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27: Natural Minor Scale

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Lesson 27: Natural Minor Scale

This lesson teaches the natural minor scale, the 2nd-most-important scale (after the major scale) and the basis for many songs.

Before taking this lesson, you should know:
You can make a natural minor scale by starting with a major scale and lowering degrees 3, 6, and 7 a half-step. In other words, the formula is:

Natural minor scale: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8

Here are the pitches in the common natural minor scales:

1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8
B♭CD♭ E♭FG♭A♭ B♭
D♯E♯ F♯G♯A♯B C♯D♯
E♭FG♭ A♭B♭C♭D♭ E♭
G♯A♯ BC♯D♯EF♯ G♯

Relative Major & Minor

For each natural minor scale, there is one particular major scale that uses the exact same 7 pitches (although the 2 scales don't start on the same pitch), and vice versa. That minor scale is called the major scale's relative minor, and that major scale is called the minor scale's relative major; together they make a relative major/minor pair.

For example, the D major scale and the B natural minor scale are a relative major/minor pair. The following chart shows how they use the same pitches:

D major: 1 23 4 5 67 8
B natural minor:1 2 ♭345 ♭6♭78

The relative major and minor scales are important because:
  • They are closely related musically; listeners hear them as "substitutes" for each other. For example, a song in a major key will sometimes shift into its relative minor key for a section of the song.
  • They help for remembering the minor scales. If you need to find a minor scale, and you know its relative major scale, then the pitches in the natural minor scale are the same pitches.

Finding the relative majors and minors from each other:
  • Starting with a major scale, go down two scale degrees to find its relative minor. For example: Start with the D major scale. Go down two scale degrees: D - C♯ - B. The relative minor scale is B minor.
  • Starting with a minor scale, go up two scale degrees to find its relative major. For example: Start with the B minor scale. Go up two scale degrees: B - C♯ - D. The relative major scale is D major.

These are the common relative major/minor pairs:
C majorA minor
D♭ majorB♭ minor
D majorB minor
E♭ majorC minor
E majorC♯ minor
F majorD minor
F♯ majorD♯ minor
G♭ majorE♭ minor
G majorE minor
A♭ majorF minor
A majorF♯ minor
B♭ majorG minor
B majorG♯ minor

Once you understand the natural minor scale, you should practice it, in Lesson 28: Natural Minor Games.


1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps & Whole-Steps
7: Steps Game
8: Scales
9: Major Scale 1-2-3
10: Major 1-2-3 Games
11: Major Scale 1-5
12: Major 1-5 Games
13: Chords: Major Triads
14: Major Triad Games
15: Minor Triads
16: Minor Triad Games
17: Major Scale 1-8
18: Major Scale Games
19: Keys
20: Roman Numeral Chords
21: Scales Above 8
22: Diatonic Triads
23: Using Diatonics
24: Tonic Function
25: Subdominant & Dominant
26: Diatonic Function Analysis
27: Natural Minor Scale
28: Natural Minor Games
29: Minor Key Triads
30: 7th Chords
31: 7ths Games
32: Suspended-4th Chords
33: Time: Beats & Measures
34: Starting a Song: Hook Chords
35: Melody: Chord Tones
36: Treble Staff
37: Treble Staff Game
38: Note Lengths
39: Tied & Dotted Notes
40: Rhythm: Rests
41: Key Signatures
42: Syncopation
43: Pentatonic Scales
44: Hook Melodies
45: Hook to Chorus: Rolling Stone
46: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
47: Non-Root-Bass Chords
48: Embellishing Tones
49: Diatonic 7ths
50: Pitch & Frequency

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