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Music Theory:

Minor Scales

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In the last chapter, we learned the formula for the Major scale and we applied it to different roots to get different major scales but what would happen if we changed the order of the intervals? If we go back to the C Major scale and play all the notes starting from A, we will alter the sequence of intervals and this should give us a different kind of scale with a different sound. Let’s play it and check it out:



Can you hear the difference? Though the notes are the same, starting from a different place in the scale effectively alters the sound in a big way, we can hear that this is not a Major scale.

Let’s compare the intervals and their order in the two scales.


Major Scale


The first thing we notice is that the intervals between the second and the third degree are not the same and if we play the first and third degrees together we can hear how the sound is greatly affected. We learned in the Interval section that a two-tone interval is a Major Third while one tone and a half make up a minor Third so we could think that this interval is what gives a scale its major or minor characteristic and we could name the second scale A minor. In fact, the interval between the root and the third degree in both scales and chords is what determines their major or minor quality.

Now we can give a name to our new formula and we can use it to build any minor scale.


Minor Scale


If we start from D and apply the formula, we will have to introduce a B flat (not A#, we don’t want duplicate note names).



If you remember, in the last chapter we examined the F Major scale that used the very same notes:



As with the C Major/A minor couple, we have two scales that use the same notes but with a different sound, we will call them ‘relative scales’. This is very important because we can play two different scales (actually it’s seven, but more on that later) with the same scale shape on the guitar: for example, we can play an A minor scale at the fifth fret and a C Major scale in the same place just remembering that one starts with the index on the fifth (A) and the other with your pinky on the eighth (C).



We can find the relative minor scale of any Major scale three semi tones or three frets below its root and viceversa.


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