Natural Minor Scales are also known as relative or related minor scales. To find the relative minor scale of any major scale, locate the 6th tone (note) in a major scale and you will have found it’s related minor. For example, C major scale is composed of C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C (octave). The 6th note of the C major scale is A. Therefore A minor is the relative or related minor of a C major piano scale.
This means that both A minor and C major are comprised of the same tones (notes). If you start at A (any A tone (note) on the piano keyboard) and play all the white notes to octave A, you can count the series of whole and half steps which make up a natural minor scale. The sequence is whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step. Take a look at our piano graphic below.
A to B is a whole step, B to C is a half step (notice no black key in between), C to D is a whole step, D to E is a whole step, E to F is a half step (again no black tone (note) between), F to G is a whole step, and we finish with G to octave A whole step. What we have done is taken the A major scale and lowered (flatted) the 3rd, 6th, and 7th tones (notes) a half step.
Now lets do one more this time beginning with one of the black piano keys, G#/Ab. Using our rules for forming natural minor scales and beginning on G#/Ab we have the tones (notes); G#/Ab, A#/Bb, B, C#/Db, D#/Eb, E, F#/Gb, and G#/Ab (octave).
G#/Ab to A#/Bb is a whole step, A#/Bb to B is a half step (notice you went from a black key to the white key immediately adjacent which is a B), B to C#/Db is a whole step (remember B to C is a half step because the two tones (notes) are immediately adjacent to each other), C#/Db to D#/Eb is a whole step, D#/Eb to E is a half step (again you move from a black key to the white key immediately adjacent to D#/Eb which is an E), E to F#/Gb is a whole step, and we finish with F#/Gb to octave G#/Ab whole step.
If you would like to see the natural minor scales in all 12 keys click on natural minor scales and you will be transported to our “virtual piano keyboard”. Just pick a key (C, D, F#/Gb, etc) and click Aeolian (refer to our section on “Modes”) and the notes for a natural minor scale will appear on the keyboard.
Practice these piano scales with both hands until you can move smoothly (not necessarily quickly) from beginning to end and back again in all 12 keys. When you practice your scales, I want you to use the fingering technique I have outlined here, scale fingering technique. This technique works with major and minor piano scales and will help with your finger dexterity and control. Now…Go Practice!
Major Scales – Rules for constructing major scales for the piano.
Melodic Minor Scales – Rules for constructing melodic minor scales for the piano.
Harmonic Minor Scales – Rules for constructing harmonic minor scales for the piano.