MusicDish e-Journal - March 17, 2018
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Piano Power: Diatonic Scales Part 3
By Richard Prokop, Greenacres Press, Inc.
(more articles from this author)
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Note: The following is an interactive article requiring the use of Finale 2002 or Finale Notepad. Finale Notepad may be downloaded for free from CodaMusic at: For further instructions about downloading and viewing files in this article, see: "Reprinted Cadences and a Free Finale Notepad Download".

In the previous articles, Diatonic Scales Part 1 and Part 2, the twelve major scales were discussed and analyzed in detail. In this article, weíll take a look at the major scaleís more serious and somber counterpartóthe minor scale. There are three types of minor scales: natural, harmonic and melodic. In this lesson weíll take a look at the natural minor scale.

Definition: Take any major scale and flat the 3rd, 6th and 7th steps. The result is a natural minor scale.

C major = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
C natural minor = C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C

Note: C minor is considered the parallel minor of C major because both begin with the same letter name, "C".

Listen to Example 1.

Here are some interesting differences between C major and C minor:

* Because of the flatted 3rd (Eb) in C minor, a more serious mood is created compared with its major counterpart.

* In C major, the 7th step (B) has a strong attraction for the 8th step (C) because they are a half-step apart. In C minor, that attraction is considerably weakened because the 7th and 8th steps (Bb-C) form a whole step.

* In C major, melodic motion from the 5th up to the root (G-A-B-C) is naturally fluid because of the half step on top.

* In C natural minor, melodic motion from the root down to the 5th (C-Bb-Ab-G) is naturally fluid because of the half step between Ab and G.

* The key signatures are different.

Here are a couple of similarities between the above scales:

* Both scales contain eight notes.

* With the exception of the accidentals (flats or sharps), the scalesí letter names remain the same.

Listen again to Example 1.

The Relationship Between Major and Minor Scales

Writing out the A major scale we have: A major = A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A.
Flatting the 3rd, 6th and 7th gives us: A natural minor = A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

Note that A natural minor is composed of the set of white keys on the piano, having no flats or sharps in its key signature. However, C major is composed of the same set of notes (all of the white keys), also resulting in no flats or sharps in its key signature. Because of this similarity, we say that C major and A minor are related. Specifically, C major is referred to as the relative major of A minor. And vice versaÖA minor is the relative minor of C major.

Determining The Relative Minor of a Major Scale

Given a major scale, the root of itís relative minor is found on itís 6th degree.

Example: In A major below, count backwards within the scale (A-G#-F#) to the 6th degree, F#.

Now, letís extend A major to two octaves giving us:

Imbedded within the A major scale, beginning on itís 6th degree is itís relative minor scale: F# relative minor = F#-G#-A-B-C#-D-E-F#.

Below is a listing of the major scales and their corresponding relative minors.

C major - A natural minor
G major - E natural minor
D major - B natural minor
A major - F# natural minor
E major - C# natural minor
B major - G# natural minor
F major - D natural minor
Bb major - G natural minor
Eb major - C natural minor
Ab major - F natural minor
Db major - Bb natural minor
Gb major - Eb natural minor


1. Print out and complete Example 2 by filling in all of the corresponding natural minor scales for the given major scales.

2. Memorize the above table of relative major and natural minor scales.

3. Print out Example 3 and learn the fingerings of all of the major and natural minor scales.

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Piano Power: Diatonic Scales - Part 1 (2000-08-20)
» Piano Power: Diatonic Scales - Part 2 (2000-08-20)

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