The Minor Scale
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The Minor Scale

Although the major scale is much the most common type of scale used in Western music, it is by no means the only one. Also in common use is the MINOR Scale.

Although the major scale is much the most common type of scale used in Western music, it is by no means the only one. Also in common use is the minor scale.

So what exactly does minor mean in this context? You're already come across some minor chords, and so know that the difference between a major and its minor equivalent is that it has a completely different character. Although the comparison may be superficial, you can think of the difference between music written in major and minor keys as being rather like the difference between a sound that is happy and one that is sad. Generally speaking, music with a melancholy flavour will have been written in a minor key: a good symbolic of this difference can be heard in the contrast between the joyful "Wedding March" (major key) and the mournful "Funeral March" (minor key).

Unlike the major scale, in which the pattern of intervals always remains the same, there are three different types of minor scale, each of which has its own subtly different characteristics. The three minor scales are the natural minor (sometmes also known as the relative minor), the harmonic minor, and the melodic minor.

All three minor scales have one common difference from a major scale in that the third degree is always flattened by a semitone. The differences among the three minor scales revolve around movements of the sixth and and seventh degrees.

The Natural Minor

The natural minor scale is the most common of the three minor scales. The pattern of intervals between the notes that define the natural minor scale are:

Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone

So in the key of C, the notes in the natural minor scale are C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb and C.

Here is the set of notes and intervals. I'm sorry i forgot to put the sharps. In that case, just add a semitone for every sharps or flats that's missing. :)

Harmonic Minor Scale

The Harmonic Minor Scale differs from the natural minor in that the sixth degree is SHARPENED. This means thats it's raised by a semitone. The pattern of intervals required to create the scale are:

Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone + Semitone - Semitone

In the key of C the notes used are C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B and C. By sharpening the seventh degree, the interval between the sixth and seventh degrees is one of three semitones.

Here is a picture for the harmonic minor scale notation:

Melodic Minor Scale

One of the problems faced when working with the harmonic scale is in the "difficult" pitch interval of three semitones betweent the sixth and seventh degrees. To make this more musically palatable, the submediant(the sixth degree) can be raised by a semitone to create what is called melodic minor scale.

The pattern of intervals that defines a melodic minor scale are:

Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone

The notes in the key of C are: C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B and C.

You cannot use one finger per fret, so the 1st finger alone must cover the 6th and 7th frets. The melodic minor scale is unique in that it can only be played when ascending the scale. When descending, the sharpened sixth and seventh degrees can sound awkward, so to resolve the problem we revert to the notes of the natural minor.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments (3)

I had heaps of trouble learing my Major and minor scales, high F and low B and all combinations of them, so confusing.

what do you mean high F and low B? do you refer to the root chords?

Very good article. I wish I could give you a vote but I am out today.