When 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
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Playing 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
Just as major scales have their own sequence of whole and half steps, minor scales have a unique sequence as
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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Although every attempt has been made to make information as accurate as possible, we are not responsible for
any errors that may appear.