D Harmonic Minor Scale Chords

D Harmonic Minor Scale Chords

Writing music in a minor key is not an easy thing for most beginner guitar players. The D harmonic minor scale is a good minor key to start with because 5 of the open strings in standard tuning are in the key.

I cover the harmonic minor scale in general and cover all 52 chords that can be built from the D harmonic minor scale. Finally, I give my opinion on the chords to use in writing a song in D harmonic minor.

 

The harmonic minor scale in detail

The harmonic minor scale differs from the natural minor by one note – the 7th scale degree. D natural minor is the relative minor of F major and you use it to build the harmonic minor scale on the note D.

Make sure to read my Music Intervals article if you are not familiar with intervals. Here is a comparison of the of the two scales:

Natural minor scale formula = W-H-W-W-H-W-W
Harmonic minor scale formula = W-H-W-W-H-A2-H

Hopefully, you know that “W” stands for whole step and “H” for half step. The “A2” is for the augmented 2nd interval between the 6th & 7th sale degrees. You could also notate that as m3 for minor 3rd or W+1/2 for a whole step plus a half step.

Natural minor scale degrees = 1-2-♭3-4-5-♭6-♭7
Harmonic minor scale degrees =  1-2-♭3-4-5-♭6-7

Natural minor intervals = R-M2-m3-P4-P5-m6-m7
Harmonic minor intervals = R-M2-m3-P4-P5-m6-M7

D Natural minor notes = D-E-F-G-A-B♭-C
D Harmonic minor notes = D-E-F-G-A-B♭-C#

The key signature for the harmonic minor is the same as for the natural minor with accidentals used to notate wherever the major 7th occurs.

It’s the raised 7th that distinguishes the harmonic minor from the natural minor scale. The major 7th allows the 5th scale degree to be a major chord and therefore a dominant 7th. But that 7th also creates a fully diminished 7th chord and other eerie chords.

If you’d like to learn more about the harmonic minor and the other minor scales, then check out the Wikipedia Minor Scale page and The Minor Scales article from Music Theory Academie.

 

D harmonic minor triads and open scale shapes

The following triads can be built from the harmonic minor scale, but note that I express the chords in roman numerals differently than everyone else.

I prefer to use ♭III+ and ♭VI instead of III+ and VI respectively. Every other website expresses the chords for the 3rd & 6th scale degrees without the flat symbol. That doesn’t make sense to me, so I add the flat symbol so that I know the scale degree number and its interval distance away from the tonic.

Harmonic minor scale triads: i, iio, ♭III+, iv, V, ♭VI, viio

The triads in D harmonic minor are D minor, E diminished, F augmented, G minor, A major, B♭ major, and C# diminished.

Below is a one-octave D harmonic minor scale starting on the open D string.

One octave D harmonic minor scale for guitar
One-octave D Harmonic minor scale with open strings

 

Here is the full scale for all open strings. Note that all the open strings can be played with the exception of the B string.

D harmonic minor scale with open strings for guitar
Full D harmonic minor scale with open strings

 

The C# should be notated with just a sharp accidental, not a double sharp. I’m not sure why my music program does that. And I had to notate the final 3 notes as a triplet to fit all the notes in 2 measures.

Actual minor key chord progressions borrow chords from all 3 minor scales. Take a look at my articles on D Melodic Minor Scale Chords and Writing Minor Scale Songs where I have my “suggested” chords list.

Let’s get into the chords. I believe I built every possible chord type from the scale. Let me know if I missed any and I’ll add them to the article.

 

D chords from the D harmonic minor scale

You can build 6 chords on the tonic of the scale – 4 minors and 2 suspended chords.

D Harmonic Minor Scale (D chords)
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
Dm D F A
Dm add9 D F A E
Dm-maj7 D F A C#
Dm9-maj7 D F A C# E
Dsus D G A Gsus2
Dsus2 D E A Asus

 

E & F chords from the D harmonic minor scale

I combined the chords for the 2nd and 3rd scale degrees since there are so few of them.

D Harmonic Minor Scale (E chords)
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
Edim E G B♭
Em7♭5 E G B♭ D Gm6
Em11♭5 E G B♭ D A Gm6 add9
Edim7 E G B♭ C# Gdim7 B♭dim7 C#dim7

The fully diminished 7th chord and augmented triad are symmetrical chords which means that each note in the chord can be the root note of the same chord type/name: Edim7 = Gdim7 = B♭dim7 = C#dim7, and F+ (augmented) = A+ = C#+.

F Chords From The D Harmonic Minor
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
F+ F A C# A+ C#+
Fmaj7#5 F A C# E

So that is a total of 6 possible chords for those two scale degrees. One thing you want to keep in mind is the two sets of tritones in the scale. They have different resolution tendencies so you want to stay away from the tritone that wants to resolve to F major.

 

G chords from D harmonic minor

You can build minor or diminished chords on the 4th scale degree by using either the perfect 5th D or the diminished 5th C# (or D♭). G builds the 2nd of the 4 fully diminished 7th chords in the scale and a total of 12 chords.

