From age-old Middle Eastern music to vintage big-band jazz to various pop hits of today, the modes of the harmonic minor scale offer an exotic spice.
National Standards: 1-3, 5-7, 9, 11
Have the class read Techniques: Further Exploration of the Harmonic Minor Scale (page 24 of the student edition).
Key points in the article:
- The sounds of the harmonic minor scale don’t start and end with the melodic possibilities we covered last month
- Other, unique sounds are created through modes: starting on different notes of the scale
- For example, “F Dorian s4” is one mode of the C harmonic minor scale that begins on F and has a sharp fourth note.
- The song “Casbah” is based on a riff that uses the Phrygian dominant mode (the root, third and fifth of which create a G major triad)
- The fourth mode of C harmonic minor starts on F (the root, third and fifth create an F minor triad)
- The melody of the song “Caravan” uses the Phrygian dominant scale
Play the three scales from the first example on a piano. Explain that each scale contains exactly the same notes, but sounds different only because of the note each scale starts with.
Play “Casbah” by Sandy Nelson. Ask students to listen for the major triad in the melody, and how every measure begins on one of the tones of the G major chord.
Play the F minor melody from example three on a piano. Have students listen for the minor triad, especially how it contrasts with the B natural in the melody.
Play Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol’s “Caravan.”
Take note of the chord progression and how it changes every few measures. These chord changes are between C7 and F minor. Have students listen for how the soloist plays between the C Phrygian dominant scale and F natural minor to blend the two scales together.