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Minor Scale: Patterns, Chords & Intervals

Instructor: Erika Svanoe

Erika has taught several college music courses and has a doctorate of musical arts in conducting.

In this lesson, you will learn about minor scales, chords and intervals. You will also learn how music in minor keys sounds more dissonant than major keys because some of the notes are lowered a small amount.

Introduction

Most of the music we listen to today is tonal, which means it is centered around one 'tone' or note. The melodies and harmonies of a piece of tonal music will usually gravitate back towards this central note and its corresponding chord. For example, tonal music in the key of 'F' will often have the melody end on the note 'F' and the harmony end on some kind of 'F' chord.

Tonal music can exist in two different states: major or minor. Music in major keys generally tends to sound bright, happy, or uplifting. This is because the way notes in major keys sound together is very pleasing to our ears. Music in a minor key is constructed differently. Several of the notes in minor are lowered by a half-step, or the smallest distance between two notes. This makes the music sound slightly more dissonant, or a little less pleasing. Because of this, music in minor keys often tends to sound more somber, sad, or anguished.

Music in major sounds bright and happy. Music in minor sounds sad or dark.
major minor

Scale Patterns

The notes of a major scale are built in such a way that they sound very pleasing. When some of these notes are lowered a half-step to form a minor scale, the resulting sound will be slightly more dissonant. In the example below, we can compare a major scale to a natural minor scale. There are a few different kinds of minor scale, but a 'natural' minor scale is the most basic kind.

Compare the notes of the major scale with the minor scale. You can see that three of the notes of the minor scale have flats, which look a little like a lowercase letter 'b' before the note. A flat indicates that the note should be played a half-step lower. This lowering of the notes a half-step, makes the minor scale sound more dissonant than the major scale.

Some notes of the major scale are lowered to make a minor scale.
scales

Chords

Chords are when three or more notes sound simultaneously. Two types of chords that are often used in tonal music are major chords and minor chords. Similar to the scales above, when a specific note in a major chord is lowered a half-step, it changes to a minor chord. Like major keys, major chords tend to sound bright, happy and pleasant. Minor chords will sound more dissonant because one of the notes has been lowered a half-step. This can make the chord sound more dark or somber. In the example below, the middle note of the chord has been lowered a half-step, changing the chord from major to minor.

The middle note of this major chord is lowered to make a minor chord.
chords

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