D Harmonic Minor Scale (G chords)
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
Gm G B♭ D
Gm6 G B♭ D E Em7♭5
Gm add9 G B♭ D A
Gm6 add9 G B♭ D E A Em11♭5
Gm7 G B♭ D F B♭6
Gm9 G B♭ D F A B♭maj13
Gm13 G B♭ D F E
Gsus2 G A D Dsus
Gdim G B♭ C#/D♭
Gm7b5 G B♭ D♭ F B♭m6
Gm9b5 G B♭ D♭ F A A7#5♭9
Gdim7 G B♭ D♭ E B♭dim7 C#dim7 Edim7

 

A chords from D harmonic minor

There is no shortage of dominant V chords here. All of the chords below will resolve to D minor, some better than others.

D Harmonic Minor Scale (A chords)
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
A A C# E
A7 A C# E G
A7♭9 A C# E G B♭
A7♭13 A C# E G F
A11 A C# E G D
A7♭9♭13 A C# E G B♭ F
A11♭9 A C# E G D B♭
Asus A D E Dsus2
A7sus A D E G
A7sus ♭9 A D E G  B♭ Gm6 add9 Em11♭5
A+ A C# F C#+ F+
A7#5 A C# F G
A7#5♭9 A C# F G Bb Gm9♭5

 

B♭ chords from D harmonic minor scale

I think the B♭ major chords sound great following the D minor triad, especially with some open strings. The 6th scale degree builds major, minor and diminished chords – 11 in total.

D Harmonic Minor Scale (B♭ chords)
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
B♭ B♭ D F
B♭6 B♭ D F G Gm7
B♭maj7 B♭ D F A
B♭maj7#11 B♭ D F A E
B♭maj13 B♭ D F A G Gm9
B♭maj13#11 B♭ D F A G E
B♭m B♭ D♭/C# F
B♭m6 B♭ D♭ F G Gm7♭5
B♭m-maj7 B♭ D♭ F A
B♭dim B♭ D♭ E
B♭dim7 B♭ D♭ E G C#dim7 Edim7 Gdim7
B♭m-maj7♭5 B♭ D♭ E A

 

C# chords

Here are the leading tone chords in D harmonic minor. They act the same as the diminished chords from the major scale in that they want to resolve to the tonic of the scale.

C# Chords From The D Harmonic Minor
Chord Name 1st Note 2nd Note 3rd Note 4th Note 5th Note 6th Note Equal Chord1 Equal Chord2 Equal Chord3
C#dim C# E G
C#dim7 C# E G B♭ Edim7 Gdim7  B♭dim7
C#aug C# F A Faug Aaug

 

 

Useful chords from D harmonic minor

So you are probably thinking that was overkill, and you’d be right, but they are all of your possible chord choices. Let’s narrow the chord choices down a little.

First off, any chord that has both notes of the tritone from F major (B♭-E) should be avoided unless you have a section that modulates to F major. The exception would be any chord that contains both tritones: all 4 dim7 chords, A7♭9, A7♭13, A7♭9♭13, and A11♭9. Those chords resolve to both F major and D minor.

Here are the only chords you want to consider using, especially if this is your first time writing a song in a minor key:

D chords:

All are good options except Dm9-maj7. I think the minor-major 7th chord is harsh but it makes a good chord going to the minor triad – Dm-maj7 > Dm. And remember the D minor chord should be the focus, so don’t overuse the suspended chords.

E chords: none except maybe Edim7

F chords: The augmented triad is good, but I’m not a fan of the maj7#5 chord.

G chords:

Definitely don’t play Gm6, Gm6 add9, or Gm13. I think Gm, Gm add9, Gm7 and maybe Gm9 would be great choices. The Gdim7 is good, but the other Gdim chords don’t sound right, even though they have the G & C# tritone in them.

A chords:

Stay away from A11, A11♭9, A7♭13, A7#5♭9, and A7♭9♭13. They either sound nasty or are advanced jazz chors. Just stick to the basics.

B♭ chords:

Don’t play the maj7#11 or maj13#11 since they have the tritone from F major in them. You could try the minor chords and see if you like them, but otherwise stick with the major chors – they sound great.

C# chords: All of them resolve to D minor so take your pick – all good.

 

Possible chord progressions

The common jazz progression would be ii-V-i or m7♭5 on the 2nd to a dominant 7th and then a tonic m-maj7. You could try that as a short progression but let’s look at some regular chord progressions:

Idea #1: Dm > B♭ or B♭6 > Gsus2 > Asus > A7sus > Dm-maj7 > Dm

Idea #2: Dm > B♭maj7 > Gm add9 > A7 > A7sus > Dm

Idea #3: Dm > Dsus2 > Dsus > Dsus2 > Gm7 > Gm9 > Gm7 > B♭maj7 #11 > A7#5 > C#dim7 > Dm

They all sound great to me. Who says you need chords from the other minor scales. It’s a little hard to hold but you could try a B♭6 as x-1-0-0-3-1. Have fun and just try a bunch of chords and see what you can do.

 

Final thoughts

So now you know all the chords that can be built from the D harmonic minor scale. You have more than enough chords to write a song without borrowing chords from the natural or melodic minor scales. Although, it may be hard to not borrow chords for a song that has both a chorus and bridge unless your melody writing is top-notch. Give it a shot and see if you can write something that isn’t too droney or depressing!

Leave a Reply