#1
This has taken me a while to think about and to type out, I know it's a lot, but I would appreciate it if you take the time to read the whole thing so that we can openly and intellectually discuss this topic.

So I have seen many people in many threads say that major keys have the same notes in them as their relative minor, but just start on a different note. Now no matter how much I think about it, it doesn't make any sense to me no matter how many people tell me this is right. Allow me to pose my argument and thoughts using the easy key of C major as a basis for the sake of example:

If you were to take C major, for example; it's relative minor is A minor. No problem there - everyone agrees so far. Now, from what I've seen on this forum, people will tell me that:
C major: C D E F G A B C
A minor: A B C D E F G A
thus recommending me the natural minor scale to use if I wanted to play in a minor key.
But really, all that you're actually doing is recommending me the A Aeolian mode.
Aeolian mode = natural minor scale
Now I would imagine that the same scale shares two different names because:
1) extensive/popular usage
2) it's the harmonic minor scale with a natural 7th (or rather, flattened) instead of a raised 7th, hence "natural minor"
3) it just turned out that way
A little bit off-topic. Anyway...

But really, the logic that states that something in the same key as C major can be both identical to and relative to completely baffles me. The definition of "relative" states that two things can be compared, but are not absolute, or identical - as far as my understanding goes. Whether you start the C major scale on A, B, C, D, E, F or G, the fact remains that you're still playing in the same key of C major. I would agree 100% percent that A Aeolian would give a more minor sound - that's to whole point of modes I recon, to give a different flavor to the same key - but this does not convince me that the natural minor it can be considered to be a relative minor.

"So what? If you say that the natural minor/Aeolian mode can't be a major key's relative minor, then what scale to you suggest would act as its relative minor?" one may ask.

My answer would be the harmonic minor scale.
A harmonic minor: A B C D E F G# A
Now this scale can most definitely be compared to C major by saying that it is just 1 note different: the raised 7th. Since it is not C major with a different root (a mode) and it is the scale with the closest relation to C major - I recon it is the perfect candidate for "relative minor status".

If I were to try to reverse this thinking of C major being relative to A natural minor and try and start the A harmonic minor scale starting on C, I would get an interesting vibe:
C D E F G# A B C
It most definitely not C major since it contains a G#: it is not absolutely C major. But C major is by far its closest relation. Is there a key that has one sharp in it...yes there is! But it's not G#. Therefore it will have to borrow the key of C major, but contain a G# as an accidental - the simplest way around it without having to completely alter to key system which just complicates things.
Same with the melodic minor which would contain an F# rather than an F natural.

Anyway. What really bothers me is that when someone asks what scale they should use to play in a minor key, people just shoot out the natural minor scale and seem to ignore the harmonic minor scale, not to mention the melodic minor scale. But, because I am a person who enjoys flavor, I would not hesitate to say that the natural minor/Aeolian mode, harmonic minor and melodic minor can be used in a key's relative minor interchangeably, but which one is THE absolute relative minor?

Discuss!
#2
Quote by UnmagicMushroom
but which one is THE absolute relative minor?



aeolian, it has the same notes therefore it is THE relative minor.


I don't quite understand your point.
#4
The natural minor is the relative minor, seeing that the very definition of relative scales is scales that SHARE THE SAME NOTES. This also has absolutely nothing to do with modes, they have no place in a discussion about the relasionship between minor and major keys.

Besides which the harmonic and melodic minor are only really contextual variations on the natural minor.

Sorry, but your tl/dr wall of text is utterly redundant.
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#6
Quote by steven seagull
the very definition of relative scales is scales that SHARE THE SAME KEY SIGNATURE..

fixed. there is a difference, even if you may not be aware of it.

Quote by steven seagull
Besides which the harmonic and melodic minor are only really contextual variations on the natural minor.

you talk about context yet you seem to have little knowledge of the context of terms like 'relative minor'. before the harmonic and melodic minor existed, there was no notion of a 'relative minor'. and why would there be? there were 5 other modes apart from ionian and aeolian. the dorian, phrygian and locrian also have a minor 3rd interval between the 1st and 3rd note. why should the aeolian be awarded such significance?
Last edited by korinaflyingv at Nov 7, 2011,
#7
Quote by griffRG7321
There is nothing to discuss.


DINGDINGDINGDING! We have a winner.

TS, your post just basically replaced an incorrect perception of what the relative minor is with an equally incorrect perception of what the relative minor is.
The truth: it is merely the minor key which shares a key signature with the major key in question. Minor KEY meaning a set of harmony, NOT a scale. The harmony can be taken from the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales. Although that's really backwards as the scales come from the harmony, not the other way around.
#8
jazzrock stole the words right from my mouth hole
Understand nothing, in order to learn everything.

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#9
You're arguing semantics.

Relative minor is natural minor. That's what those words mean. It doesn't matter what sort of argument you can come up with that something else makes more sense to you, or even to all of us (which you haven't done) - it simply doesn't matter.

