The Minor Scale Formula | Hub Guitar

The Minor Scale Formula

Previously, we learned about the musical alphabet and the major scale. The quality of the scale (major) is determined by the notes in it and their relationship to the tonicA word describing the tonal center of a piece of music, with other tones resolving to this note. of the scale. It follows that we could create many scales where “C” is the lowest note, because there are twelve notes and we can complete the scale with any other six. In fact, there are 462 possible “C” scales we could create using 7 notes in which the first one was “C”.

In reality, few of these combinations are used in music. Most music is based on either a major or minor scale, and these two scales are closely related.

To learn how scales and chords work, we need to understand what a “major scale” is, and what a “minor scale” is.

We may have to accept these two things at face value: our definition of a “major scale” is a series of 7 notes chosen from a set of 12, guided by the following steps: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.

Building the Major Scale

The process

The result

C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Hear it

Hundreds of years of music prove this series of steps reliable. If we want a set of notes that works well for building chords, our choices of scales are limited. Our scale will probably have seven notes. If it had six, there would be a “gap” somewhere. If it had eight, there would be an extra note, and extra half steps. The half steps in the scale are the primary cause of dissonanceRefers to the quality of two or more notes which do not have strong harmonization. This is because the notes vibrate at frequencies which have some conflict, and this conflict is audible to the human ear.. We want a seven-note scale with as few half steps as possible in order to increase harmony and decrease dissonance.

This set of notes has an important feature: the “cherries” that represent half-steps are spaced as evenly apart as possible.

We can create most of the scales that are commonly used simply by moving this sequence of whole steps and half steps while preserving their relationships to each other.

Before we begin, let’s number the notes of the C major scale as they appear.

C major note numbers

1
2
3
4
5
6
7

Building the Minor Scale

Now, let’s grab our brackets and cherries which show the relationships of steps and half steps, and drag them all to the left. We’ll keep dragging until the very last bracket lands on C. (Previously it was between A and B, but now it's between C and D.) Now our sequence looks like this:

The process

The result

C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Hear it

Not much has changed: we’re dealing with the same twelve notes. We consider the “C” to be the root. In addition, our cherries and brackets have the exact same relationship to each other that they did before; but they’ve all been shuffled to the left. If you look closely at it, you can still find the “whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half” arrangement—even though it begins at a different place in the sequence and overflows from the right to the left.

The Minor Scale

This combination of notes is called the minor scale. The minor scale is created with a formula, just like the major scale. The formula for the minor scale is whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole. This formula is the same sequence as the major scale formula, but it begins on a different note.

The notes in the minor scale

In C major, we had the notes C, D, E, F, G, A and B. Now that we’ve built a C minor scale using the minor formula, we have C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭.

The scale numbers in the minor scale

In our numbering scheme before, we had the notes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Now, when we describe this scale we will compare it to that same major scale; we will say it has the notes 1, 2, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭6, ♭7. This reflects the new notes of the scale as compared to the original major scale, which is always our point of reference—in any situation.

Parallel Minor

When we “switch” from a major scale to a minor scale using the same root, the relationship is said to be parallelTwo musical structures (normally melodies) are parallel with respect to each other when they begin at the same point and follow each other in the same direction.. C major and C minor are parallel to each other, like two trains running on separate tracks. Many composers write music that pulls notes from the parallel minor into a major key, or vice versa.

Relative Minor

Given that we didn’t change our twelve notes, and we never changed the arrangement of whole steps and half steps, it stands to reason that there is some note within the C major scale that could be considered the root of its own minor scale. All we did was drag the brackets over so that the minor scale would start on C. However, if you look again at the C major scale, you’ll see that the minor formula is present beginning on the “A” or sixth degree of the C major scale.

(From A): whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole. A minor scale exists that is composed of the notes from a C major scale! Since these two scales relate to each other so closely, this is said to be the relative minorA minor scale which can be built from notes in a major scale. For instance, the scale of A minor has A–B–C–D–E–F–G–, the same notes as C major. So A is the relative minor of C major.. The relative minor can be found on the sixth degree of any major scale. Conversely, if you look at the scale A minor, you’ll see that the relative major can be found starting on its third degree.

We can prove that the minor scale has a ♭3, ♭6 and ♭7 by comparing the A minor scale to the A major scale.

A Major Scale

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A

A Minor Scale

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A

Key Task

  • For the keys of G and F, write out the notes of the minor scale.

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