Minor Scales - Natural Minor

There are several different versions of the minor scale: natural (or modal) minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. The latter are really variations of the natural minor scale, so we will consider that version first.

The natural minor scale uses the same pattern of whole and half steps as the major scale, but begins in a different place in the sequence. To put it another way, if you play a major scale, but begin and end on the 6th scale degree, you will find yourself playing a natural minor scale. Our first example of a minor scale will be the A minor scale because it uses only the white keys on the piano (like the C major scale), but the pattern of whole and half steps is the same in all 12 minor scales.

piano keyboard
Major Scale: W W h W W W h
Natural Minor Scale: W h W W h W W

Minor Scale

A minor scale with note names and whole and half steps

Since scale degree 7 is a whole step below the tonic note, it is called the subtonic. When it is raised by a half step so that it is only a half step below the tonic (which happens in the melodic minor version of hte scale), then it is called the leading tone just as the 7th scale degree of a major scale is a leading tone.

Relative and Parallel Scales

The C major and A minor scales share the same collection of pitches. They are therefore considered to be relative scales. For example:

C major: C D E F G A B C
A natural minor: A B C D E F G A

B-flat major: B-flat C D E-flat F G A B-flat
G natural minor: G A B-flat C D E-flat F G

But there is another way that scales can be related to each other. Major and minor scales are considered parallel if they share the same tonic. In these cases, the two scales will not share the same collection of pitches: the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees will differ. For example:

Scale Degree: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
C major: C D E F G A B C
C natural minor: C D E-flat F G A-flat B-flat C

Scale Degree: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
B-flat major: B-flat C D E-flat F G A B-flat
B-flat natural minor: B-flat C D-flat E-flat F G-flat A-flat B-flat

"Music is nothing else but wild sounds civilized into time and tune." - Thomas Fuller

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley

"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe." - Lao Tzu

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Ludwig van Beethoven

"Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue." - Plato

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

"Music is nothing else but wild sounds civilized into time and tune." - Thomas Fuller

Copyright © Sienna M. Wood, 2015-2016

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