Introduction to Minor Scales

This lesson will help you understand natural minor scales and how they relate to major scales.

Introduction to Minor Scales
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Scales in Western music can be divided into two categories: major and minor. Major scales are associated with a happy feeling while minor scales are associated with a sad feeling.

At this point lets divide the minor scales in 3. The natural minor, the harmonic minor and the melodic minor. This lesson is about natural minor scales. Major scales were introduced in the previous lesson that can be found here.

Assuming that you understood the major scales, you should know how to spell major scales. Also, that the formula of all major scales is as follows:

Figure 1: Major Scale Spelling

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Thus, the C major scale would be the following:

Figure 2: C Major Scale

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C
To achieve the spelling of a minor scale one should start from the major scale, then apply the following formula:

Figure 3: Natural Minor Scale Spelling

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
Thus, the C natural minor scale would be the following:

Figure 4: C Natural Minor Scale

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
C D bE F G bA bB C
Note that as described for major scales applies to minor scales, no irregular repetition as should be present in the scales as described in the previous lesson in Figure 5: correct and incorrect scales.

Figure 5: Correct and Incorrect Scales

D E Gb G A B C# D - incorrect G is repeated and F is not included.

D E F# G A B C# D - correct as it complies with TTSTTTS and all letters are there with no irregular repetition.

Furthermore, each minor scale has a relative major scale that has the same key signature (same accidentals that are sharps or flats). This relationship can be used as an alternative method to obtain the spelling of a minor scale.

The following is an example to picture this relationship.

Figure 6: A Major Scale

1 2 3  4 5 6  7  8
A B C# D E F# G# A
Now from the major scale let us obtain the minor equivalent.

Figure 7: A Natural Minor Scale

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
A B C D E F G A
In Figure 7, the spelling of the A natural minor scale is described. Note that if it is compared to the C major scale, one can notice that they are the same. Thus, the C major and A minor scales are relative scales.

By comparing the A minor scale in Figure 7: A natural minor scale to Figure 4: C major scale, one can notice that the minor relative of any major scale is the 6 note in the spelling. Similarly, the major relative of any minor scale is the b3.

From Figure 8 one can notice that these relative scales are three (3) semitones apart.

Figure 8: The 12 Notes in Western Music

| | C# | | D# | | | F# | | G# | | A# | | |
| C | | D | | E | F | | G | | A | | B | C |
| | Db | | Eb | | | Gb | | Ab | | Bb | | |
(where # means sharp and b means flat)

The following are a number of scales you can work out to exercise this:

Figure 9: Minor Sharp Scales

Number    | Root | Scale                   | Sharps
of sharps | note | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 |
0 | A | A B C D E F G A |
1 | E | E F# G A B C D E | F#
2 | B | B C# D E F# G A B | F#, C#
3 | F# | F# G# A B C# D E F# | F#, C#, G#
4 | C# | C# D# E F# G# A B C# | F#, C#, G#, D#
5 | G# | G# A# B C# D# E F# G# | F#, C#, G#, D#, A#
6 | D# | D# E# F# G# A# B C# D# | F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#
7 | A# | A# B# C# D# E# F# G# A# | F#, C#, G#, D#, A# E#, B#

Figure 10: Minor Flat Scales

Number   | Root | Scale                   | Flats
of flats | note | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 |
0 | A | A B C D E F G A |
1 | D | D E F G A Bb C D | Bb
2 | G | G A Bb C D Eb F G | Bb, Eb
3 | C | C D Eb F G Ab Bb C | Bb, Eb, Ab
4 | F | F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F | Bb, Eb, Ab, Db
5 | Bb | Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb | Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb
6 | Eb | Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb | Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb
7 | Ab | Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab | Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb Cb, Fb
Other minor scales in theory exist but they would require double sharps or double flats. Otherwise they would work in the same fashion.

In this lesson I decided to exclude the other method of spelling major scales. This shall be introduced later on. The next lesson should be about harmonic and melodic minor scales.

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