Minor Scales


Minor Scales

This tutorial will explain what a Minor Scale is and how it differs from a Major Scale.

As we learned in previous tutorials, a Major Scale is a series of notes spaced Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half.

Every Major Scale has a sister scale which we call the Relative Minor.

The Relative Minor is a scale which uses the same notes, but uses a different note as it’s starting pitch.


For example, in the key of C, the notes are

C D E F G A B C

If we start on A, but use the same notes, we get

A B C D E F G A

This gives us an A Minor scale which is the Relative Minor of C Major.

The rule is that the Relative Major is the scale that is formed by starting on the sixth degree of a Major Scale.

In the above example, the note A is the 6th degree of C major. Therefore A minor is the Relative Minor of C Major.

The Relative Minor can also be found by starting on C and going down a minor 3rd to A.

This has some interesting effects.

Because we are using a different starting note, we get a different pattern of whole steps and half steps.

Specifically, the pattern is:

W H W W H W W

This also means that we get different intervals with respect to the tonic, or starting note.

As compared to a Major Scale starting on A, the intervals are:

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1

The 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are flat relative to the starting pitch.

The net effect of this is that the minor scale sounds much sadder than the major scale.

There is another way to create a Minor Scale, called the Parallel Minor.

If we start with a C Major scale, but deliberately flatten the 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees, we get the Parallel Minor.

In the key of C, the parallel minor would be:

C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

C minor is the Parallel Minor of C Major.

We have learned two methods of creating a Minor Scale.

The first, called the Relative Minor, starts with a Major Scale but uses the 6th degree as a starting point.

The second, called the Parallel Minor, starts with a Major Scale and flattens the 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the construction of minor scales, fill out the worksheets below to test your knowledge.

Minor Scales Worksheet