern Euorpean Folk Song

| e | e | a | B7 |

The Brooding Minor Song

| e | e | a | a |

| e | e | C | C |

| e | e | B7 | B7 |

The e minor harmonic scale using open strings – a new pattern

Usually we have learned new scales with patterns that don’t include open strings. The harmonic minor scale with open strings is easier using open strings. Play both the red and blues dots. Can you guess what the red dots mean?


Letting strings ring

Letting strings ring in a solo is one way to add cool stuff to a solo. It also means you do not have to play fast because when you add more layers, the ears have to listen harder and it ends up feeling like something a lot more complicated than it really is.

Basic syncopation

For GuitarKitchen, syncopation is the idea of playing with the listner’s sense of the rhythm. Everyone thinks of Scott Joplin and ragtime piano when they think of syncopation. In the GuitarKitchen, syncopation is used more loosely, though it is basically derived from ragtime definition of syncopation. Here it means any rhythm where the listener finds the accents of the ryhtmn to be placed in suprising places.


Usually someone from the USA will think that the accents are probably going to be on the 1 and the 3.

Remember that in a lot of music, there are 4 beats per measure

| 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 |

Usually the accents are not on all four beats. In rock, it is usually the 1 and 3. For jazz and blues, it is the 2 and 4. We’ll use the chords above to practice the idea of syncopation. Try playing the “Eastern European Folk Song” chords. If you have trouble just play the e minor chord. In order to practice this, you must use a metronome!.

To accent a beat, just play louder on that beat. These exercises must been done with a metronome!

  1. Play the song how you normally have been playing it
  2. Now play the song where you accent the 1 and 3.
    (Remember the 1 and the 3 of a four beat measure)|1 2 3 4 |You would count this ONE two THREE four
  3. Now play it with the accents on the 2 and 4, like a wierd blues shuffle
    |1 2 3 4 |You would count this one TWO three FOUR
  4. Here comes the syncopation
    Play the 1 and the “and” of two: (the “and” is a “+” sign| 1 2 + 3 4 | 1 2 + 3 4 |You would count this ONE two AND three four
  5. This is the same as the last one but adds another “AND”.
    Play the 1 and the “and” of two: (the “and” is a “+” sign| 1 2 + 3 + 4 | 1 2 + 3 + 4 |You would count this ONE two AND three AND four

Kind of cool, huh! This may seem weird at first. It will really come back to help you later on for a few reasons. Just remember to use a metronome slowly! Check out the folk lessons on strumming for more ideas.

  1. You will think in terms of more than down beats
  2. You will understand that rhythm is sometimes implied
  3. You will have a much better sense of time

Remember : play slowly and in time!

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