The Natural Minor Scale (lesson)
Second only to the Major scale, minor scales are an important part of the music we listen to. Notice that I said "minor scales" - plural. The reason for this is that although there is really only one major scale there are a number of different scales that have the term minor attached to them. Of these the most common is the natural minor scale, which we will be learning about here. For interest, the others are the Harmonic Minor and the Melodic minor. The reason that 3 different scales are all called minor (an indeed some chords are called minor) all hinges on a very important relationship within the scale.
In a future lesson we'll be looking at this in a little more detail, but the important note of the scale is the 3rd note. When comparing Major and minor scales, the minor version of the scale will always have a 3rd note one semitone below the corresponding note in the major scale (we call this a flatened 3rd, a minor 3rd, or a b3 for short). Although the 3 scales I mentioned differ in other ways (to see how exactly check the lessons later in the series), they all share this flattened 3rd, so they all qualify as minor scales. The natural minor is the most common, and we will focus on this, but the other two are interesting, especially the Harmonic minor which is used a lot in neo-classical compositions.
The Natural Minor Scale
The Natural Minor scale is a 7 note scale, built using the formula: 2 1 2 2 1 2 2
You should be familiar with scale formulae from the previous lessons. Lets have a look at how we would build a scale of G natural minor (or G Minor for short). Obviously our root note is G, and building up from the formula we get the following notes:
G + 2 semitones = A
A + 1 semitones = Bb
Bb + 2 semitone = C
C + 2 semitones = D
D + 1 semitones = Eb
Eb + 2 semitones = F
F + 2 semitones = G
So there you have it - a scale of G minor has the notes G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, and as usual you can apply this formula with any other root note to get the exact scale that you want.
On the Fretboard
How do we play this on the guitar? Well, sticking with our G Minor scale, as with the Major scale we can construct 7 different boxes, and by convention we simplify this to 5 boxes, separated by either 2 or 3 semitones.
Here they are:
And that is the natural minor scale.