Last Updated on May 15, 2019 by Klaus Crow
Photo by Bigstock photo
Whenever you want to solo over a song in a minor key you can safely use the minor pentatonic or blues scale. However it will always sound rock or bluesy one way or another.
Sometimes the melody of a song asks for something else than just that rock/bluesy feel. A diatonic melody approach might then be more suitable. Here is where minor scales come in.
There are a 3 types of minor scales. The natural, harmonic and melodic minor scale. In this post we’ll discuss the natural minor scale.
The natural minor scale contains 7 notes. The scale formula is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. So compared to the major scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) it’s got a minor third, a minor sixth and a minor seventh.
If you start on a random note to build a natural minor scale the pattern of whole and half steps would be: “whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole”. (a whole step = 2 frets, a half step = 1 fret)
So the formula in semitones = 2 1 2 2 1 2 2
The natural minor scale is also known as the Aeolian mode or relative minor.
Every major scale has a corresponding natural minor scale, also called the relative minor. If you play a major scale and go up to the 6th degree of the scale, then that note will be it’s relative minor. From that 6th note you can play seven notes ascending (going up) in the scale and that will be it’s relative minor scale.
The major scale and it’s relative minor scale or you can so the natural minor scale and it’s relative major scale both have the same notes and thus the same key signature.
C major scale: C D E F G A B (C D E F G A B C)
A natural minor scale: A B C D E F G
Relative minor to C major = A minor
F major scale: F G A Bb C D E (F G A Bb C D E F)
D natural minor scale: D E F G A Bb C
Relative minor to F major = D minor
Here’s how you play an A natural minor scale. The root note starting on the 6th string (Low E-string)
Here’s how to play the natural minor scale starting on the 5th string (A-string): D natural minor scale.
Tip: If you want to play the natural minor scale in a different key, just move the entire scale up or down.
For example: If you want to play A natural minor scale in the key of B then move the entire scale up a whole step (2 frets) and you’re playing a B natural minor scale.
If you want to play D natural minor scale in the key of C just move the entire scale down a whole step. It’s as easy as that. So for each of the two scale positions presented above you got all 12 keys at your disposal.
To see over which chords you can solo using the natural minor scale check out “Building chords and progressions of the minor scale”
Listen to guitar solos using the natural minor scale to capture the mood and draw some inspiration.
Examples: Nothing else matters by Metallica, Black magic woman and Maria maria by Santana.
– Practice both scales ascending and descending using the alternate picking technique.
– Practice both scales in all keys starting on the 1st fret, each time moving up a half step all the way up to the 12th fret and then back again.
– Play the natural minor scale ascending starting on the 1st fret and then play it descending starting on the 2nd fret, ascending on the 3rd fret, descending on the 4th fret, etc. all the way up the 12th fret and the all way back again.
– Create melody with the natural minor scale: play with the notes, experiment with timing and rhythm, use dynamics, pauses, extend or shorten the duration/length of some of the notes, use techniques like hammer-ons, pulls offs, slides, etc. Make up small melodic phrases in your head and try to translate them to the guitar.
– Develop your aural skills. Try to sing the natural minor scale ascending and descending. If you got that, sing the scale each time up a half step ascending and descending or sing it ascending and then up a half step descending, up a half step ascending, up a half step descending. Make up your own exercises. Challenge yourself.
Note: It’s important to practice your scales in different keys. Get used to it and your playing skills will absolutely benefit.
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