Minor Scales Jazz Piano Tutorial
There are three types of minor scale: the natural minor scale , the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. Each minor scale has a different use and application in jazz piano and so learning how to construct and apply each one is a vital skill.
Similar to learning 7th chords, at this stage do not worry about memorising the 3 different minor scales in all 12 keys, this will come with time. However, ensure that you understand the formulas to construct each minor scale and why and how each scale is used in jazz piano.
In the upcoming beginner courses we will learn how to construct the minor 251 progression using the harmonic minor scale.
What Is The Natural Minor Scale?
The natural minor scale – also known as the relative minor scale – is a 7 note scale which contains a minor 3rd, a minor 6th, and a minor 7th. The natural minor scale is most likely the first minor scale that you will come across. The natural minor scale contains the exact same notes as the major scale that starts a minor 3rd above.
Above we can see the C Natural Minor Scale and the characteristic notes of the scale are highlighted in red. The single note that differentiates the natural minor from the other minor scales is the b6.
What Is The Harmonic Minor Scale?
The harmonic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale but with a raised 7th degree. Raising the 7th degree by half a step gives the scale a much stronger harmonic foundation and allows you to create more interesting harmonic possibilities in minor keys.
The characteristic notes of the harmonic minor scale are the b6 in combination with the natural 7 as seen in the image above. The flatten 6th and natural 7th degree creates an ‘middle-eastern’ quality at the top of the scale which is a very distinctive sound.
To build a minor 251 progression, we must use notes and chords derived from the harmonic minor scale
The Melodic Minor Scale
Finally, the melodic minor is the same as the natural minor but with the 6th and 7th degrees raised. The raised 6th and 7th degrees removes any awkward intervals in the scale making it flow very smoothly.
This makes the melodic minor scale particularly suited to melodic development. In classical music, the melodic minor scale has a raised 6th and 7th ascending and then a flat 6th and 7th descending. In jazz we ignore this approach and play the scale the same ascending and descending.
Downloadable PDF Resource:
36 Minor Scales Notation File Type: pdf