Lesson 11 – 12 Notes: The Double Harmonic Major Scale


This was originally posted on ”12 notes”, a page on this website dedicated to guitar music and lessons.  So, for the more musically inclined, here is my eleventh guitar lesson to you:   The double harmonic major scale.  If you run into any problems, drop me a line and let me know, and thanks for reading!

Enjoy!

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Lesson 11:  The Double Harmonic Major scale, aka the Arabic or Byzantine scale.  I love using this scale, it is really a ton of fun to play with, especially when I’ve had just about enough of standard sounding playing.  For those who don’t know this scale, every note in the double Harmonic scale in the key of E is below.

-0 -1 -4 -5 -7 -8 -11 -12 -13 -16 -17 -19 -20 -23 –
-0 -1 -4 -5 -6 -9 -10 -12 -13 -16 -17 -18 -21 -22 –
-1 -2 -4 -5 -8 -9 -10 -13 -14 -16 -17 -20 -21 -22 –
-1 -2 -3 -6 -7 -9 -10 -13 -14 -15 -18 -19 -21 -22 –
-0 -2 -3 -6 -7 -8 -11 -12 -14 -15 -18 -19 -20 -23 –
-0 -1 -4 -5 -7 -8- 11 -12 -13 -16 -17 -19 -20 -23 –

As you can see from the above fretboard map, there are some very conventional sounding chords that can be used within the context of this exotic scale.  Fifth chords, major chords, minor chords.  That isn’t a surprise, and shouldn’t be.

In the Key of E Major, the notes are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#,  and D#  In double harmonic Major the notes are E, F, G#, A, B, C, and D#.  The reason it sounds so exotic is, in part,  the intervals.

You do not for example, in standard scales, normally run into 3 notes in a row without one of them having a whole tone interval between them.  You do here.  The seventh, root, and second notes have no whole tone separation between any of them.  On top of that, the flat second followed by the major third and flat sixth followed by the major seventh makes for a separation called an augmented second.

But enough theory for the moment.  Let’s play a few notes.  Basic stuff here.  I am actually going to take what is ostensibly an  “exotic” scale, and make it sound more conventional. When playing this, it sounds best when you slide using your index finger from the fourth fret to the eighth fret on the third string, and again from the tenth to the twelfth fret on the second string.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -12 – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -10 -12 – – – – – – – –
-9 – – – – -9 – – – – – – 10- – – – – -10 – – – – – – – – – – – -4 -8 – – – – – – – – – -9 – – – – – – – –
– – – -6 – – – – – -6 – – – – – – – 7- – – – – – -7 – – – – – 7- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– -7 – – – – – -7 – – – – – – -0 – – – – – -0 – – – -0 -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-0 – – – – -0 – – – – – -8 – – – – – – -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

As witnessed above, this scale can sound tame, but I touched on a bit of the exotic sound of the scale.  Let’s explore the scale a bit more.  This time let’s take advantage of the more esoteric nature of the scale.  After the opening A, there is a series of major thirds, starting with the fifth tone of the E double harmonic scale.  That  E-F-E  on the high E string should be played as a trill.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -12 -12 -13 -12 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 13- 10- 9- 12- – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – -1 – – – 2- – – – – – – 6- – – -7 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-0 -2 – – -2 – – -3 -0 -7 – – -7 – – – 8- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – -12 -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – -10 – – – – – – -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-0 -9 – – – – – – – – – – – – -14 -13 -9 – – -9 -9 – – -9 – 8 -5 – – – – – -9 – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -9 -10 – -7 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -8 – – – – – -7 – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -0 – – – – – – – –

There is nothing but fun playing with the double harmonic.   I use variations of this riff all the time when I want to get away from the standard sound of the major scale.

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I hope this lesson treats you well, one and all.  I think I may have to touch on this again, simply because I don’t feel like I’ve done the possibilities of this scale any real justice here.  And as always, if you have any questions or issues about this or any column, feel free to drop me a line.

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