What you're doing is essentially trying to come up with an argument that we should swap the words blue and green as far as what color they refer to. It doesn't matter how good an argument you can come up with, it's irrelevant. These are the words we use.
#10
For any major key there is a minor key with which it shares a key signature. Therefore, by definition, these two scales contain the same notes. They are the 'relative major' or 'relative minor' of each other.

C major and A minor are relative to each other in this way. They contain the same notes. What makes them different is the way the music is written to resolve to their respective tonics.
#11
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
DINGDINGDINGDING! We have a winner.

TS, your post just basically replaced an incorrect perception of what the relative minor is with an equally incorrect perception of what the relative minor is.
The truth: it is merely the minor key which shares a key signature with the major key in question. Minor KEY meaning a set of harmony, NOT a scale. The harmony can be taken from the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales. Although that's really backwards as the scales come from the harmony, not the other way around.

/thread
Si
#12
Quote by korinaflyingv
fixed. there is a difference, even if you may not be aware of it.


you talk about context yet you seem to have little knowledge of the context of terms like 'relative minor'. before the harmonic and melodic minor existed, there was no notion of a 'relative minor'. and why would there be? there were 5 other modes apart from ionian and aeolian. the dorian, phrygian and locrian also have a minor 3rd interval between the 1st and 3rd note. why should the aeolian be awarded such significance?

What went before isn't relevant, we aren't talking about modes here.
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#13
you are going about this in the opposite direction...

if you study modal music (circa 15th, 16th century - Palestrina and those other guys), you will see that it became kind of a common practice to raise the 7th in any modes which had a natural one, in order to create a leading tone... that's what led to the "creation" of the tonal system, the fact that the modes where losing their individuality.... and that's what led to the "creation" of the harmonic and melodic minor scales
#14
Quote by steven seagull
What went before isn't relevant, we aren't talking about modes here.

Except that we ARE talking about modes. The natural minor is a mode no matter what you call it. A piece based entirely around A natural minor is a modal piece of music. You can say it's in A minor, but to say it's in the relative minor of C major is completely redundant. The notion of the relative major/minor really only has any use at all when talking about music that modulates ie if a piece starts in C major and moves to A minor. And how do you know you've modulated when none of the notes have changed? A mere shift in focus is not enough to warrant calling it the 'relative minor'.
Sorry if this post is convoluted, I'm not the best at expressing my views. I just think people should understand the context, and more importantly, the PURPOSE of musical terms before spouting what they believe to be irrefutable fact on an internet forum. Music theory isn't just a set of facts whose purpose is to make one sound clever, there is actually reasoning behind it. And if you don't understand the reasoning, it's pretty difficult to understand how to apply the theory.
Quote by mrkeka
you are going about this in the opposite direction...

if you study modal music (circa 15th, 16th century - Palestrina and those other guys), you will see that it became kind of a common practice to raise the 7th in any modes which had a natural one, in order to create a leading tone... that's what led to the "creation" of the tonal system, the fact that the modes where losing their individuality.... and that's what led to the "creation" of the harmonic and melodic minor scales

This. The tonal system is entirely based around the semitone interval between the 7th and the tonic.
Last edited by korinaflyingv at Nov 8, 2011,
#15
I'd like to add this...

OP, you are talking about which scale should be THE "relative minor": natural, harmonic, or melodic. The best answer is none of them.
When you talk about the harmonic minor scale, it's a SCALE, not a KEY. I remember my music theory teacher laughing at me for a week straight because I kept trying to say that a piece was in "the key of A melodic minor". He finally got it through to me that the key is simply A minor. You can use the melodic minor, harmonic minor, or natural minor scale interchangeably when in the key of A minor, because they are just scale types based on the same key. Relative minor is simply the term used for the key that is based on the vi chord of a major scale. Whatever variation you want to use on that is fine, but it's NOT a different key. It still would resolve to an A minor chord, whether it had a raised 7th or not. It actually would resolve better in the harmonic minor scale, because you could use a major V chord...

Basically, I understand what you are saying. However, just because you play with no accidentals doesn't mean you're using the key of C major. It's about much more than notes in a scale, it's all about the harmony. If you played Am, Dm, Em, and back to Am, you wouldn't feel much like you were in C major. You'd feel A minor. The key is not determined by the accidentals, it's determined by the melody and the harmonies.
I remember with a different music theory teacher (I took it first with my choir teacher, then with my band teacher), he would give me a piece of music and have me analyze it without hearing what it sounded like. Too often I'd say "oh, this is in Eb major" and he'd tell me to look again at the chords. If it started on a Cm chord, chances are pretty good it's in C minor, and if it ends on a Cm chord, it's DEFINITELY C minor. The three flats don't make it major or minor, the melody and harmony do.

I guess my point is this: relative minor does not refer to the natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, or melodic minor scale. It refers to the key based upon the vi chord of the major scale, and can utilize any of those three scale types.