The Minor Scales (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales. This lesson is great for improving speed, dexterity, and lead playing.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 15:36Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:01) Intro Jam Dave MacKenzie jams over the backing track entitled "Rock Track in Em" to demonstrate how the E Phrygian, E natural minor, and A natural minor scales can be combined within a single improvised solo.
Chapter 2: (01:40) Minor Scale Introduction In this lesson, Dave introduces a brand new scale. This scale can be referred to by two names. This scale is most commonly referred to as the natural minor scale. However, this scale is identical to what is referred to as the Aeolian mode.

Note: For more information pertaining to the modes of the major scale, please visit Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Classic Rock set of lessons.

There are several important reasons for learning the natural minor scale. This scale is used in countless rock and metal solos. Learning the natural minor scales will also help finger dexterity and your overall knowledge of the fretboard. In later lessons, you will learn how other important scales such as the minor pentatonic are derived from this essential seven-note diatonic scale.

Natural Minor Patterns

Similar to the major scale patterns that you learned earlier, all of the patterns presented in this lesson span one octave across the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. You will learn the natural minor scales that begin with natural root notes. These scale are played in the minor keys of E, F, G, A, B, C, and D. Once you have learned how to play the natural minor scale in these keys, you should begin to practice the remaining five minor keys. These keys are F#, G#, Bb, and C# minor.

Music Theory

In comparison to the major scale, the minor scale features flatted 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees. Compare the spelling of the E major and E natural minor scale. E major is spelled as follows: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E.

E natural minor: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E.

When the note G# is flattened, it becomes a G natural. The same concept can be applied to the notes C# and D#. When flattened, these notes become C and D natural. This theoretical concept can be applied to any two parallel major and natural minor scales. Parallel keys are major and minor keys that have the same letter name or tonal center.
Chapter 3: (10:38) Learning the Natural Minor Scale Review Time

You must have the note names along the six string memorized at this point. If you do not, take this time to go back and review them. As you learned in the major scales lesson, the root note of the scale determines where a particular scale pattern is located. You will not be able to transpose the minor scale pattern to all 12 keys if you do not have the note names memorized across the entire sixth string.

E Natural Minor in First Position

Dave first demonstrates a pattern for E natural minor played in first position. Do not be confused by the fact that this scale pattern does not feature any notes played at the first fret. Position simply refers to the area of the fretboard that a scale or chord is played in. The pattern used for E natural minor is different from the remaining scale patterns, because it contains a few notes played with open strings.

Note: Tablature and notation with proper left-hand fingerings to the scales presented in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

F Natural Minor Scale in First Position

The next scale that Dave demonstrates is the F natural minor scale. Notice how the notes on the fifth and sixth strings are played at the same fret locations. This feature of the scale will help you memorize it in a more efficient manner. Also, notice how this pattern contains no open string notes. When a scale or chord contains no open string notes, it can easily be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. For this reason, Dave utilizes the same fretboard pattern for the remaining natural minor scales presented in this lesson.
Chapter 4: (02:14) Final Thoughts Once you have learned and memorized the scale patterns presented in this lesson, begin to incorporate them into your daily warm-up routine. Remember to warm-up with light scale practice each day before you work on repertoire.

Also, experiment with forming your own improvised melody lines within the natural minor pattern. Practice this process in all 12 possible keys. In future lessons, Dave will teach you a two-octave pattern of the natural minor scale that spans all six strings. Learning this two-octave pattern will multiply the possibilities available to you when improvising a solo.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

LivingInMinorLivingInMinor replied

they never answer

Alexander10Alexander10 replied

How do you remember all of this Dave?

waggs68waggs68 replied


tristramtrenttristramtrent replied

Hello, for me the sound persistently drops out 2.5 min or so into the third scene and does not return, just letting you know . Very helpful stuff otherwise.

the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied

Wow, first bad lesson. Why, the scalar patterns shold be shown on diagrams. Very unclear on the fretboard while someone is playing

the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied

Go to scale library; I found it by typing minor scales in the search area. The scalar patterns clear things up good. Sorry Dave.

corey_rockscorey_rocks replied

this i great to know especially if you want to learn how to play panic switch by the silver sun pickups :)

cawdorcawdor replied

Hey Dave, I am really enjoying the scale lessons. I noticed when you first ran through the minor scale first the pattern for Em was different than when you instructed the pattern. Am I seeing things?

