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How to form a natural minor scale

First of all, why do I say ‘natural minor scale’, and not simply ‘minor scale’ (I also called a major scale just ‘major scale’ without any other specification)?

This is, because there exists only one type of major scales, but there are 3 types of minor scales:

  • the natural minor scale
  • the harmonic minor scale
  • the melodic minor scale

In this lesson, we talk only about the natural minor scale, in another lesson, I will talk about the other 2 minor scales.

The natural minor scale

When you know how to form a major scale, it’s very simple to form a natural minor scale. Before telling you the general rule, let me first show you this with an example:

In this example I will show you how to form the A natural minor scale. Well, as I promised, it’s very simple: the notes of the A natural minor scale are exactly the same as the notes of the C major scale, so only the white keys on the piano.

So the A natural minor scale is:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A

The only difference is the starting note, the root: A natural minor starts on an A, where C major starts on a C. And that’s all! Simple, isn’t it?

Since A natural minor and C major share the same scale (only another starting note), we say that ‘A minor is the relative minor of C major’ and ‘C major is the relative major of A minor’.

Now, every minor scale has its relative major scale, so the question now is: “How to find out which relative major scale belongs to a natural minor scale?”

Well, when you look at A minor/C major, you see that from A, when you go up a minor 3rd, you arrive at C.

So, when you want to find out –for example- what the C natural minor scale is, you have to go up a minor 3rd from C. A minor 3rd up from C brings us to Eb.

Eb major is the relative major of C minor and so they share the same scale. This means that the C natural minor scale is:

C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C

The other natural minor scales

As an exercise, you could now try to find out all the other natural minor scales. The best way to start is perhaps with our list of major scales. Then start with a certain major scale, find its relative minor, and start on the root of that relative minor scale and you’re done.

For example: start with the Db major scale. What’s the relative minor of Db major? Well, now you have to go down a minor 3rd!

A minor 3rd (3 semitones) down takes us to Bb (not A#, because in the scale of Db, it’s a Bb).

Another way to find the relative minor of a major scale is to look at the 6th note in the major scale: remember that the relative minor of C major was A minor. Well, A is the 6th note in the scale of C major.

OK, try to see if you can find the other natural minor scales. You will find the solutions just here below:

Tables with all the natural minor scales

First, the table with sharps:

Major scale Relative minor Natural minor scale Number of sharps
C Am A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A 0
G Em E  F#  G  A  B  C  D  E 1
D Bm B  C#  D  E  F#  G  A  B 2
A F#m F#  G#  A  B  C#  D  E  F# 3
E C#m C#   D#  E  F#  G#  A  B  C# 4
B G#m G#  A#  B  C#  D#  E  F#  G# 5
F# D#m D#  E#  F#  G#  A#  B  C#  D# 6

Followed by the table with flats:

Major scale Relative minor Natural minor scale Number of flats
C Am A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A 0
F Dm D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C  D 1
Bb Gm G  A  Bb  C  D  Eb  F  G 2
Eb Cm C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C 3
Ab Fm F  G  Ab  Bb  C  Db  Eb  F 4
Db Bbm Bb  C  Db  Eb  F  Gb  Ab  Bb 5
Gb Ebm Eb  F  Gb  Ab  Bb  Cb  Db  Eb 6

 

Notice that the D# natural minor scale (6 sharps) and the Eb natural minor scale (6 flats) are the same scales, only written differently (they are enharmonic equivalent).

 

Now, it’s important to practice the natural minor scales. I advice you to do the exercise below.

Place the notes of a natural minor scale on the piano

 

Please tell us what you think of the natural minor scale lesson and the exercise by leaving a comment below.

 

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Martin Cohen
 

Martin Cohen is a science and piano teacher. He is also a jazz musician and composer.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Ali - March 24, 2019

the best stuff about kinds of minor scales ive ever read. thanks Martin

Reply
    Martin Cohen - March 26, 2019

    Thank you, Ali 🙂

    Reply

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