Today’s blog post is going to help us understand how to figure out minor scales. There are a few different ways to think about this process, and this post will focus on one method: figuring out minor scales by starting with its parallel major scale. Scales are parallel if they have the same root note (the first note of the scale). For example, C Major and C Minor are parallel because they both start and end on C. This method should be easy if you already know some (or all!) of your major scales.
There are three types of minor scales:
- Natural Minor
- Harmonic Minor
- Melodic Minor
The example below starts with the key of C. It’s an easy key to manipulate since there are no sharps or flats in C Major.
The first step is converting major to natural minor. We do this by lowering the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes of the scale by one half step. When lowering by a half step, naturals become flats (and sharps become naturals). Play C Major and C Natural Minor on your instrument, and you’ll immediately be able to hear the difference in musical flavor between major and minor.
The second step is converting major to harmonic minor. For this scale, only lower the 3rd and 6th notes. The 7th is not lowered.
The third step is converting major to melodic minor. This type of minor scale uses different pitches when ascending and descending. Only lower the 3rd note when ascending (6th and 7th notes stay the same as major). When descending, lower the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes.
The example below shows this process in two different keys: C and A.
I suggest starting with one or two easy keys to get used to the process of lowering notes and become familiar with the sound of each type of minor scale. After that, challenge yourself to learn as many of the 12 keys as possible!