Term 1 Theory Lessons & Quiz

4 Minor Scales


In Grade 8, we learned how to write a major scale by using a pattern of tones and semitones.

This pattern is: Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone

or:  T T S T T T S

Regardless of what note you start on, every major scale is built using the same pattern. Each scale needs to contain every note letter name within one octave of 8 notes. When you go up the scale, if you notice a distance is too short or too long for the pattern, you can modify the note with an accidental. For example: D major scale

If we were to write all the notes as natural, it wouldn't line up with the correct pattern. According to the pattern, the distance between notes 2 and 3 should be a tone or whole step. But, the distance from E to F is only a half step. To increase the distance so it will fit the pattern, a sharp is added to F. Now the distance from E to F# is a tone and it matches the pattern. The same thing happens between B and C natural. Once the note was changed to C#, then the pattern matches and the scale is correct.

Minor Scales

There are 2 main scales used in Western music: major and minor. There are others, but we will not be learning about them this year. While there is only one major scale, three different variations of the minor scale exist. Each one can be written using its own pattern of tones and semitones, or half steps and whole steps, if you prefer using that terminology.

Natural Minor

The natural minor scale uses the pattern:

Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone  or T S T T S T T

 An A natural minor scale contains no accidentals.

G natural minor contains two accidentals: Bb and Eb.

Harmonic Minor

The harmonic minor scale uses the same basic pattern as the natural minor scale, but with one important difference. The 7th note of a harmonic minor scale is raised by an extra semitone. This make the distance between notes 6 and 7 a tone and a half.

This A harmonic minor scale is almost the same as the natural minor scale, but look at that 7th note. It has been raised by a semitone. The distance between F and G# is a tone + semitone.

The G harmonic minor has a combination of flats and sharps to ensure it fits the correct pattern. The distance between Eb and F# is a tone + semitone.

Melodic Minor

The melodic minor scale is unique because the pattern ascending (going up) is different from its descending (going down) pattern. Luckily, you have seen some of this before, so you don't have too many new things to memorize.

The ascending pattern is almost the same as the harmonic minor scale, but it has one additional change. In a melodic minor, the 6th AND 7th note are raised by a semitone. Remember: if the note was normally flat in that key signature, it will be raised with a natural sign. Sharp notes are raised by making them a double sharp.

The descending pattern is the same as the natural minor scale. The altered sixth and seventh notes are lowered back down by a semitone.


For your theory quiz, you should be able to identify and write the following minor scales: C, G, D, A, E, B, and F#.

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