The Relative Minor

If I asked you for a list of sad songs, what would you think of? Maybe you would say Moody River by Pat Boone, maybe Eva Cassidy’s Songbird. What about Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven?

Elton John wrote “Sad Songs Say So Much”. So true, and then you have to look at the musical structure because surely minor chords sound sad or mysterious in many ways.

What is a relative minor chord you ask? Well, every major chord, scale, or key has a relative minor chord, scale, or key. So for every MAJOR KEY there is a RELATIVE MINOR KEY that also has the same key.

Each relative minor scale begins on the 6th degree (Aeolian) of the RELATIVE MAJOR scale. The 6th note is the root (first note played) of the minor scale and the note from which the scale takes its name.

C major and A minor
D major and B minor
E major and C# minor
F major and D minor
G major and E minor
A major and F sharp minor
B major and G sharp minor
Db/C sharp major and B flat minor
Eb/D sharp major and C minor
G flat/F sharp major and E flat minor
A major/G# major and F minor
B flat major/A# major and G minor


1. Find the major relative key of the minor scale you want to play.

2. Play the relative major key beginning and ending on the sixth degree. (The sixth degree of the relative major key should be the root of the minor scale you want to play. You can also check the relative major key by counting 3 half steps to the right. If more or less than 3 half steps are required to get to the relative major key, then the relative major key you selected is not correct.)

So now we’ve learned that the relative minor key, like the relative minor chord, begins and ends on the sixth note of a major scale. How to find a major key relative to the minor key. Find the sixth degree of the major scale. Start there, play the notes of the major scale up to the sixth degree, an octave higher. Here is an example using C’s key:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6


So you’ve just found the relative minor of C major: The key of A minor: The scale itself is a minor scale. Minor scales differ from the major scale in that they come in different flavors. That means there are a handful of them. This is the natural minor scale.

Then there is the harmonic minor scale:

One of the most powerful forces in Western music is the V chord to I chord pull. By raising the flat seventh of the natural minor back to a natural seventh, you make the dominant chord major rather than minor.

Harmonics m: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 (8)

C harmonics m: CD Eb FG Ab BC

The melodic minor scale:

The melodic minor scale exists for melodic reasons. The b6 is raised to a natural 6 in melodic minor, but only on ascending. Descending eliminates the need for the strong melodic pull from the natural 7 to the 8, allowing the melodic minor to return to its natural state: the natural minor scale, complete with b6 and b7. In this respect, then, the melodic minor is a unique case in Western music; a scale that differs in its ascending and descending forms.

Melodic scale pattern and melodic C scale:

1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 (8) b7 b6 5 4 b3 2 1


You have now learned natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales. Believe me, there is more to learn from these scales.

Thanks to Diana Rogers | #Relative #Minor

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