Minor Scales


My teacher asked me to do G minor scales and I realize I need a refresher on what minor scales are.

Natural minor scales

major and natural minor scales

The natural minor scales are formed by following the "full tone, half tone, full tone, full tone, half tone, full tone, full tone", after the first note. It also sounds like singing in the parallel major scale, but instead of starting from the root note (C), start from the IV (A).

The natural minor scale (mode) is also called the Aeolian scale (mode).

Harmonic minor scales

The harmonic minor scales are constructed with the same notes from the natural minor scale except that the seventh degree is raised by one semitone.

harmonic minor scale construction

They are called the harmonic minor scales because many chords in their diatonic context are formed using these notes.

Melodic minor scales

The melodic minor scales are formed slightly differently in that they use different notes when ascending and descending. When ascending, the upper half (after the 4th) sounds like a major scale. When descending, they use the same notes as in the natural minor scales.

melodic minor scale construction

How they sound

Why do we (most often) have to play with either a major or a minor mode? To me it is along the lines of "colors". It is commonly shared that the majors are "brighter" and the majors are "darker" and "warmer".

There can be more nuances when we go into even more modes. Especially if we look into music of certain culture we might sing in a completely different mode and it gives a distinctive color, like this song.

Other modes

We must take this chance to learn that the Western major and minor modes are not all what there are in music. Before the Western music settled mainly to the major and minor modes, it has gone through various influences that brought in many other modes. Such examples are the Dorian mode (a minor mode with a major sixth), the Phrygian mode (a minor mode with a minor second), the Locrian mode (a minor third but not the perfect fifth), and probably more.

Jazz minor

The jazz minor scale is a derivative of the melodic minor scale, except only the ascending form of the scale is used. As the name implies, it is primarily used in jazz. It may be derived from the major scale with a minor third, making it a synthetic scale, and features a dominant seventh chord on the fifth degree (V) like the harmonic minor scale.

jazz minor scale

Hungarian minor

The Hungarian minor scale is similar to the harmonic minor scale but with a raised 4th degree. This scale is sometimes also referred to as "Gypsy Run", or alternatively "Egyptian Minor Scale".

To me the Hungarian minor scale sounds very symmetric. It uses the same progression on the lower half and the upper half. It shares an unstated connection with the exotic feeling of an Ottoman folk tune. What do I know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but I like its sound.