Neapolitan minor scale

Recall that we defined scale as:
a group of notes within an octave (and any octaves of those notes) usually played one at a time.

We can describe (define) a scale in any of these ways:
- by letters (representing specific pitches)
- by numbers (representing specific intervals)
- by step pattern (describing intervals from note to note)

So for example the major scale (ionian mode) can be described/ defined as/by: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C (in the key of C), 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and W-W-1/2-W-W-W-1/2.

We define a minor scale as a scale containing the notes (intervals) 1,b3,5.
(In other words, using the notes in the scale we can construct a minor chord off the root note)

From either Neapolitan minor = 1/2-W-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2, or A-Nea.Minor = A-Bb-C-D-E-F-G#-A we can find the intervals (from the root note) to be 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,7.

Looking at the numbers, we can deduce that the neapolitan minor scale is a minor scale (not THE minor scale everyone talks about - that would the aeolian mode, but a minor scale none-the-less). that is, it contains the notes 1,b3,5.

We also note that it is similar to THE neapolitan (major) scale. The neapolitan major scale has the intervals 1,b2,b3,4,5,6,7; and the Neapolitan minor scale has the intervals 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,7. So we could view the neapolitan minor scale as a neapolitan major scale with a minor sixth (a minor sixth in place of a major sixth). We also note that it is very similar to the harmonic minor scale. The harmonic minor scale has the intervals 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7; and the Neapolitan minor scale has the intervals 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,7. So we could view the neapolitan minor scale as an Harmonic minor scale with a minor second.We can use this idea as a stepping stone to learning the scale. If you already know the Harmonic minor scale, then you could play those patterns , replacing the 2 with the b2. This idea of thinking of one scale as being another scale with altered notes (e.g. ionianb7, lydianb7, etc.) or with missing notes (e.g. pentatonic major, etc.) occurs from time to time, and may give some perspective/context/comfort in learning new scales. So we could think of Nea.min. as Harm.Min.b2, etc. if we wanted to.

So lets look at some patterns (moveable shapes) with which we can play the Neapolitan minor scale.

|-1|b2|--|b3|--|-4|--|-5|b6|--|--|-7|-1|
|-5|b6|--|--|-7|-1|b2|--|b3|--|-4|--|-5|
|b3|--|-4|--|-5|b6|--|--|-7|-1|b2|--|b3|
|--|-7|-1|b2|--|b3|--|-4|--|-5|b6|--|--|
|-4|--|-5|b6|--|--|-7|-1|b2|--|b3|--|-4|
|-1|b2|--|b3|--|-4|--|-5|b6|--|--|-7|-1|

Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|---|-7-|-1-|b2-|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-7-|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|

Neapolitan minor scale "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|---|---|-7-|-1-|b2-|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|---|
|-7-|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|---|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|---|
|b2-|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|

Neapolitan minor scale "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|---|-7-|
|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|---|-7-|-1-|b2-|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|

Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|-4-|
|---|---|-7-|-1-|b2-|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|

Neapolitan minor scale "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|---|-7-|-1-|---|
|---|---|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|---|
|-5-|b6-|---|---|-7-|
|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|---|-7-|-1-|b2-|

We recall, that we can derive chords by harmonizing scales. We've previously harmonized the major scale in thirds to get triads, and seventh chords (see August 19th's, and august 16th's lessons)

two adjacent strings:
Seperated by a P4

|---|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|-7-|-1-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|---|

seperated by a M3

|---|---|---|-5-|b6-|---|---|-7-|-1-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|---|-4-|---|---|---|

We found for the minor scale (aeolian mode) The following triads:
i-iio-bIII-iv-v-bVI-bVII
and for the harmonic minor scale
i-iio-bIII+-iv-V-bVI-viio

We can create "neapolitan minor scale" progressions. Doing so will give us a framework to analyze songs, and find good opportunities to employ the neapolitan minor scale. it's also good practice for songwriting, etc.

We see above the following chords for neapolitan minor:
in triads: i-bII-bIII+-iv-Vb5-VI-viiosus2
in 7th chords: imaj7-bIImaj7-bIII7+5-iv7-V7b5-VI7-vii6b5sus2
in 9th chords: imaj7b9-bIImaj9-bIII9+5-iv9-V7b9b5-VI7#9-vii6b9b5sus2
in 11th chords: imaj11b9-bIImaj9#11-bIII11#5-iv9#11-V11b9b5-VI11#9-vii6b11b9b5sus2
in 13th chords: imaj11b13b9-bIImaj9#13#11-bIII13#5-iv9b13#11-V11b13b9b5-VI13#9-vii6b13b11b9b5sus2

So we could take any of the chords in the above paragraph and create a neapolitan minor progression out of it. We really should include some type of I chord (i, imaj7, imaj7sus4, imaj7#9, etc.) and it should be the predominant chord in our progression, with a feeling of resolution when we come back to it.

Take a minute to compare and contrast the chords from the neapolitan minor, and Neapolitan scales.
Neapolitan minor = i-bII-bIII+-iv-Vb5-VI-viiosus2
Neapolitan = i-bII+-bIII+-IV-Vb5-vio-viiosus2

They share the following chords (triads) in common: i,bIII,Vb5,viiosus2.
Creating a progression using only these chords would be slightly ambiguous, and could be interpreted as either neapolitan or neapolitan minor. In fact, such a progression would be a good one to record (or have a friend play) and solo over to uderstand the subtle differences between neapolitan and neapolitan minors (try switching from i-neapolitan to i-nea.min. and back, etc. over such a progression and see what different moods are created).

