Understanding Minor Scales

The two minor scales most commonly in use in contemporary music are the pure minor and the harmonic minor - the melodic minor is not used as much now and therefore is not dealt with in this book.

The pattern of intervals for the pure minor (also called the natural minor or Aeolian mode) is as follows:

Minor Scale Intervals

Just for your information, minor scales have a different pattern of intervals from major scales. That's why they have a different feel. However, unlike the major scale, there is more than one kind of minor scale and the pattern of intervals depends on which minor scale you are talking about.

For instance, in the key of A minor:

Minor Scale Intervals in A minor

You will notice that the notes in the A natural minor are exactly the same as those in the key of C major. Because of that, they are called relatives. In other words, the relative minor of C major is A minor, and the relative major of A minor is C major. In written music, relatives share the same key signature so that in fact, any given key signature can indicate that the music is written in a major key or its relative minor. Here is a chart with relative majors and minors:

Relative Major & Minors

The notes in the harmonic minor are exactly the same as the natural minor, except that the leading note (number 7) is sharpened. The pattern of intervals for the harmonic minor is as follows:

Harmonic Minor Intervals

For instance, in the key of A minor:

Harmonic Minor - A minor

It's easy to work out the relative minor of any given major scale. All relative minors take their name from the sixth degree of the major scale. For instance, to find the relative minor of G major, find the sixth degree, which is E. That means that E minor is the relative minor of G major.

Understanding Scales | Understanding Chord Structure | Understanding Diatonic Chords | Understanding Minor Scales | Diatonic Chords in Minor Keys | Scale Degree Names | Chord Substitution - Extended Chords | Chord Substitution - Overlapping Chords | Improvisation - Arpeggios | Improvisation - Major Scales | Improvisation - Pentatonic Scales | Improvisation - Blues Scales