Minor scales

We'll start by looking at the natural minor scale (which we saw in an intro to scales).
The natural minor scale contains the tones:
A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A (in that order).
The scale is also called pure minor, the aeolian mode, and commonly "The minor scale".

If we analyze the step pattern, we find:

A  B   C  D  E   F  G  A
 W  1/2 W  W  1/2 W  W  

Analyzing for intervals we find:
minor scale = 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8.

We note that the natural minor scale and natural major scale contain the same tones (in different orders).

A B C D E F G A 

We say that these scales are related to each other, and in this fashion the natural minor scale is the "relative minor" of the natural major scale.

To find the relative minor scale (of a major scale), find the 6th step of the major scale and start there.
ex. C D E F G A B C (C major)
A is the 6th degree, and is there from the relative minor (A minor is the relative minor of C major).

We also have Parallel Major and minor scales. Parallel scales start on the same pitch/tone.
A-major: A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A
A-minor: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A

A major and A minor are parallel scales.

So giving definitions for the minor scale we have the following:
minor scale = 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8
minor scale = Tonic,M2,m3,P4,P5,m6,m7,P8
Minor scale = W-1/2-W-W-1/2-W-W
minor scale = La,Ti,Do,Re,Mi,Fa,Sol,La
minor scale = A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A (in key of Am)

and written in standard notation:

|                         |
|                         |
|                      O  |
|                O        |

   W  1/2 W  W  1/2 W  W 

The 12 minor scales (by key) are:

Key of Am: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A
Key of Bm: B,C#,D,E,F#,G,A,B
Key of C#m: C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A,B,C#
Key of Dm: D,E,F,G,A,Bb,C,D
Key of Em: E,F#,G,A,B,C,D,E
Key of F#m: F#,G#,A,B,C#,D,E,F#
Key of G#m: G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E,F#,G#
Key of Gm: G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G
Key of Bbm: Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb
Key of Cm: C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C
Key of Ebm: Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,Eb
Key of Fm: F,G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F

Some other variations on the minor scale on the minor scale are commonly heard, they are scales in their own right, but are often used as substitutes for the minor scale and will briefly look at them now.

The minor scale (natural)

A  B   C  D  E   F  G  A
 W  1/2 W  W  1/2 W  W 
1  2  b3  4  5  b6 b7  8

The harmonic minor scale has the 7th degree raised.
The harmonic minor scale

A  B   C  D  E   F  G#  A
 W  1/2 W  W  1/2 m3  1/2 
1  2  b3  4  5  b6  7   8

The melodic minor has the same structure as the harmonic minor except that the 6th degree is raised (when ascending only, not when descending). If the scale is played the same both ascending and descending, we refer to it as the jazz minor scale.

The melodic minor (jazz minor) scale

A  B   C  D  E  F#  G#  A
 W  1/2 W  W  W   W  1/2 
1  2  b3  4  5  6   7   8

The Gypsy minor scale (or oriental minor) has the same structure as the harmonic minor scale except the 4th is raised also.

The Gypsy minor scale

A  B   C  D#   E    F  G#  A
 W  1/2 m3  1/2  1/2 m3  1/2 
1  2  b3  #4   5   b6  7   8

Next lesson is on the key Signatures.

Christopher Roberts


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Last updated April 3, 2003
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