If you’re learning how to play the piano, then you’ll absolutely want to know how to play D harmonic minor piano scale. And there’s no better time than the present to do so. So let’s get started!
D Harmonic Minor Scale Building Blocks
What’s a Scale, Exactly?
Scales include a series or sequence of notes which are played to form harmonies and melodies. Like other scales, harmonic minor scales consist of seven notes with a repeated eighth note tacked onto the end to complete an octave. Major scales and minor scales are the most common scales, but in this article, we’ll discuss a harmonic minor scale.
Common Terminology in Reading Scales
If you’re learning to play a scale, it’s important to be able to understand, read, and talk about these common symbols and terms:
The treble clef, or G clef, is a staff of five lives which has G above middle C on the second line from the bottom. The symbol used to note this clef looks like a tall, ornamental G. Since the music written in the treble clef is above middle C, you’ll usually play it with your right hand.
The bass clef, or F clef, is a staff of five lines which has F below middle C on the second line from the top. The symbol used to note this clef looks like a short, ornamental F with two dots to the side. Since the music written in the bass clef is below middle C, you’ll usually play it with your left hand.
Natural notes are pitches that have not been altered. This means that they are not sharp or flat. These notes are often represented by the white keys on the keyboard and are usually not accompanied by any symbols in sheet music.
Accidental notes are pitches that have been altered. This means that they are sharp or flat. These notes are often represented by the black keys on the keyboard and are usually accompanied by symbols in sheet music. The most common symbols are # for sharp and ♭ for flat. These symbols take precedence over the key signature if added to a note in a measure. However, they only last for the duration of the measure and affect any of that particular note in the measure unless a natural symbol ♮ is added.
The easiest way to figure out which key you’re in is to look at the key signature to the left of the treble and bass clefs. The individual sharp or flat notes indicate that the notes who share their lines or spaces should be played as flats or sharps instead of naturals.
However, if the symbol ♮ accompanies a note, then we have an exception. In this particular instance, the note should be played as a natural. Even though the key signature shows you what you should normally play, the symbols within a measure take precedence.
If you’re interested in learning more about key signatures, the order in which you write the symbols next to the clefs, you can check out all of the key signatures and their pattern here.
The shortest distance you can move between notes or keys is called a half step. When you move from one note to the immediate next note—either up the piano (to the right), or down the piano (to the left)—you’re moving a half step.
The next shortest distance you can move between notes or keys is called a whole step. When you move from one note two half steps to the next note—either up the piano (to the right), or down the piano (to the left)—you’re moving a whole step. It should be easy to remember the difference between half and whole steps: two half steps make a whole.
If you’re still struggling to read sheet music, need help with music terms, or are looking for more practice, you can check out this tutorial.
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Understanding a Harmonic Minor Scale
Harmonic minor scales are just one of three different kinds of minor scales. The other two are melodic minor scales and natural minor (also just “minor”) scales.
Although minor, harmonic minor scales are a little different from both melodic and natural minor scales. They follow this pattern:
Root — Whole Step — Half Step — Whole Step — Whole Step — Half Step — Whole + Half Step — Half Step
Where the half steps (or semitones) are located determines the sound of a scale. As seen in the image below, all harmonic minor scales have semitones located between tone 2-3, 5-6, and 7-8. It also has a unique interval between 6-7 where you have a whole step plus a half step, (or an augmented 2nd).
How to Play the D Harmonic Minor Scale
The D Harmonic Minor Scale
This scale only has one flat and one sharp, and they are right next to each other in the line— B♭ and C#. But, these are all of the notes in the D harmonic minor scale: D, E, F, G, A, B♭, C#, D
In the treble clef, this is how the scale is written:
In the bass clef, this is how the scale is written:
Playing the Scale and Fingerings
Perhaps the most important to keep in mind when you’re learning a scale are its fingerings! The term “fingerings” refers to the specific order in which your fingers play the notes. These are written as numbers above or below the notes you’re playing, but you might not see them often as you advance because most pianists memorize them as beginners.
For both your right and left hands, your thumbs are 1, your index fingers are 2, your middle fingers are 3, your ring fingers are 4, and your pinkies are 5. If you’re going to learn a scale, be sure to remember which numbers correspond to which fingers!
I love playing scales! Well…now I do. As a beginner, they weren’t my favorite thing, and a lot of that is probably due to the fact that I didn’t learn or understand my fingerings!
While professional pianists recommend using fingerings to get better at hand technique, smooth or even playing, and building muscle memory, I didn’t listen and played what felt “normal” to me. I quickly found that I couldn’t play scales quickly without tripping over my own fingers.
Don’t make the same mistake I did! Even though fingerings can feel awkward at first, practice with the correct fingerings will equip you to play advanced musical arrangements in the future.
For the D harmonic minor scale, these are the fingerings:
Left Hand: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1
Right Hand: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
And here is how the notes and fingerings line up on the keyboard:
When you’re playing the scale with the left hand and going up, cross your middle finger over your thumb. As you come back down, slide your thumb under your middle finger.
When you’re playing the scale with the right hand and going up, slide your thumb under your middle finger. As you come back down, cross your middle over your thumb.
It’s time to try out the fingerings! Go ahead and play the scale with your left hand. Now play it with your right hand. Once you’ve got a good feel for them on their own, place your hands on the piano and play the entire scale together.
Congratulations! You’ve just played the D harmonic minor scale!
Even though the fingering transition might feel awkward at first, your hands will thank you later! When you advance to the point of sight reading music, the crossing movement will start to feel natural, and you’ll be able to transfer it to the music you’re learning.
Review of the D Harmonic Minor Scale
Let’s review all that we’ve learned about the D harmonic minor piano scale.
The term “scales” is used to describe a sequence of pitches, and for the D harmonic minor scale, these are the notes: D, E, F, G, A, B♭, C#, D. The scale is named after the first note (the root note) of the scale.
To figure out which scale you need to play, go to the left of the staff, and check out the key signature. You’ll find the sharps or flats you need to play next to the treble or bass clef. In the D harmonic minor scale, there is one flat and one sharp, but the key signature is written with one flat and with the sharp directly on the C (because it is not its own key).
As you play the D harmonic minor piano scale, make sure that you have the correct fingering in both the left and right hands. Even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable at first, the correct fingering will help you transfer speed and fluidity to any song you learn!
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