According to scientific american it seems that over the last few decades popular music has changed it’s course from major to minor keys.
A minor key means the song is in a key or mode based on a minor scale. The song usually has a more darker, melancholic or sad mood.
To be able to improvise over a minor key you need a minor scale. There are a lot different types of minor scales. Today we focus on the most important scales played over a minor key.
The two most used and fundamental scales are the natural minor scale and the minor pentatonic scale.
We can use the chords built from the natural minor scale to play these scales over.
The chord formula for the natural minor scale:
minor – diminished – major – minor – minor – major – major
Often notated as Roman numerals: i – ii – III – iv – v – VI – VII
For example we’re going to play chords in the key of “A” minor.
Apply the notes of the A natural minor scale: A – B – C – D – E – F – G to the chord formula.
You get the following chords: Am – Bdim – C – Dm – Em – F – G
You can use these chords to build any progression. A popular and common chord progression is Am G F G (i – VII – VI – VII)
Here can you learn more on how to build chords and progressions of the minor scale.
We use scales as a vehicle to improvise over these chords. Both of the scales below are in the key of A, so they fit perfectly over the Am chord progressions.
A Minor Pentatonic Scale
The Pentatonic scale is the easiest and most effective scale to play over a minor key and is capable of beautiful bluesy, dark and soulful sounds. The scale is widely used in pop, rock, blues and other styles of music. It consists of five notes: 1 b3 4 5 b7 compared to the major scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7).
It’s older brother, the blues scale has only one extra note (b5), which adds a lot of value, and leads to six notes: 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7.
For more on minor pentatonic and blues scales check out these posts:
– The Two Most Important Scales in Western Music
– 3 Basic Blues Licks Using The Pentatonic Scale
– The 5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes You Must Know
– Ruthless Minor Pentatonic Scales over 3 Octaves
– 50 Cool Blues Licks Improvisation
A Natural Minor Scale
The natural minor scale sounds more melodic apposed to the pentatonic minor scale. It consist of seven notes: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 compared to the major scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7).
If you want to dive deeper into the natural minor scale check out these posts:
– Exploring The Natural Minor Scale
– The 5 Natural Minor Scale Positions You Must Know
There are plenty more scales to use over a minor key. If you already familiar with the minor pentatonic and the natural minor scale and you want to step up, check out the dorian scale, harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. They set the stage for beautiful exceptional colors and mysterious atmospheres over a minor key.
The scales are mostly used in jazz music, but they can certainly be applied to various styles of pop and rock music as well. Note that the chords used for playing these scales over slightly change as you can learn in the posts below. Dig in:
– Dorian scale: How to Play and Apply The Dorian Scale
– Harmonic minor scale: The Awesome Harmonic Minor Scale
– Melodic minor scale: The Melodic Minor Scale