Diatonic Natural Minor (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Diatonic Natural Minor

This lesson covers the natural minor scale and diatonic natural minor progressions. Matt uses the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" as an example.

Taught by Matt Brown in Rock Guitar with Matt Brown seriesLength: 24:55Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:33) Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Rock Series with Matt Brown! This time around, Matt shifts his discussion from diatonic major progressions to diatonic minor progressions. At this point in the series, Matt has only explained one type of diatonic minor scale. This scale is referred to as the natural minor scale or the Aeolian mode.

Throughout the lesson, the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" is used to explore music theory as well as lead guitar concepts. You will learn what makes the chord progression under the solo a diatonic natural minor progression. In addition, Matt explains the scale options that can be used over this type of progression. Finally, he dives into his improvisational approach to the "Stairway to Heaven" solo.

Watch and Learn

Watch and listen as Matt plays a solo over the "Stairway to Heaven" progression. Compare the solo he plays to Jimmy Page's original recorded solo. Besides the obvious differences in tone, volume, etc. what do you notice?
Chapter 2: (05:52) Diatonic Natural Minor Progression A progression is diatonic to the natural minor or Aeolian tonality when all of the notes within the progression are contained within a specific natural minor scale.

Another way to determine whether a progression is diatonic or not is to memorize the diatonic chords for each tonality.

For any diatonic tonality, a diatonic triad can be built from each note in the scale. These triads are built by stacking diatonic thirds above each root note. The type of triad built from each scale degree remains the same regardless of which key the tonality is played in. In this lesson, Matt relates the majority of lesson materials to the A natural minor (A Aeolian) tonality. Study the spelling of this scale listed below:

A Natural Minor: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

Now, think of these notes in terms of scale degrees. Assign a Roman numeral to each note based on its order in the scale. A Roman numerals are used to indicate specific relationships within a tonality regardless of which key it is played in. They are quite effective at conveying the function of a note or chord within a tonality.

I - A
II - B
IV - D
V - E
VI - F

Next, stack diatonic thirds above each root note to form diatonic triads.

I - A, C, E (Am)
II - B, D, F (Bo)
III - C, E, G (C Major)
IV - D, F, A (D Minor)
V - E, G, B (E Minor)
VI - F, A, C (F Major)
VII - G, B, D (G Major)

Since these chords are all diatonic to the A natural minor tonality, a progression consisting of any combination of these chords is also diatonic to the natural minor tonality.

Memorize the chord quality of the triad built from each scale degree. As mentioned earlier, the quality of each diatonic chord in the natural minor tonality remains the same regardless of which key you are playing in.

Stairway to Heaven

Take a look at the chord progression that is played under the "Stairway to Heaven" solo. All three chords used in the progression are diatonic to A natural minor. Am is the i or tonic chord. F Major is the VI chord. G major is the VII chord.

Note: Lower case Roman numerals indicate a chord that is either minor or diminished in quality. Uppercase Roman numerals are used for all other chord types.
Chapter 3: (03:53) Scales Note: Tablature and standard notation to all scale patterns discussed in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

From a theoretical standpoint, the natural minor scale is always a valid option when playing over a diatonic progression in the natural minor tonality. The minor pentatonic scale is also an effective option, since its pitches are merely a subset of the natural minor scale. In addition, the minor blues scale will also work as long as it is used carefully.

Minor Blues Scale

The minor blues scale is one example of a derived scale. Derived scales add an additional chromatic note to the parent scale from which they originate. The minor blues scale is derived from the minor pentatonic scale. When a chromatic note is added between the third and fourth notes of the pentatonic scale, the minor blues scale is formed. This additional b5 scale tone is frequently referred to as a "blue" note since it gives the scale its distinct blues-y quality.

Simply add the Eb note into the minor pentatonic patterns wherever it occurs. Practice and memorize the five commonly used patterns for this scale. Take one pattern at a time. Memorize two patterns per week. Watch as Matt plays the A minor blues scale in fifth position at 02:00 in the lesson video.

When playing this scale over a diatonic progression, the blue note should not be emphasized. Placing this note on a metrically strong beat or holding for an extended duration will create a very dissonant sound. However, the note can be quite effective when it is used in passing. For example, it can be used in chromatic lines that descend from E to D. Solos that contain no chromatic notes tend to sound rather plain and boring or "vanilla."

