The double harmonic major scale is one of the most unusual choices available to improvisers and composers. Also known as the Byzantine scale or the Gypsy Major scale, it is not commonly found in Western music. This is because of the unusual choice of intervals that make up the scale. Consequently, this makes it a great choice for those wanting to sound different, and it will be of particular use to metal players or film scorers. Furthermore, jazz improvisers may have a use for it to sound more ‘outside.’ Once you get over the initial dissonance upon first learning the double harmonic major scale, you will appreciate the unique sound that it offers your playing and musical palette.
So, with that in mind, this guitar lesson will present five positions of the double harmonic major scale. However, before we look at how to play this scale, it is important to learn how it is constructed. To begin with, here are the intervals that make up the double harmonic major scale:
The presence of two different augmented second intervals is what gives this scale its name. An augmented second consists of three semitones, and it is equivalent to a minor third. These intervals are located between the b2 and 3rd, as well as the b6 and 7th degrees of the scale.
To illustrate the purposes of today’s lesson, I have chosen A as a key. Using the information above, here are the notes of the A double harmonic major scale:
A Double Harmonic Major Scale: 5 Positions
Now that we have the scale figured out, it’s time to learn how to play it. Firstly, here is position 1 of the scale:
Another key feature of this scale are the consecutive semitones between the 7th, root and b2 degrees of the scale. Subsequently, this gives double harmonic major its unique sound. However, to some ears, this will sound very dissonant.
Following on from position 1, here is position 2:
Despite there being some awkward stretches in position 2, with practice these can be navigated.
Following position 2 is position 3, starting on the major third of the scale:
Next up is position 4, starting on the 5th degree:
Finally, here is position 5, starting on the 7th degree of the scale:
22 Fret Diagram
Although the 5 positions of this scale will keep you busy, it is important to figure out your own preferred fingerings with the help of a full fretboard diagram. Therefore, here is a full map of the A double harmonic major scale. Additionally, note the inclusion of open strings:
Now that you have learned this scale in the key of A, your task is to figure it out in all 12 keys. Use the interval map above as well as my full notes on the neck diagrams, and enjoy adding this unique harmonic palette to your repertoire.
I hope you have enjoyed this guitar lesson. As always, have fun and I’ll see you next time.