Full Minor Scale (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 12:20Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (04:06) The Full Minor Scale The Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian Mode)

I. Overview

The natural minor scale is typically one of the first diatonic minor scale that most guitarists learn. This is due to the fact that the major and natural minor scales share the exact same fretboard patterns. Although these scales share the same patterns, they, sound completely different. Music in a minor key is often described as sad or solemn. Compare the sound of an A minor chord to the sound of an A major chord. How would you describe the difference between these two chords?

II. Definition of a Minor Scale

A minor scale in music theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic and whose fifth is a perfect fifth interval above the root. The fifth interval is included in this definition to exclude modes that imply a diminished tonality such as the Locrian and Locrian Natural Second modes. This definition includes many modes such as the Dorian and Phrygian modes. However, when a musician refers to the 'minor scales' in speech or writing, he or she is typically referring to the natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales.

III. Music Theory

The Natural Minor scale is one of three different minor scales. It is the only minor scale that is derived directly from the Major scale. It is called the Natural Minor scale because it contains no accidentals other than what is in the given key signature, giving it a "natural' sound. The other two minor scales, the Harmonic and Melodic minor, contain accidentals in addition to their key signatures.

A. A Scale of Two Names

The natural minor scale is frequently referred to as the Aeolian mode. Both of these names refer to the exact same scale. The name "Aeolian" is used when referring to this mode as one of the seven diatonic modes of the major scale. The names "ancient minor" and "pure minor" scale also refer to the same scale. However, most musicians in the Western world seldom use these terms.

B. Diatonic Scales

A diatonic scale or mode is defined as any stepwise arrangement of seven pitches known as scale degrees. These scale degrees must complete one octave without altering the established order of whole and half steps that defines the key or mode. An eighth note, which is a duplicate of the first, completes the full octave. The two most common diatonic scales are the major and minor scales. Scales such as the pentatonic, whole-tone scales, and blues scales are not diatonic because they do not contain seven distinct scale degrees.

C. Pattern of Whole Steps and Half Steps

The feature that distinguishes the natural minor scale from all other diatonic scales is its distinct pattern of whole and half steps. It should be noted that whole and half steps are also respectively referred to as tones and semitones. A half step is the distance between any two notes in the chromatic scale or any two frets next to one another on the guitar. A whole step is equal to two half steps or two frets on the guitar. The distance between each adjacent pair of notes is measured in these intervals. When this measurement system is applied to the natural minor scale, the following pattern results: is whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole. In this scale, the half steps occur between the second and third notes as well as between the fifth and sixth notes.

D. Scale Degrees and Function

Each scale degree within a scale or mode typically carries out a specific melodic function. The name of each diatonic scale degree is listed below along with its function(s):

1– Tonic (stable scale degree)
2 – Supertonic (resolves to 1 or 3)
3– Mediant (relatively stable)
4– Subdominant (resolves up to 5 or down to 3)
5– Dominant (relatively stable)
6– Submediant (functions as upper neighbor to 5 or passing from 5-6-7-1.
7– Subtonic (typically resolves to 1. It can also function in a descending sequence from 1 to 5. Keep in mind that this descending line must also pass through the sixth scale degree.)

The seven scale degrees may also labeled with roman numerals I-VII.

E. Relative Minor and Major Keys

Every minor key shares a key signature with a "relative" major key. These keys share the same key signature. Even though they share the same key signature and the same notes, a minor key sounds completely different from its major key. This is due to the way in which each note functions within the scale. Relative keys have different tonal centers. For example, the natural minor tonality is structured around a minor tonic triad where as the major scale is structured around a tonic major triad. Music composed in major and minor tonalities consists of harmonic and melodic lines based on each tonality’s individual tonal center.

The relative major to each minor key can be found a minor third (three frets) above the tonic of the minor scale. For example, the key signature of D major has two sharps. The note that is a minor third below D is the note B. Consequently, these keys are relative keys that share the same key signature.

Although these scales contain the same notes, they should sound completely different when played correctly. When playing any scale, one must hear the notes as a succession of resolutions. Any scale in Western music is structured around a basic triad. These notes that comprise the basic triad are the points of resolution within the scale. Take a look at the A natural minor scale to see how this works.

The A natural minor scale is spelled as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. The tonal center of any diatonic scale is the tonic triad. In this case, the tonic triad is an A minor chord. This chord is comprised of the notes A, C, and E.

The first note of the scale is A, which is the root note of the tonic A minor chord. The next note is B, a non-chord tone. As a result the B should be played as a passing tone between the chord tones A and C. Consequently the D should be played as a passing tone between C and E. And finally, since they are not chord tones, F and G should be played as passing tones resolving to the tonic, or A.

F. Spelling Natural Minor Scales

To form a natural minor scale, simply start on the sixth scale degree of the relative major scale. The derived Natural Minor scale will contain the same notes as the parent major scale. For example, the relative minor scale of C major is A minor. Both of these scales contain the same notes: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C and A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A respectively.

Or, a natural minor scale can be spelled by simply beginning on the appropriate root note. Then, follow the pattern of whole and half steps listed above.

