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Fundamentals of Music: Minor Scales and Keys

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by

Douglas Brown

on 3 April 2014

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Transcript of Fundamentals of Music: Minor Scales and Keys

Chapter 8
Minor Scales and Keys
The Minor Scale
Recall that the major scale is a series of steps that follows the pattern of
Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half.
D:
A common way for music students to show that they have correctly identified the key.
W
H
W
W
W
W
H
d:
In major, the letter is upper case.
In minor, the letter is in lower case.
W
H
W
W
W
W
H
The
minor scale
follows the pattern of
Whole Half Whole Whole Half Whole Whole.
The colon is important. It helps us know that we are talking about a key.
Notice that I had to change the key signature to make the new pattern work.
d:
W
H
W
W
W
W
H
Would it help any if I put scale degree numbers down below?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
The half steps occur between 2 and 3, and between 5 and 6.
Did you notice that the key signature is the same as the one for F Major?
Because they have the same key signature,
we can say that F Major and D Minor are
related keys
.
d:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
F:
Here is the related F Major scale (in red) laid in with the D Minor scale.
d:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
^
^
^
^
^
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^
^
This is one of three different kinds of minor scales.
It is called
natural minor
.
d:
1
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7
1
^
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^
Compared to major, the natural minor scale has three differences.
For this comparison, I'm removing the key signature and using accidentals instead.
D:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
^
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^
natural minor
major
Scale degrees 3, 6, and 7 are a half-step lower in natural minor than in major.
This might mean changing a sharp to a natural or changing a natural to a flat.
A True Story
(based on a true story, like movies)
(you know, where the facts aren't necessarily true)
(but it's more or less like this)
There was once a musician named Bach.
Yes,
Bach.
that
Bach was a man of many talents.
He led the church choir.
He played the organ.
He was a schoolteacher.
And he wrote lots
One day, Bach encountered a problem.
His church choir was rehearsing a
cantata
that he wrote, but they were singing something wrong.
cantata
- a song; literally, "something that is sung"
The cantata was in D Minor, but instead of singing a C-natural, they were singing C-sharp.
"No, no, no!" corrected Bach, "You should sing C-natural."
"It just feels right to sing it that way!" they cried.
After doing some thinking, Bach decided that his choir was singing C-sharp because of the strong pull of the
leading tone
, which is found in major.
"Okay, fine," he said. "You can sing with the raised 7th."
One day they were rehearsing another cantata in D Minor and were singing just fine using the harmonic minor scale with its leading tone...
...when Bach realized that they were making another mistake.
"You're singing B-natural instead of B-flat!"
The choir groaned. "But it's too hard to sing from B-flat to C-sharp."
Bach looked at the music, and then he looked at the organ, and realized that they were right.
The distance between scale degrees 6 and 7 was too big.
From B-flat to C-sharp was 3 half steps.
"The average choir can only think in terms of half-steps and whole steps," Bach thought.
Bach went home that night and studied the problem.
At the next rehearsal, Bach strode in with a gleam in his eye.
"I have a compromise," he declared.
"I'll let you sing with a raised 6 and 7 (B-natural and C-sharp),
but only if you are going up."
"When you come down, 6 and 7 must be lowered back to their normal state (B-flat and C-natural)."
^
^
Everyone agreed, and so today we now have three different minor scales.
Disclaimer: This really wasn't just Bach.
It didn't really happen so quickly. It took many, many years.
All three minor scales are widely used, even today...
...but the default minor scale
natural minor
.
is sometimes
...sometimes
it is understood to be
melodic minor
.
So...
How would we know if we are in major or minor for sure?
You have to look at the third scale degree.
Because 6 and 7 tend to vary, we rely heavily on 3 to show us if the key is major or minor.
^
^
^
d:
1
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D:
1
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7
1
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^
natural minor
major
Major and minor scales that share the same tonic, but have different key signatures are
parallel keys
.
and lots of music.
d:
1
2
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5
6
7
1
^
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^
But no matter how hard he tried, they sang C-sharp.
d:
1
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^
^
^
( )
d:
1
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1
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D:
1
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1
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natural minor?
major
( )
d:
1
2
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1
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...and they continued to sing in minor keys in this manner.
d:
1
2
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1
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^
A natural minor scale with a raised 7 is called
.
harmonic minor
d:
1
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^
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B
C
C
B
"This is a serious problem that must be worked out."
"That way it still sounds like we're singing in a minor key."
d:
1
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d:
1
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( )
( )
d:
The
melodic minor scale
has a raised 6 and 7.
^
^
The
ascending
melodic minor scale has a raised 6 & 7.
^
^
The
descending
melodic minor scale has a lowered 6 & 7.
^
^
ascending melodic minor
descending melodic minor
Because melodic minor can sometimes be confusing, we use the terms ascending and descending to make distinguishments as necessary.
D:
1
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7
1
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d:
1
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1
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d:
1
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1
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d:
1
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^
Major
Comparison of Scales
using the key of D as our example
Natural Minor
Harmonic Minor
Melodic Minor
Notice that the key signatures for harmonic and melodic minor are unchanged.
d:
1
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^
d:
1
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Harmonic Minor
Melodic Minor
We use accidentals to take care of the differences.
One final thought, or maybe two.
D:
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d:
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F
F
Final Thought 1
Final Thought 2
It is tempting to use the minor scale to find minor intervals.
Don't!
Don't!
...for two reasons.
1. The three forms of the minor scale just maybe could be confusing. Maybe. :)
2. The m2 is not in either scale.
The 2nd scale degree is an M2 in both major and minor keys.

E:
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e:
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F
F
E Major
E Minor
<END OF PRESENTATION>
So, always use the major scale based on the lower note of an interval, even if the interval is minor.
You will find that the textbook contains the Circle of Fifths for minor keys. Please study this chapter carefully.
( key signatures)
without
As always, I suggest going to fullscreen mode since fine details in the notation do not always show up.
The interval here is an
augmented second
.
C
B
Although it is enharmonically equivalent to a minor third, when used this way it creates a very large step that is difficult to sing and sounds awkward in the music.
Full transcript