Remember that there is a big difference between what will work from a purely theoretical standpoint and what is actually effective in a solo. You must try each of these scale concepts within the context of the solo to see if they are effective. Do they fit the overall mood or vibe of the solo?
Chapter 4: (06:15) Scales Used by Jimmy Page For the most part, Jimmy Page sticks to the A minor pentatonic scale throughout the original solo. Remember that the pentatonic scales are very effective at conveying an edgy, hard rock sound. The natural minor scale produces a modal sound that is not quite as effective within this context.

During the first lick of the solo, Jimmy page throws in an F natural note from the A natural minor scale. He uses this note to highlight an important resolution that occurs within the chord progression. Page highlights the resolution from a G major chord to F major by throwing in this note. Notice how F natural is not used again throughout the solo.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for a complete transcription of Jimmy Page's original recorded solo for "Stairway to Heaven."

Matt's Approach to the Solo

The "Stairway" solo is arguably the most recognizable recorded solo of all time. With this in mind, an audience has certain expectations when they hear the solo performed. For this reason, it's a good idea to throw in some of Jimmy Page's signature licks from the solo. Matt typically plays the first four measures of the solo exactly as they are played on the original recording. Then, he improvises for the next few measures. He typically plays the lick that occurs in measures 9 and 10 since it is so recognizable. Matt then continues to improvise until the final signature lick is played at the end of the solo. This approach to the solo pleases audience members who are expecting to hear some of the signature licks. It also enables you to interject a lot of your own creativity and voice into the solo.

In order to achieve this approach, you must always visualize what is coming next in the solo. Your improvised licks must serve as logical connections between each of the memorized signature licks. Otherwise, the signature licks will sound as though they have been forced into the solo.

Jimmy Page's Live Approach

When Jimmy Page plays the solo live, he typically improvises the entire section. In fact, the original solo was improvised as well. Now that the original solo has become so popular, Jimmy Page may throw in some of the signature licks if the moment calls for them.
Chapter 5: (03:44) Stairway to Heaven Chord Progression In this scene, Matt gives you an opportunity to work on the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" while he plays the chord progression.

Note: Tablature and notation to the chord progression can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Matt plays through the progression 12 times then continues into the next section of the song. This will force you to count and keep track of the form. Your solo must end with a strong logical conclusion before the next section of the song enters.
Chapter 6: (02:33) Wrap-Up The chord progression played under the guitar solo to "Scar Tissue" is diatonic to the D natural minor tonality. The progression features the i and VII chords in this key. Respectively, these chords are D minor and C.

Note: Tablature and standard notation to the progression recorded on the Californication album can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Matt also demonstrates a variation on the progression that sounds slightly fuller. This variation can be played to round out the sound in the absence of a bass player.

Use the information provided in this lesson to determine which scales will work over the progression. Then, record yourself playing the progression along with a metronome. You don't need a fancy Pro Tools set up to do this. A simple tape player will do the trick. Play the tape back and work on your improvisational skills.

Preview of Next Lesson

Matt will take a momentary break from lead guitar concepts and return to string skipping technique in the next lesson. He will use Matteo Carcassi's "Caprice" to demonstrate string skipping technique as well as some important musicality concepts.

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.

shredder41shredder41 replied

Matt, I counted 20 bars on the Zep tune..rather than 12...? Overall great lesson though.

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Hi! Glad you liked the lesson! Yeah, on the original recording of Stairway, the solo is 20 bars long. The solo I played in scene 1 is only 16 bars long. Not sure why I chose to play 16 instead of 20...Hypothetically, if you were playing this song with a band, you could make the solo as long or short as you want. Just make sure you cue your rhythm section and let them know when it's time to move on to the next section.

shredder41shredder41 replied

sorry, I mean 24

mhsmitty330mhsmitty330 replied

Any chance of getting the whole song as a lesson?

