Minor Scales

 

The Minor Scale Patterns

There are three variations of minor scales: natural, harmonic, and melodic.
When you see mention of a minor scale, it is always the natural minor being referred to, unless otherwise stated.

Fortunately there is very little difference between all three of the minor scales and using the harmonic and melodic minors is advanced playing anyway, as a beginner you only need to learn the natural minor scales for now, you won't need the others yet, so you can breathe a sigh of relief!

If you have studied or memorized the circle of fifths already you will know that all Major scales have a relative natural minor scale that use exactly the same notes as the particular Major scale they relate to but start from a different root note, thus changing the 'tonality' of the scale.

The corresponding natural minor scale of any major key can be easily worked out by identifying the 6th scale degree or note from the major scale, this is the root or 'home' note of the corresponding minor scale

As an example

The C Major Scale uses the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B,

The sixth degree is an A note, so A Minor is the relative minor scale of C Major, conversely C Major is the relative Major scale of A minor.

To Change a Major Key to a Minor Key

Knowing the notes of the Major scales is also useful in other ways, let's say you decide you want to play something in the key of  C minor for example but you don't know the scale yet, and you are in the middle of a field somewhere (haha yes I know that's improbable, but you get my drift)

To transpose (change) the C Major scale to the C minor scale all you have to do is flatten the 3rd 6th and 7th notes of the C Major scale by one semitone each, which of course then changes the intervals between the notes of the Major, turning it into the minor.

Let's see an example of that in action:

The C Maj scale
C,D,E.F,G,A,B,C

Remember the Major scale intervals?
T-T-S-T-T-T-S (tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone)

Lets get flattening!

3rd note - E - flatten to Eb
6th note - A - flatten to Ab
7th note - B - flatten to Bb

We now have... C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C

Which are the notes of the C minor scale.

Obviously flattening those 3 degrees has changed the intervals between them
and the interval formula is now...

TSTTSTT
(tone-semitone-tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone)


You can always tell the difference between Major and minor keys if you recall that Major keys have a bright, happy sound but minor keys are sad sounding.


Relative Minor

Now if you picked up the sentence above where I said that "all Major scales have a relative natural minor scale that use exactly the same notes" you have made a small breakthrough in scale learning.

Because of this scale relationship, minor scales share the same key signature as their relative major scales and vice versa, understanding this concept will help you a lot when learning scales as once you know the major scales in all keys you'll also know all the relative minor scale notes.


Harmonic Minor

The harmonic minor scale is very similar to the natural minor scale, the only difference is that it does not have a lowered 7th scale degree, i.e. the 7th is the natural note.

Thus:

The C minor scale
C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C

for harmonic minor becomes

C Harmonic Minor Scale
C,D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

Notice the B note is now a natural B


The harmonic minor scale is commonly used in minor key chord progressions which you need not worry too much about yet as a beginner


Melodic Minor

The melodic minor scale, is unique in that it is a two-part scale, i.e. it is different when ascending that what it is when descending, seems weird and hugely complex, but it is actually very simple!

The melodic minor scale is easy to remember here's why...

Remember our trusty C Major Scale uses the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C - to get the ascending harmonic minor all we need do is flatten the 3rd scale degree of the Major scale, in this case E to Eb - that's it!

So the C Melodic minor is.

C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

Now when coming down or descending the harmonic minor scale all you have to do is play the same notes from the C natural minor scale which are:

C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C

The point of this second scale is to act as a leading tone, just for going down.

So all you need to remember is: going up is the Major scale with a flattened 3rd note, and going down is the natural minor notes.

The melodic minor scale is used extensively in Jazz and Funk music so don't worry about it too much at this stage unless you specifically want to learn those styles.