Piano Player World

Natural Minor Scales on Piano

minor scalesWhen a teacher introduces the concept of natural minor scales on piano to a student, sometimes the student may wonder, “There’s more? I just finished learning 15 major scales!” or “Are these natural scales different from an unnatural scale….or a supernatural scale?” or even “These scales are all natural? Good – no sharps and flats!”

Whatever student’s reaction may be, they’ll soon find that just as the major scales on piano serve as an essential, foundational concept to master, natural minor scales are equally important.

Learning all 15 major scales means acquiring mastery over the essential fingerings, keys, and concepts related to understanding the basics of music.

However, major scales only relate to pieces composed in major keys – and this means that equal attention needs to be paid to minor scales so that piano players can acquire mastery over the many, many, many pieces and skills related to the minor keys as well. If one studies only the major scales, one obtains only half of the understanding needed to progress as an effective piano performer.

The good thing about learning minor scales is that, if you already know your major scales, then you have much less to learn than if you didn’t know anything. The reason is that each minor scale is directly related to a major scale and has the exactly same notes. Some think of minor scales as the children of major scales – each scale follows in the footsteps of its parent, it just begins a little differently.

So every major scale has its own corresponding minor scale. To find this relative minor scale, all you need to do is put your finger on the major’s first note, then move down (left) three half steps. There – now you’ve landed on the first note of the relative minor. This means that if you started with your finger on C, the relative minor is A. 

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understanding theoryPlaying a minor scale is almost just as easy and finding the note to start on. Now that you have located the first note, all you need to do is play the exact same notes as you would for the major scale, just beginning with a different starting note.

In C major, a pianist would play all white keys – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. To play the relative A minor scale, simply begin on the note A and play the exact same keys – A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. So understanding minor scales means that you understand that minor scales are the exact same as major scales, just beginning of a different note.

Just as major scales have their own sequence of whole and half steps, minor scales have a unique sequence as well.

The minor scale sequence is whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole.

You can play this sequence of steps beginning on any note, and you’ll have a natural minor scale.

Learning all 15 natural minor scales on piano may initially seem like another daunting challenge, especially since you just finished conquering the major scales. However, minor scales can be relatively easy to learn if you already know those relative major scales. Remember to rehearse both hands, all scales, up and down the piano. This will help you greatly in piano improvisation.

This will continually acquaint your fingers and your mind with piano’s most important concepts. And although there are not “unnatural” or “supernatural” scales, there are other types of minor scales that these “natural” ones will serve as a foundation for understanding.




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