The Minor Scale

The major scale has been covered in a previous section.  This section covers the minor scale.

All scales have identities that have no relationship to any other scale other than its own ‘mother’ major scale.  The major scale is identified by its unique order of steps.  Also, it is recognized (identified) by its characteristic intervals of the major 3rd, major 6th, and major 7th.  It is the ‘mother’ of all our music.  The minor scale is derived from its mother major scale.  Its characteristic intervals are the minor 3rd, minor 6th, and minor 7th.  This is its normal form.  It has two other forms that are used in the music of the classics, and the jazz masters; the harmonic and melodic forms.

Below is shown the major scale that contains the major 3rd, ‘E’, the major 6th ‘A’, and the major 7th, ‘B’.


The ‘normal’ minor scale is shown below with its characteristic intervals of the minor 3rd, ‘E-flat’, the minor 6th, ‘A-flat’, and the minor 7th, ‘B-flat’.


The ‘harmonic’ minor scale contains the minor 3rd, and minor 6th, but the 7th, ‘B’ is a major 7th.


The ‘melodic’ minor scale contains only the minor 3rd.  Both the 6th, and the 7th are major: ‘A’, and ‘B’.


The lines below show the above in a more concise manner.  The first measure shows the ‘C’ major scale in both clefs with its characteristic intervals of the M3, M6, and M7th. The second measure shows the normal minor scale with its characteristic intervals of the m3, m6, and m7ths. The following line shows the ‘harmonic’ minor scale in the third measure with the m3, and m6.  The 7th is a M7. The fourth measure shows the ‘melodic’ minor scale with only the m3.  Both the 6th and 7th are major.


The key of ‘C’ minor is relative to the key of ‘E-flat’ major because they share the same signature.  The scale of ‘C’ minor, however, is ‘relative’ to no other scale.  It is itself with its own unique sound and may be found anywhere you may see it.

The ‘G’ major scale below contains a major 3rd, major 6th, and major 7th.  In the ‘G’ ‘normal’ minor scale, second measure below, ‘B-flat’, ‘E-flat’, and ‘F (natural)’ are the minor 3rd, minor 6th, and minor 7th.  Note that ‘F’ in relation to G’ is the minor 7th. In the third measure below, there is the minor 3rd, minor 6th, and major 7th, creating the ‘harmonic’ minor scale.  In the fourth measure, there is only the minor 3rd.  Both the 6th and 7th are major; ‘E’ and ‘F-sharp’[1].



The ‘D’ major scale below



The following is taken from the song, ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ by Michel LeGrand. The song is in the key of ‘A’ minor.  The scale begins on the minor 3rd, one of the characteristics of that scale.  It also contains a minor 6th, ‘F’ and a major 7th, ‘G-sharp’ creating a harmonic minor scale.  Also, the augmented 2nd, ‘F’ to ‘G-sharp’ is the harmonic minor’s characteristic interval.  However, if a dominant (V) is placed under the scale, the characteristic notes of the dominant may also be seen; the minor 7th, ‘D’ and the major 3rd, ‘G-sharp’, a tritone.


Ralph Carroll Hedges, B.Ed., B.Mus., M.M.

[1] Theory text books describe major 6ths and/or major 7th as ‘#6 and/or #7.  This is misleading because a #7 of a major 7th is the same as an octave.  Similarly, a major 3rd isn’t a ‘#3’.

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