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…

CAm1

CAm2

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).

Am1

Am2

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

Majer

Minor Scale

Minor

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.

cdefgabc

cdefgabc2

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.

a-maj-1

a-maj-2

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-maj-1

A-maj-2

A Minor Scale

a-min-1

a-min-2

Lets overlap these two scales.

maj-min-2

maj-min-1

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”.

a-min-sc

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:

cm-sca-1

cm-sca-2

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.

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