How does borrowed notes in barry harris 6th diminished harmony work? I have heard this mentioned many times but I am new to Barry Harris method and do not understand.


2 Answers 2


Ah, great question! First and foremost, you should learn from the man himself. He has a bunch of videos posted on his YouTube. This masterclass at the Lincoln center, Barry Harris explains many of his concepts.

But in short, the borrowed notes are as follows. When playing a sixth chord (C6), the diminished notes are the notes from B diminished. So when voicing, a C6, you can borrow those diminished notes, then resolve it to C6. For example, the CMaj 7, is a C triad but the B is from the B diminished chord. This wants to resolve to an A, to break the dissonance. So the borrowed note, in that case, would be the B. You can play around with these notes to create cool resolutions. Another example would be the Cmaj7#5 resolving to a C6.

I hope that helps! If it is unclear, watch all the videos of Barry Harris you can on Youtube. There is no one who can explain it better than the inventor himself.

  • Inventor - or discoverer? No-one 'invented' Australia!
    – Tim
    Apr 20, 2020 at 7:07
  • 1
    @Tim I think it can be justifiably called an invention. It's a non-obvious harmony system that feels as if it was "designed" according to his personal taste and experience. Or ... I don't know, maybe Paul McCartney discovered Yesterday? ;) Apr 20, 2020 at 7:38
  • @Haversine Why does the B resolve to an A, not C? C would be closer ... Apr 20, 2020 at 7:41
  • 1
    It can resolve to C however, Barry Harris tends to borrow the diminished note above the note he is targeting. So if he was going to play a C triad with a C on top, he would play C-E-G-D then resolve to C-E-G-C. In Barry Harris' 'torture' exercise, this concept is demonstrated: youtube.com/watch?v=J3wD9IESJso. If you study this excercise, you can see that the first chord is a Major 7th chord then resolves it to a 6 chord. Apr 20, 2020 at 17:26

Barry’s concept is what he calls a “6th diminished scale”. In the key of C he starts with a C6 chord which he says contains A and C, part of C diminished, and E and G, part of E diminished. What is not there is the third diminished chord, D F Ab B which is then added to or superimposed over the C6. You end up with an 8 note scale, a major scale with an added #5/b6, C D E F G G# A B C.

If you start with a C6 (first inversion is good so the tonic is on top of the chord) and play ascending and descending chords diatonically with this scale (taking care not to skip any of the G G# and A’s) you end up with an alternating tonic diminished/dominant sequence that is the basis of his concept. This also applies to minor keys simply by changing the 3rd of the scale to a flat 3rd.

Here is another great link to Barry explaining and demonstrating it:



Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.