Exotic Melody and the Hungarian Major Scale...

Sometimes non-diatonic chord movements can present us with problems. If one or more chords fail to exist within a single key signature we will often need to start looking "outside" of the general scales in order to be able to use one functional scale for playing over all of the chords...

A situation like this came up recently when one of my students was trying to compose a breakdown section for one of his songs. It seemed like a simple enough idea when he first presented it to me, as two chords moving from a standard, "Em7," with no 5th, over to a "C#m7" no 5th.

Obviously, the two chords do not exist within the same key signature, but what really caught my ear was the sound of how the last chord functioned into the final measure of the jam. There's a rather unique sounding final chord tone that comes in there and it opens the door for a very cool opportunity. Take a moment to play and listen to my student's chord progression shown below in example one...


Covering this sound with any melodic idea, 'in general,' could be accomplished quite easily using an arpeggio or perhaps by simply running through a couple of minor modes. However, what I noticed and heard from this progression was the opportunity for something quite a bit different.

The Hungarian Major Scale:
With this chord progressions very discriminating use of those Minor 7 chords, (without their 5th chord tones, played a minor 3rd apart), plus the arrival of that, "A#," tone at the last measure, we are set-up for the perfect scenario for using the awesome sounds of the, "Hungarian Major Scale." 

I know what you're thinking, (those chords are both Minor and this scale is Major!)... Yes, I realize that those chords are both Minor, but due to it's unique intervals, the Hungarian Major will indeed work for this situation!

If you've never been exposed to the distinctive sound and exotic application of the Hungarian Major Scale, it is truly a sound and a tonal structure, that offers composers and improvisers some incredibly interesting color.

To create this scale, all you do is take your basic major scale and sharp the 2nd, sharp the 4th, and flat the 7th. Obviously, that raised second is the same as a minor third. So, as you could imagine, this scale has excellent melodic functionality for both major and minor tonality music. Which is exactly why we can apply it over these two Minor 7th chords from our example progression.

Let's begin our study of this scale by establishing the scale degrees:
They are; 1, #2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7.
In the key of C we would have the scale tones of: C,D#,E,F#,G,A,Bb.

Since our chord progression from example one functions off of an, "Em7," we can analyze the scale from off of a Tonic of, "E." This would give us the scale tones of: E, F##, G#, A#, B, C#, D.

Practice playing through, and listening to, the scale tone layout of the scale neck-pattern given below in example two specifically for the, "E Hungarian Major Scale."


Building melodies for this scales' sound, (like many other new and different scales), can be a lot of fun and can be part of the practice of this scale. Everything comes down to how we make our studies of targeting specific scale tones.

Keep in mind, whenever we are using an exotic scale, (and even when using very common scales), resolution is a trend we should always follow. Resolution into good sounding color tones occurring along the line of the melody that you are constructing - must be practiced.

This harmonic and melodic trend is all about resolution, and every practicing musician must develop their ability to target resolution tones. This skill can become better developed through the study of unique and different kinds of scales and harmonies.

In our harmonic situation, (of these two Minor 7 chords that can be covered using the Hungarian Major Scale), we will be targeting chord tones along the first three measures.

However, upon the fourth measure, we can target stronger melodic scale tones which hang over from measure three into measure four. This tone is specifically that of, "A#." I've targeted this tone in a melody line that you can learn to play below.

Below, in example three, I've composed a sample melody for that chord progression from example two. Take some time to listen and to learn how to perform the line. When you feel ready, try playing the melody along with the example two audio track. Afterward, try using the scale to create further directions with the use of the, "E Hungarian Major Scale."


The study of exploring unique and exotic scales like the Hungarian Major Scale can really expand our musical horizons. And, expanding our horizons as musicians does a lot more than just expose us to different tonal and harmonic sounds.

Expanding our musical horizons pushes us to be able to understand how a very different tonal sound can be tied into the trend that is created across any style of harmony. This is why composing is such an important musical task for all serious musicians.

Obviously, we need to know how to control the most popular 'common' scale types first. These include; basic Major Scale and the Natural Minor Scale. They are of paramount importance to us initially. Learning these scales must be studied for many hours up to a level of high competence.

Later on, the study of the Modes, Pentatonics and Arpeggios are also crucial. However, exotic scales, like Hungarian Major, will teach us different ideas beyond the color of the basic scales. Exotic scales allow us to stretch our imagination and help us to draw on one of the most important elements which we require as composers, which is the ability to arrange and target our resolutions.

Thank you for reading this week's Blogger lesson post.
- Andrew Wasson


  1. Wow, incredible lesson Andrew. Thanks !!!

  2. And, here I thought only incredibly beautiful women came from Hungary...

  3. Damn good lesson here. Too many times I cannot understand how to resolve a melody or a lick and this article just hit home that it's all about trending across the chord changes. I never thought of it like that, but it totally makes sense.