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Theory 101 – Minor Scales

Posted by Ian on March 24, 2008

To explain minor scales, I will begin by giving you some more musical terminology that will help out a lot later on.

In any particular scale, there are 7 notes. These notes all have specific names.

1st note: Tonic
2nd: Supertonic
3rd: Mediant
4th: Subdominant
5th: Dominant
6th: Submediant
7th: Leading tone

Now, back to key signatures:

As you have learned, all major scales have a corresponding key signature. All minor scales also have a

corresponding key signature, which they share with a corresponding major key.

An example of this is F major and D minor, which correspond or are ‘related’.

In F major, the notes are…


To find its relative minor, take the submediant note (6th in the scale), and write out the notes that fall in the key of F major for an octave.


You have just constructed the relative minor of F major, D minor.

Now, the next step is to construct a Harmonic Minor of a Major key. To do this, you simply raise the leading tone (7th note in the relative, or natural, minor) by a half step, so you get…


And lastly, we come to the construction of a melodic minor, which can be a tad confusing…

Take the natural minor…


And raise both the 6th and 7th notes (submediant and leading).


Seems pretty straight forward, correct? Well… look at this next part.

When you are playing a melodic minor scale going up (ascending) you play it with the notes we just created.

However, when you descend in the scale, it becomes this.


When descending a Melodic minor scale, you use the notes that correspond with a natural minor.

Transposing parts written for major scales to minor scales is a great way to practice with minor scales, and can be rather interesting, too… songs played in minor keys have a completely different, often sadder or darker, colour.

2 Responses to “Theory 101 – Minor Scales”

  1. Mohana said

    I already understand what makes a melodic minor scale, but I have been searching for why, in other words, why is the melodic minor scale lowered to a natural minor scale on the way down, which is unique to that scale alone in all basic and jazz music theory. Is it still a melodic scale if you don’t lower the 6th and 7th on the way down?

  2. Ian said

    I honestly don’t know the answers to your questions… however I believe that it is still a melodic scale if you do not lower the 6th and 7th on the way down, as I have seen that done before…. but I am not by nay means certain.

    If I find an answer, I’ll include it in a future post of some sort…

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