I came across a chord progress Em C Am B under "Em backing track".

With a note

Use E minor scale and harmonic minor on B to jam along with it

But Em has the following chords:

Em F♯ G Am Bm C D

And B harmonic minor has these:

Bm C♯ D Em F♯m G A♯

I am confused over the choice of B Major instead of Bm in Em backing track.

  • 1
    I'm not even 100% convinced B harmonic minor can be used to solo over this the moment I saw a C chord in the chord progression (note that no B minor scales contain C natural). Now I don't know what the blurb writer could mean.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 9 '19 at 13:43
  • 1
    What do you mean when you state 'Em has the following notes - Em F# G etc'? Those are chords not notes, and there's no F# chord in Em, it's F#o Sounds like the source is confused, too. B harm minor notes are not a good fit.
    – Tim
    Mar 9 '19 at 14:31
  • 2
    It does not mean use B harm. minor notes over B. Badly phrased. It means, as David states, E nat. minor for 3 chords, and E harm. minor over B chords.
    – Tim
    Mar 9 '19 at 14:39
  • Maybe they mean B phrygian dom and just playing with the 7th on the E when they move from chord to chord using that D♯ chromatically maybe.
    – Bert
    Apr 23 '20 at 11:05

I will venture to guess that the source is suggesting the use of E natural minor over the chords Em C Am, but E harmonic minor over the chord B.

The E natural minor scale contains the notes E, F#, G, A, B, C and D. Looking at this collection of notes you can find an Em (E-G-B), a C (C-E-G), and an Am (A-C-E). But the chord B (B-D#-F#) is not found in the notes of E natural minor.

In the key of E minor, B is the V chord (the "five chord"). The diatonic chord would be Bm (B-D-F#), but this chord doesn't lead as strongly back to the I chord (the Em). For this reason, the diatonic Vm chord is often altered by making it a major chord. This alteration raises the third of the Bm to create B (B-D#-F#), and the corresponding altered scale is the E harmonic minor scale: E F# G A B C D#.


B is the dominant of E (major or minor) and is therefore a very acceptable chord in an Em-based song. And the progression Em - C - Am - B is a minor variation of perhaps the most cliched progression in popular music (but it was only cliched because it was useful!)

DOES the track play B or Bm? Perhaps it's just a misprint.

Is 'Use E minor scale and harmonic minor on B to jam along with it' EXACTLY what the instructions say? 'harmonic minor on B' is a strange way of saying 'B harmonic minor'.fits

What's the source? An established textbook (not that they never have errors :-)) or something you found 'on the Internet'?

Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You're right, as stated it doesn't add up.

Finding one scale that fits ALL the chords in a sequence can be a useful trick - though I'd rather you found one melodic 'lick' (quite likely a subset common to several scales) instead. And, of course, there often ISN'T one.


The advice here is not to use B harmonic minor over B, but switch from E natural minor to E harmonic minor for that chord in order to access the tone D♯ in your phrasing.

This organization or formula is a widespread beginner's approach as it saves the performer from the mental strain of considering sets of tones (often called scales) from the perspective of each of the chords, having to switch as the chords change.

As most of these chords belong to a given context, you can simply adopt this context throughout. In this case, the context is the E natural minor with the only exception of the chord B, which requires a small adjustment. This scenario is the very definition of what's called "tonal minor".

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