Harmonic Minor Modes: The Locrian Natural 6

In previous posts we've looked at three of the less well-known modes of the harmonic Minor scale. We'll now move on to more dissonant material than we've seem previously with the Locrian Natural 6. It's a rarely-heard sound, although unlike the other scales in this group it's actually more consonant than its relative in the major scale group.

Here's the Locrian scale, followed by the Locrian Natural 6:


You probably already know that the Locrian scale can be used over dominant, minor 7 or half-diminished sounds; the same is true of the Locrian Natural 6. As with the Locrian, the flat fifth and second create tension over a minor seventh chord and the flat three adds further tension over a dominant. You can really use this anywhere that you'd use the Locrian scale. If there's a natural fifth in the underlying harmony (as ifs usual) the Locrian Natural 6 will be a little more consonant because the fifth will have more "space" to fit into the minor third between the b5 and 6.

It's even possible to add the natural 5 back in to the Locrian Natural 6, making it less disssonant again over a minor or major triad-based harmony. The result is the octatonic scale that the Encyclopoedia calls the 1min + b2aug + b3min scale. The name gives us a way to visualize it: play the minor triad arpeggios at the root and flat third mixed with the augmented arpeggio built on the flat second. This pattern, like the others in this lesson, is played in D minor at the fifth fret (and so you should be visualising the A-shape arpeggio throughout as a way to "anchor" what you're playing against the underlying harmony):


You can, of course, take a more scalar approach if you prefer:


Returning to the Locrian Natural 6 itself, the minor triads built on the b3 and b7 are particularly useful colours, with the b3 triad isolating just the b5 dissonance and the b7 triad isolating just the b2 dissonance (if that's not too much of a mouthful):


As a final idea, instead of extracting triad or seventh arpeggios from the scale we can extract a pentatonic scale instead. Like all heptatonics, the Locrian natural 6 contains fifteen pentatonic scales, including a number that would have very large intervals and that we probably wouldn't consider useful.

One that looks useful is what the Encyclopoedia calls the Common Minor Pentatonic b5 scale, spelled 1 b3 4 b5 b7, although we might feel this is a bit close to the Common Pentatonic; another is the 1dim + 4maj scale, which is the same but with the natural 6 instead of the b7. Here are both of these scales played one after the other:


If you're trying to find your way around the Harmonic Minor modes, try experimenting with all of these ideas and see if you enjoy any of the sounds they give you access to. There are many other possibilities that we haven't looked at, and that you can go hunting for yourself.