IV. Review of Lesson 13

In this past lesson, Dave introduced a one octave pattern of the natural minor scale. At this point, you must have this pattern memorized. You must also be able to play this scale in all 12 keys. Review these scale patterns at this time if necessary. Remember that the E natural minor scale utilizes an alternate fingering when it is played in "open" or first position. Dave expands upon these concepts in the current lesson. Remember that the E natural minor scale utilizes an alternate fingering when it is played in "open" or first position.

V. Two Octave Scales

In the current lesson, Dave demonstrates how the third, second, and first strings are tied into the natural minor scale pattern. The inclusion of these strings produces a scale pattern that spans two full octaves.

A. Movable / Transposable Scale Patterns

The new two octave minor scale pattern can be transposed to any of the 12 minor keys. The root notes within the scale are used as guides when transposing the pattern to a new key center. Each pattern features a root note on the sixth fifth and fourth strings.

B. E Natural Minor Scale

Similar to the one octave pattern that you learned for E minor in lesson 13, the two octave version of this scale uses an alternate fingering when played in "open" position. Within this fretboard position, the first finger frets all notes at the 1st fret. All 2nd fret notes are played by the middle finger. The ring finger plays at the 3rd fret. Finally, the pinkie finger plays all 4th fret notes. This fingering will allow you to play the "open" E minor scale with maximum speed and accuracy.

Dave begins with the new, upper octave of the pattern. The second octave of the scale begins with the root note E at the 2nd fret of the fourth string. Once you have memorized the upper octave of the scale pattern, combine it with the lower octave of the pattern from Lesson 13.

C. Tips for Practicing Scales

-Always play the ascending and descending form of every scale or scale exercise.

-When first learning the scale, play with all downstrokes.

-As you become more comfortable with the scale, apply alternate picking. First, begin the alternating pattern with a downstroke. Then, repeat the alternating pattern beginning with an upstroke.

-Practice scales with a metronome to monitor your rhythm and speed progress.
Chapter 2: (01:46) The F Minor Scale When transposing the E natural minor scale to the key of F minor, use the root notes in the scale pattern as reference points. First, play an F minor barre chord in first position. Locate the F root notes within this chord. These same root notes are located within the first position F natural minor scale pattern. Dave provides some help with this process at 00:44 in the lesson video.

Upper Octave

Watch closely as Dave demonstrates the upper octave of the F minor scale in the lesson video. The second note, G, can either be played at the fifth fret of the fourth string, or as an open third string note. Within the key of F minor, Dave chooses to play this note on the third string. In the key of E minor, he plays the second note of the pattern on the fourth string. This adjustment results in a much more practical fingering of the scale.

Once you have memorized the upper octave of the pattern, combine it with the lower octave from Lesson 13. Practice the scale using the guidelines listed under the previous scene.
Chapter 3: (00:30) Moving the Scale The E minor and F minor scales are slightly more difficult to remember due to the fingering adjustments mentioned in the previous scene. In the following scene, Dave explains how a single scale pattern and fingering can be used for the remaining minor keys.
Chapter 4: (02:37) G Minor Scale In this scene, Dave demonstrates the upper octave of the G natural minor scale. This scale begins with the root note fingered by the pinkie finger on the fourth string. Then, the second note is played on the third string. This feature of the scale is similar to the pattern that you learned for F minor in the previous scene. However, the second note is now a fretted note instead of an open string.

A position shift occurs in the pattern once the second string is reached. The first finger slides up to third position to fret the note D at the 3rd fret. The rest of the pattern remains in this fretboard position.
Chapter 5: (03:16) Moving the Pattern Once you have memorized the upper octave of the G minor scale, combine it with the lower octave that you have already learned. Dave provides a demonstration of this full two octave pattern at the beginning of this scene. Pay careful attention to the fingering that he uses when playing the two octave version. The note G that begins the second octave of the pattern is now fretted with the third finger instead of the pinkie finger.

This two octave pattern can be transposed to the remaining fretboard positions. For example, if this pattern is moved up one fret, a G# minor scale is formed. By sliding the pattern up another fret, an A minor scale is formed. Watch as Dave demonstrates this scale at 00:58.

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.

chase_1995chase_1995 replied on June 7th, 2010

When you say minor natural what does that mean?

sonydeedssonydeeds replied on April 18th, 2010


tikinhokuntikinhokun replied on January 9th, 2010

hey Dmac, how fast do I have to play the scales? how much bpms? I can do them like 200 bpm, dunno if it is fast enough (= thanks and, rock on! =D

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on January 9th, 2010

there is no bpm you must reach, as it is more about understanding the scale and how to play it. sounds like you are doing great!

rockerdonrockerdon replied on July 27th, 2008

great lesson. What everybods saying.

VinnyBVinnyB replied on July 25th, 2008

Yeah, what ronin said. Well done Jason and congrats on your 1st lesson.

ronin808ronin808 replied on July 25th, 2008

Yea what pillow and Matt said

pillowpantsspillowpantss replied on July 24th, 2008

Its nice to see to full minor scale, thanks David!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on July 24th, 2008

Hey Jason! Thanks for making all of our lives a lot easier!

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.

Lesson 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
Lesson 2

Power Chords

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

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 6

Chord Exercises

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
Lesson 7

Practice and Discipline

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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 13

The Minor Scales

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

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

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

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Full Major Scale

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

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

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

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 41


In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only

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!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

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