The Natural Minor Scale

 

Lets continue with our study of music theory by taking a look at the Natural Minor Scale and its application to popular music. The natural minor scale is similar to the major scale in that it is a 7-note diatonic scale, which can be repeated both above and below the octave note. However, the step relationships between notes differ slightly from the major scale, most notably affecting the 3rd note in the scale and the 7th note.

The 3rd note of scales determines whether the scale is major or minor. If there are 4 half steps or semitones between the root note and the 3rd note (C and E for example) it is a major 3rd interval. If there are only 3 half steps or semitones between the root and the 3rd (C and E flat for example) it is a minor 3rd interval.

The 7th note of a scale is the leading tone of the scale, responsible for setting up and resolving tension back to the root note or the starting note of the scale. In the major scale, there is only one half step between the 7th note and the root. In the natural minor scale, there is a whole step between the 7th note and the root.

Lets take a closer look at the C natural minor scale on the keyboard:

As you can see, the step pattern differs slightly from the major scale. The step pattern for the natural minor scale is as follows:

Root note (C), whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step to octave note (C).

As with the major scale, these relationships always stay constant in order to maintain the scale. A minor scale is the same no matter what key you play it in.

There are a few variations on the minor scale that are employed to create 2 more minor scales, the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. We will explore these 2 further in another article, but this demonstrates why the step relationship between notes in a scale must always stay the same. If you change the relationship between notes in a scale, it becomes a new scale entirely.

The more comfortable you can become with scales and how they work within the structure of music, the more tools you will have to help you create your own music. Now that we have taken a look at scales and their role in song structure, we will be able to take a closer look at how to use them to create rich melodies and harmonies. Stay tuned for next time!