We’ve had a look at major scales and how they are made. We did touch on how they can also be used to make minor scales too, by starting on the 6th scale degree of a major scale. This way is do-able but a little bit long winded, so to work out a natural minor scale we use a pattern that is very similar to the major scale pattern.
If we look at our major scale pattern:
W W H W W W H
And we start the same pattern on the 6th interval:
W W H W W W H
We get this pattern:
W H W W H W W
And that is how we work out the natural minor scale for any note! If we look at the G minor scale it would look something like this:
G (+W) A (+H) Bb (+W) C (+W) D (+H) Eb (+W) F (+W) G
G - A - Bb - C - D - Eb - F - G
Side note: We wouldn’t use sharps because we would be repeating the same note (G - A - A# - C - D - D#…) making it quite difficult to read, which is why we use sharps and flats!
Natural Minor Scale
Root M2 m3 P4 P5 m6 m7 Oct.
W H W W H W W Whole/Half steps
2 1 2 2 1 2 semi-tones between intervals
2 3 5 7 8 10 semi-tones from root note
[insert sound clip of natural minor scale]
The natural minor scale sounds darker than a major scale and can be used to sound sad and dark, but it is still quite close to a major scale because it uses the same notes as it’s relative major scale. To make sure we get a darker sound, we have 2 other scales that we can use. The most common one you will see in a lot of Rock and Metal sounds is the harmonic minor scale.
Harmonic Minor Scale
Root M2 m3 P4 P5 m6 M7 Oct.
W H W W H W+H H Whole/Half steps
2 1 2 2 1 3 semi-tones between intervals
2 3 5 7 8 11 semi-tones from root note
[insert sound clip or harmonic minor scale]
The reason this one sounds a lot darker than the others is that the 7th scale degree is moved up a semi-tone. This makes it that note sound closer to the root note and feels like it wants to resolve to the root note and causes a lot more tension. When we hear this we naturally think it sounds a lot darker. If you like a lot of Metal and Rock, this is a very important thing to learn!
Melodic Minor Scale (ascending)
Root M2 m3 P4 P5 M6 M7 Oct.
W H W W W W H Whole/Half steps
2 1 2 2 2 2 semi-tones between intervals
2 3 5 7 9 11 semi-tones from root note
Melodic Minor Scale (descending)
Oct. m7 m6 P5 P4 m3 M2 Root
W W H W W H W Whole/Half steps
2 2 1 2 2 1 semi-tones between intervals
2 4 5 7 9 10 semi-tones from root note
[insert sound clip of melodic minor scale ascending and descending]
The melodic minor scale is not as common as it used to be in classical music. It is almost like a mix between harmonic minor and natural, and you’ll see what I mean in a second.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is that it is has an ascending and a descending pattern. When we go up, we play the same pattern as the harmonic minor scale but we sharpen the 6th scale degree. This makes it a little happier than a harmonic minor scale, but when we go down we play the natural minor scale, which stops the sound being happy, giving us the minor scale sound.
These scales will take a little bit of time to get used to and it is a lot to take in, so start with the patterns and the fret diagrams and get used to the sound, find out which ones you like and make us some melodies that are awesome. When you start playing them and understanding what they sound like, you can use them in your own solos and playing and get the right sound for what you want.