If on the other hand, you want to create a progression that has a more neapolitan minor character, you should include at least one of the other 3 chords (bII,iv,VI) not found in neapolitan.

Where/when does one usually decide to use neapolitan?
- some would use it over the i7 chord in the minor scale/key context (play i-neapolitan minor over i7)
- over several chords that fit within a neapolitan minor context (see above chords for neapolitan minor). ex. over Am-Dm-E(b5) (i-iv-Vb5) you could play A-neapolitan minor.
- over a related modal progression, use the relative neapolitan minor scale.

We can increase our familiarity by singing every note as we practice our scales/soloing. In previous lessons on scales i've given some basic pointers on starting to solo. Those things transfer here too. Just replace the scale in question with the neapolitan minor scale (see lessons from May 24th, june 7th, july 5th, and august 2nd).We take a brief look at the modes of the Neapolitan minor scale. If you're not sure what modes are how to find them, how to use them, etc. Go back to the lessons on modes and come back to this part of the lesson when you've fully understood those concepts. For those who are up to speed, the following is a brief summary of the modes of the Neapolitan minor scale, and an opportunity to put you're knowledge of scales and modes to the test. Homework at bottom, but also take one of these scales and go through the "create your own scale lesson" excercise.

Modes of the Neapolitan Minor scale

Neapolitan minor = 1/2-W-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2 = 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,7
= W-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2 = 1,2,3,#4,5,b7,7
= W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W = 1,2,3,4,#5,6,b7
Hungarian Gypsy = W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W-W = 1,2,b3,#4,5,b6,b7
= 1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W-W-W = 1,b2,3,4,b5,b6,b7
= m3-1/2-1/2-W-W-W-1/2 = 1,#2,3,4,5,6,7
= 1/2-1/2-W-W-W-1/2-m3 = 1,b2,2,3,#4,#5,6

2nd mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern W-W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2
and the intervals 1,2,3,#4,5,b7,7.
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
I-II+-iii-#IVb5-Vo-bviiosus2-vii

2nd mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|#4-|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|-2-|---|-3-|---|---|
|---|b7-|-7-|-1-|---|
|-3-|---|#4-|-5-|---|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|---|

2nd mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|#4-|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|---|
|---|b7-|-7-|-1-|---|
|-3-|---|#4-|-5-|---|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|#4-|-5-|---|---|b7-|

3rd mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern W-W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W
and the intervals 1,2,3,4,#5,6,b7.
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
I+-ii-IIIb5-IVo-#vosus2-vi-bVII

3rd mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|---|---|#5-|-6-|b7-|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|---|#5-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|

3rd mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|---|#5-|-6-|b7-|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|---|#5-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|---|---|#5-|-6-|b7-|

4th mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern W-1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W-W
and the intervals 1,2,b3,#4,5,b6,b7.
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
i-IIb5-bIIIo-#ivosus2-v-bVI-bVII+

4th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|#4-|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|---|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|#4-|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|

4th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|#4-|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|---|-2-|b3-|---|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|#4-|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|#4-|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|

5th mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern 1/2-m3-1/2-1/2-W-W-W
and the intervals 1,b2,3,4,b5,b6,b7.
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
i-IIb5-bIIIo-#ivosus2-v-bVI-bVII+

5th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|
|b5-|---|b6-|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|b5-|---|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|

5th mode of the Neapolitan scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|b5-|---|b6-|---|b7-|
|---|---|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|-4-|b5-|---|b6-|
|---|-1-|b2-|---|---|
|b5-|---|b6-|---|b7-|

6th mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern m3-1/2-1/2-W-W-W-1/2
and the intervals 1,#2,3,4,5,6,7.
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
Ib5-#IIo-iiiosus2-iv-V-VI+-vii

6th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|---|#2-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|#2-|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-1-|---|---|#2-|

6th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|---|#2-|-3-|-4-|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-1-|---|---|#2-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|

7th mode of Neapolitan minor scale
has the step pattern 1/2-1/2-W-W-W-1/2-m3
and the intervals 1,b2,2,3,#4,#5,6
can be harmonized to give the following triads:
Io-biiosus2-ii-III-#IV+-#v-VIb5

7th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|b2-|-2-|---|
|#4-|---|#5-|-6-|---|
|-2-|---|-3-|---|---|
|-6-|---|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|---|#4-|---|#5-|
|---|-1-|b2-|-2-|---|

7th mode of the Neapolitan minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|#4-|---|#5-|-6-|---|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|---|
|-6-|---|---|-1-|b2-|
|-3-|---|#4-|---|#5-|
|---|-1-|b2-|-2-|---|
|#4-|---|#5-|-6-|---|

Next weeks lesson is on the Persian scale.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

Back to the Scale lessons index
Next lesson - Persian scale
Previous lesson - Neapolitan Scale
Home


Last updated April 1, 2004
Copyright 2004, 2008. All rights reserved.