Spanish Guitar Scales – An Essential Guide

Spanish Guitar Scales: Harmonic Minor

Let’s just get this out in the open quickly: This scale has got some serious attitude.

As we mentioned above, this harmonic minor variety of Spanish guitar scales is only different from the natural minor scale by one note, but it’s a big one nonetheless.

Let’s look at a comparison of these two scales below in the key of A minor. We are going to stay in this key alone for this lesson so we can spot the differences in each of these Spanish guitar scales.

Notes of the Natural Minor Scale:

A  B  C   D  E   F  G

I    II  III  IV  V  VI  VII

Notes of the Harmonic Minor Scale:

A  B  C   D  E   F   G#

I    II  III  IV  V  VI  #VII

spanish-guitar-scales

Did you spot the difference?

It may be small, but the difference sounds massive once you play through the two scales in the TAB above.

  • The only chord that changes from the natural minor scale to the harmonic minor scale is the 7th (major to diminished).
  • This diminished chord is what gives these Spanish guitar scales their sound and character.

We’ve illustrated the chords of this scale below for you to play through and master.

Pro Tip: If you’re a loop pedal enthusiast like we are, you can record yourself playing a progression of these chords using the diagrams below.

Use the tab above to play a solo over the chords you’ve tracked.

This will help you to understand the sound of the harmonic minor scale in a musical context!

spanish-guitar-scales

Spanish Guitar Scales: The Neapolitan Minor Scale

The neapolitan minor scale has a distinguished flair to it that isn’t heard elsewhere.

  • One of the biggest characteristics of these Spanish guitar scales is the ‘b2’ (bII) note.
  • This means that the first and second notes of this scale are a half-step apart from each other. This creates what we call ‘dissonance.’
  • Dissonance occurs when two notes clash with one another, usually from being a half-step apart.

Pro Tip: The first and second notes aren’t the only scale degrees that are a half-step apart.

This scale also has a #7 like the harmonic minor scale, which means the 7th note is also a half-step away from the first.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we’ll let you decide how it sounds in the TAB below:

guitar-scales

Pro Tip: You’ll want to assign one finger to each fret in this scale shape in order to play it with ease. Watch out for the step backward to the fourth fret on the high E string.

The chords of these Spanish guitar scales are a little bit different, giving this scale a unique flavour.

The chord types for the Neapolitan scale in A minor are as follows:

A minor | Bb major | C augmented | D minor | E augmented | F major | G# augmented

The augmented chords are the key here, and we want to make sure we make use of the Bb and G# notes to really pull out all the flavour in the right way.

Check out the chord diagrams below to jam this gorgeous minor scale.

For more on the neapolitan minor scale, check out this Wikipedia page here.

guitar-scales

If we don’t make use of these two important notes in this scale, we will end up sounding like we are playing in the Phrygian mode. Let’s discuss that scale now:

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Spanish Guitar Scales: The Phrygian Mode Of The Major Scale

The third mode of the major scale is the Phrygian scale.

  • This is a minor scale that also makes use of the b2 note to give it some dissonant flavour, and it’s great for all you metalhead shredders that want to find a new scale to play with.
  • These Spanish guitar scales do a great job of conveying the Spanish sound, much like the two we’ve already covered above.
  • This scale doesn’t make use of the #7 note, but rather emphasizes the b2 to paint some darkness into the mix.

Try running through this scale in the key of A minor, and make sure you assign one finger to each fret to keep your playing smooth!

guitar-scales

Think of this minor-style scale as though you were playing starting on the third note of the major scale. This is what we call a ‘mode.’

Modes are the scales that exist inside of other scales. Modes open us up to new musical possibilities and should be studied to help us expand our sound!

A cool thing to note is that modes express the individual notes of a larger scale, and help us understand all of the character that exists inside every scale we learn. This applies to Spanish guitar scales as well, so try experimenting to see what sounds you find!

Check out the chords of the Phrygian mode below:

spanish-guitar-tab

Spanish Guitar Scales: Phrygian Dominant

The last of our scales for today’s lesson is different from the Phrygian mode by only one note:

The third.

Instead of a minor third like in the Phrygian mode, the Phrygian Dominant scale has a major third.

Once again, these minor differences make for massive changes in overall sound and character. With that in mind, it’s important to master the differences between these Spanish guitar scales in order to really understand them all.

Let’s take a closer look at the last of these Spanish guitar scales in the TAB below!

tab-for-spanish-guitar

This scale is also seen as the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale.

This means that this scale begins from the 5th degree of that scale.

Whether you want to view this as the 5th mode of harmonic minor or a Phrygian scale with a raised third, this scale packs a dark punch that works great in everything from Flamenco music to Heavy Metal and Dark Ambient tunes.

Take a look at the chords below:

Pro Tip: Writing out chords in chord diagrams is a great way to get a better feel for the differences between them. Make sure you keep a pencil nearby while you practice so you can take notes!

Don’t forget – A practice journal is your best friend for tracking your progress through your guitar journey!

spanish-tableture

Where Do I Go From Here?

If you’re not done with this Spanish guitar scales lesson, we recommend trying the following:

  • Write your own chord progressions using the chords in this article and practice soloing over them
  • Write a song!
  • Jam these scales with a friend
  • Take these up with your guitar teacher for more education on how they work
  • Find new backing tracks to solo over!

Recommended Resources

If you loved this free guitar lesson on Spanish guitar scales, you’ll love some of our other content! We’ve pulled a few of our favourites for you below:

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