wburkewburke replied

i see what you did there... thank you

lindz_e90lindz_e90 replied

Hey Dmac, correct me if i'm wrong but when you play your minor scales, it doesn't sound minor enough if you know what i mean lol, i've noticed that you play the 7th note of the scale a semitone lower. Is there any reason for this?? The only reason why I know this is because I learned the piano for a year and studied music in High School and personally the 7th note sounds too "happy" to me.

rydawg723rydawg723 replied

You would be correct, the minor scale is the major scale flatted on the 3rd, 6th, and 7th. David plays the minor scale correctly but leaves out the 7th note in his describing it.

gemrocksgemrocks replied

Hi Dmac I am really enjoying your lessons. Your a great guitarist im jealous :). I am a total beginner. I have learn't my 7 major and minor chords. Just wondering, my aim is to play basic to intermediate songs not to make up my own songs etc. So do I really need to memorise the major and minor scales.(also other scales). Should I just stick with chords, riffs/licks and techniques to achieve my aim? Thanks for the lesson:)

garrett24garrett24 replied

Thanks Dmac!

YucatanEdYucatanEd replied

Hey Dave, I know this is a bit off topic, but going through the major and minor scales I have actually gotten alternate picking down!! I don't have to think about it so much anymore. (Wow in just a few short weeks!) Now as I go up and down the scales, my picking hand just kind of alternates on its own. HA!

coolbeanmonkeycoolbeanmonkey replied

Dave at the beginning of the lesson you say that we're flattening the 3rd and the 6th intervals...i noticed the interval between the 7th and route has also changed by flattening the 7th creating a whole step from 7th to i correct or have i lost my way somewhere?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

correct. 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes are flattened.

axeattack196axeattack196 replied

Hey Dave, thanks for an awesome lesson!

ewilliams3684ewilliams3684 replied

I have a quick question, I am trying to memorize each key as I go along. However Im a bit confused as to the 3rd and 6th notes being flats. In the e minor scale the third note is a G, not a flat.. what am I missing?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

thats a good question. compare the Eminor scale to the E major scale, and you will see that in the E major scale the 3rd note is G- sharp, or A flat. in the E minor scale, the 3rd note is G on the 3rd fret. so you see, even though that note is not called a flat note, from the major scale of E, the 3rd note to make it a minor comes down one fret, thus bringing the tone or note down. that is considered flating a note within a scale context. does that make sense? hope that helps.

axeattack196axeattack196 replied

good explanation, thanks!

pyroagpyroag replied

what is up with the trm

viking2viking2 replied

That intro you did sounded damn good Dave! Good job!!!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

well thank you viking!!! i am humbled by your kind compliment! that was a rare improv moment where i really felt in the zone! lol!

pinoyboy2829pinoyboy2829 replied

thanks for another amazing lesson dave. i am starting to understand more about the guitar and where everything is and how it works in relation with the other. what you said is true about how these are the basic foundations of guitar and i am starting to see that. I am also starting to see improvement on my dexterity and speed in playing . Thank you very much.

joshuagrosserjoshuagrosser replied

Loved the lesson!

abadcoverbandabadcoverband replied

Hey Dave, I've modified the tab sheet from the supplemental content section to indicate which scales correspond to which can check it out here: If you guys want to take that image and host it rather than imageshack, that would be awesome. I just prefer looking at my version because I know what scale I'm on at a glance.

godstwingodstwin replied

thanks very helpful

cheesebombcheesebomb replied

Hey Dmac, loved the jam at the beginning :) Thanks for the lesson :)

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

About the GuitarLesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Power ChordsLesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Basic Chord ProgressionsLesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Notes, Chords and ArpeggiosLesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Speed and CoordinationLesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Chord ExercisesLesson 6

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David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Practice and DisciplineLesson 7

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In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Double StopsLesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Major ChordsLesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Minor ChordsLesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major ScalesLesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major Scale JamLesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Minor ScalesLesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Scale JamLesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
One String ExerciseLesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Hammer-Ons and Pull-OffsLesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
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Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Rock LicksLesson 18

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David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Hammer-On ExerciseLesson 19

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Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Return to Pull-OffsLesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Practicing BendsLesson 21

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Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Basic VibratoLesson 22

Basic Vibrato

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Pentatonic ScaleLesson 23

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David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Major ScaleLesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Minor ScaleLesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Major Pentatonic ScaleLesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool LickLesson 29

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Rhythm BasicsLesson 30

Rhythm Basics

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Power Chord VariationsLesson 31

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Tapping Exercise #2Lesson 34

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Tapping #3:  Adding Open StringsLesson 35

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Tapping #4:  Diminished Lick Lesson 36

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David MacKenzie

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

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