Minor Scale for Guitar

3 types of minor scales :

  • the natural or relative minor
  • the harmonic minor
  • the melodic minor

Natural Minor / Relative Minor Scale

the Natural minor scale
The aeolian mode, the 6th position of the major scale is the natural minor.So basically you’d play the aeolian mode pattern to play the natural minor scale

And basically what the relative minor scale does to the major scale is flatten the 3rd, the 6th and the 7th. Or you just move them up a fret towards the headstock.

Relative Minor Scale Chart:

Tonic (rel. minor scale) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
A B C D E F G
B C# D E F# G A
C D Eb F G Ab Bb
D E F G A Bb C
E F# G A B C D
F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
G A Bb C D E F

Let’s look at the A relative minor scale on the fret board to get a visual of the pattern.

minor scales

Natural/Relative Minor Formula:

W – H – W – W – H – W – W

or

Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step

Step
The distance between 2 notes:

  • half step = 1 fret
  • whole step = 2 frets

On the guitar you can play a whole major scale up to the 12th fret and see the pattern on one string.

As you notice, A is the only relative minor scale that has no sharps or flats:

A B C D E F G

That’s because it shares the same notes as the C major chord/scale.

Harmonic minor scale

Harmonic minor scale
This scale is exactly like the previous one except we leave the 7th alone. It shouldn’t be flatted from the major scale.So play the relative, natural minor first then play it again but this time sharpen the 7th. This is the harmonic minor scale.

That leaves a step and a half between the 6th and the 7th notes of the scale. This scale has a bit of a classical feel to it. Depending on how you use it, it may sound middle eastern as well.

Harmonic minor scale charts:

Tonic (harm. minor scale) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
A B C D E F G#
B C# D E F# G A#
C D Eb F G Ab B
D E F G A Bb C#
E F# G A B C D#
F G Ab Bb C Db E
G A Bb C D E F#

minor scales

Harmonic minor scale pattern:

W – H – W – W – H – W1/2 (3 frets) – H

or

Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step – Half step – Whole step and a half – Half step

The Melodic Minor Scale

Melodic minor scale
The last minor scale to learn is the melodic minor scale. It’s based upon the natural minor. Except you raise sharpen the sixth and seventh on the way up (ascending) and play the regular natural minor notes on the way back down to the tonic (descending). It looks a lot like the chart above but you can see the difference between the 6th and the 7th. Take a close look and compare.So the fretboard for A melodic minor going up would look like below. On the way back to the tonic refer to the natural minor chart.

Melodic minor scale charts:

minor scales

For all of these scales there are modes also, just like in the major scale. And it works just like the major scale, where the ionian starts with note 1 of the scale, dorian starts with note 2, phrygian starts with note 3 and so on. It’s a lot of theory but try it and see if you can chart them out! Of course, try out the minor scale exercises too.

If they aren’t enough, Learn and Master Guitar will certainly be enough to help you thoroughly understand guitar scales and how to apply them.

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