Minor Scale & Scale Degree / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

Understanding the Notes in a Minor Scale

Before we go into chords, lets take a look at the Minor Scale and Scale Degree.

In the 2nd article, we took a brief look at minor scales.
It’s an important sound that helps build sad, emotional, and cool sounding tracks.

In this article, we will be taking a look at the minor scale and scale degrees.

First, please take a listen to this. Though it starts from the C major scale…



On both the notation and the piano roll, there are only notes that are included in the C major scale,
but why does the sound becomes sadder when the blue area plays?

Lets listen to just the blue area (starting from A using just notes from the C major scale).



This is in fact a “minor scale”.

We just started from the note A, and created a darker sounding scale.

The official name of this scale is the natural minor scale.
Similar to the major scale, this is a scale born “naturally” from human intuition.

However, due to various problems, there are 2 more types of minor scales,
but the “minor scale” that is most commonly referred to is this “natural minor scale”.

Lets hear a minor scale on the piano.

Major Scale


Minor Scale


While a major scale follows the w (whole) w h (half) w w w h step pattern,
a minor scale is made up of w h w w h w w steps.

However, this is a little hard to remember.
This is where scale degree comes in.

A scale degree is a position of a note from 1-7 (8 being an octave) relative to the root/tonic note,
and allows you to easily figure out the notes of a scale/chord.

Lets hear/see how this actually works.
We will apply a scale degree to the C major scale.



As shown, the first note of the major scale is given the number 1, with consecutive numbers following it.

Lets use this same logic on the A major scale as well.



We hope this helps clarify the major scale degree.

Lets compare the “A minor scale” to the “A major scale”.
By doing so, we can easily see the differences between a major and minor scale.

A Major Scale



A Minor Scale



Lets overlap these two scales.



We can see a difference in the 3rd, 6th, and 7th note.
The scale degree of a minor scale is “1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8”.


By remembering to lower the 3, 6, and 7 of a major scale by a half-step,
you can easily remember how to make a minor scale.

A C minor scale would be the following:



Lets listen to the difference.

  • C Major Scale, a bright scale using C as the root/tonic
  • C Minor Scale, a dark scale using C as the root/tonic

By keeping this info in mind, you can easily remember the structures of a major and minor scale.
Next time, we will be looking a “relative and parallel” concepts.

Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.