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By Rhys Lett

Minor Scales – Music Theory Made Easy

There are three minor scales to learn. They are created like this:

Natural Minor – built from 6th note of major scale.

Harmonic Minor – natural minor with #7

Melodic Minor – natural minor with #6 and #7

When listening to these scales try hear the difference. By altering one note the mood is changed.

The differences in these scales have developed through history. As our music system changed what was expected from the function of this sadder sounding scale developed.

minor

This guy in never using a major scale to compose any of his music. Yngwie Malmsteen and other metal guitarists rely on the dark sounds of these scales.

NATURAL MINOR

The more commonly used in pop and rock music. It has a smooth mellow sound.

This scale is apart of the major scale mode system as it is built off the 6th note of the major scale. Every major scale has a minor scale partner. For example the notes of G major are exactly the same as E minor.

G major scale – G A B C D E F# G

E natural minor – E F# G A B C D E

If we took the notes of each of these scales, placed them in a bag and shook them up, you would have the same thing in each bag. This is what we refer to as relative. They are related to each other. They share the same make up. They share the same key signature.

You can use any information you are familiar with from major scale and apply it to the natural.

HARMONIC MINOR

To create this scale, take the same notes as the natural and raise the 7th note of the scale by one semitone. This scale is noted for its arabic sound. When comparing the scales we get these notes:

E natural minor – E F# G A B C D E

E Harmonic minor – E F# G A C D E

When writing the harmonic minor scale on notation, we do not put the sharp or flat from the 7th note in the key signature.

This scale was created as there was the desire to make the last note of the scale have a stronger need to resolve to the tonic (first note of the scale). This further creates a resolving quality in the chords. The dominant chord is now created in the fifth chord of the scale. This enhances the pull towards the first note or chord of the scale.

Heavy metal acts will used this scale for its darker sound. Listen to guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhodes. There is a very traditional classical sound to their music due to the use of this scale.

MELODIC MINOR

A problem singers had with the introduction of the harmonic minor scale created the need for the melodic. Singers we not happy with the tone and a half leap between note 6 and 7 of the harmonic minor. Thus the 6th note was raised in creating this scale.

Classical Melodic Minor

As this scale is essentially a major scale with the 3rd note lowered by one semitone. It does create less of a minor feel. To combat this, the scale was played differently according to whether it ascended or descended.

Classical Melodic Minor ascending – melodic minor, when descending play NATURAL MINOR.

Writing E melodic minor classical mode = E F# G A B C# D# E – D C B A G F# E

As classical compositions contain no improvisation it is fairly easy to play as notation is simply followed. The composer must remember this rule when creating in this scale.

Jazz Melodic Minor

As this scale is used to improvise with in jazz, players do not alter the scale when ascending and descending. It is used over dominant 7 chords and min/major 7 chords.

When writing the scale, sharps or flats on note 6 and 7 are not included in the key signature.

Uses

When wanting to create a sadder or darker mood use this sound as preference to major scales. These is  lot more scope for emotional depth. This is due to the choice of three variations of this sound. Major scale only has its one model.

The blues will often impose a pentatonic scale over its chord sequence of all dominant chords. The pentatonic has enough notes in common with the Mixolydian mode. Including the tritone into the pentatonic further enhances the blues quality.