This rare scale is a minor scale that has a raised fourth and a raised seventh. It has many names, which can confuse things when trying to find examples of this scale in popular songs.
It is sometimes referred to as the gypsy scale, but two other scales also go by this name.
It is more appropriately called the gypsy minor scale, excluding the double harmonic major scale and the Phrygian dominant scale, which both also give off gypsy vibes.
This scale is often referred to as the Egyptian scale by some composers and instrumentalists, but other scales also get this nickname.
The double harmonic major scale again gives off similar energy, making it hard to hear the difference between them. A more clear term for this scale is the double harmonic minor scale.
It's rare to find usage of this scale in popular songs; there need to be more examples! If you are a songwriter or musician, consider adding some of this flavor to your repertoire.
One example that stands out to me is the huge hit song "Worth It" from Fifth Harmony that came out around 2015. While the full song isn't in this scale, the saxophone riff that leads the melodic phrasing in this song surely is.
Other examples of this hard-to-find scale in songs include Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" and Joe Satriani's "Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock" album.
Hungarian-born composer and pianist Franz Liszt was very excited to feature the style of music found in Hungarian folk in his own creations. Joe Satriani takes this scale and very expertly pairs it with the rock music genre.
Carnatic music, a form of Indian classical music, regularly uses this scale. Carnatic music has a popular melodic idea, known as ragam, which is called Simhendramadhyamam.
Here is an example performed by Isai Payanam that showcases the lovely scale in a culture that most Western music ears aren't exposed to enough.
The only difference between these two scales is that the Hungarian minor scale has a raised fourth while the harmonic minor scale doesn't.
The raised fourth in the Hungarian minor scale makes a world of difference and adds brightness to the scale that is not found in the harmonic scale.
A raised fourth adds drama to a song, making the melody exciting and often more entertaining.
Both of these scales sound like they perfectly fit the Egyptian, gypsy, and South Indian music world, which is why they are often confused.
The second and third notes in the scale are what make them different. While the Hungarian minor has a major second and a minor third, the double harmonic major scale features a lowered second and a major third.
The Hungarian minor scale sounds more sinister and dark compared to the double harmonic major scale.
I used to think that Dick Dale & The Del Tones' "Misirlou" was in Hungarian minor, aka double harmonic minor, but it's more bright and fun than that and features the double harmonic major scale instead. It sounds pretty close and often gets confused!
It's quite difficult to make a song completely in the Hungarian harmonic minor scale.
This is why most examples you'll find that feature this scale will often change to new tonal ideas in other parts of the song that singers and instrumentalists can work with easier.
For example, while "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony has that riff, the singers use a regular minor scale and a harmonic minor scale in other sections of the track.
While using the key of C for this scale, the triad for the root of the chord is simple enough with a C minor chord.
The supertonic chord is a DMb5 Chord, which is where it already gets complicated. The mediant triad is an Eb augmented chord, which is a bit more simple but complicated at the same time.
The 5th chord is a simple G major, and the 6th is a simple A major chord. The subtonic triad is also a simple B minor chord.
So what is the subdominant triad? Well, if you throw an Eb in there on top, it would be A G#7 chord. But it doesn't sound anywhere near major without that Eb!
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