mhsmitty330mhsmitty330 replied

Thank you

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Unfortunately, no...In order to teach a song in Phase 3, we have to get permission from the publisher who controls the publishing rights and the artist that wrote the song. To the best of my knowledge, JamPlay doesn't have access to anything in Led Zeppelin's catalog. That might change in the future...or it might not. I imagine you can get some help if you stop in one of the Q+A sessions though. I'd be glad to help as well. Just let me know. :) Thanks!

bluesheavybluesheavy replied

Wouldn't the aeolian mode be a better fit then the dorian?

bluesheavybluesheavy replied

So the diatonic natural minor is just taking the C major scale and starting on the 6th degree or Am and changing the chords numbering making Am the 1 chord thus C major 3 chord. Now a I iv v would be all minor

mattbrownmattbrown replied

You wouldn't want to use A Dorian since that has an F# in it...That would clash with the Fmaj7 chord in the progression...Right...i iv v are all minor in Aeolian. I should mention that i iv v (Am - Dm - Em) isn't a very common progression. You usually see i iv to VII (Am - Dm - G) instead. Or, you get Am - Dm to E Major, which gives you the A harmonic minor scale...I talk about that scale later in this series...

mdmdmdmd replied

Hey, is that tab for the second part correct? It looks like there are a couple of extra notes played by Matt that are not on the tab.

beeho15beeho15 replied

awesome and thank you

mattbrownmattbrown replied

No, thank you! :) Glad you liked this one!

Rock Guitar with Matt Brown

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Chuck Berry among others pioneered the style of rock and roll in the 1950's. Today, rock and roll remains the most popular genre of music. Over the years the genre has progressed & spawned many sub-genres: soft rock, classic rock, punk rock, and more. Dive into this Phase 2 set of lessons to become a master of rock.

Proper PracticingLesson 1

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Introduction to LeadLesson 2

Introduction to Lead

Matt Brown discusses some of the fundamentals to playing lead.

Length: 15:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Figuring Out NotesLesson 3

Figuring Out Notes

Matt shows you the basics of figuring out any note on the guitar.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
ScalesLesson 4


Learn the basic minor, natural, and major scales. Quite a few techniques & ideas start with scales - they're an essential building block.

Length: 34:15 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Major ScalesLesson 5

Major Scales

In this lesson, Matt takes you through the major scales & helps you to understand how they can be used.

Length: 20:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Natural Minor ScalesLesson 6

Natural Minor Scales

Matt teaches the most common natural minor scale patterns.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
BendingLesson 7


Learn & master the most popular types of bends.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sweep Picking & RakesLesson 8

Sweep Picking & Rakes

Learn sweep picking and string rakes.

Length: 18:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Solo TechniquesLesson 9

Solo Techniques

Learn various techniques to use when improvising / soloing.

Length: 12:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Tuning DownLesson 10

Tuning Down

Matt explains the most effective way to tune your guitar down.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Barre ChordsLesson 11

Barre Chords

Learn how to establish finger independence and a few tips and tricks with barre chords.

Length: 37:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Rock LicksLesson 12

Rock Licks

In this lesson, Matt Brown introduces a rock lick and shows how several famous players have modified it.

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rock SequencesLesson 13

Rock Sequences

In this lesson Matt teaches some crucial rock sequences. He also explains how these sequences can be integrated in to your playing.

Length: 34:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
String SkippingLesson 14

String Skipping

Matt Brown focuses on string skipping technique. He provides several exercises designed to improve this aspect of your playing.

Length: 33:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
IntervalsLesson 15


Lesson 15 in Matt's rock series is all about intervals.

Length: 34:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rock Lead GuitarLesson 16

Rock Lead Guitar

Matt Brown demonstrates lead guitar techniques using Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" as an example.

Length: 29:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Solo Using Diatonic ScalesLesson 17

Solo Using Diatonic Scales

Matt Brown explains which scales can be used when playing a solo over a diatonic progression in a major key. As an example, he teaches the solo section to Candlebox's song "Far Behind."

Length: 33:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Diatonic Natural Minor Lesson 18

Diatonic Natural Minor

This lesson covers the natural minor scale and diatonic natural minor progressions. Matt uses the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" as an example.

Length: 24:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Right Hand TechniqueLesson 19

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 19 Matt provides instruction on developing right hand skills including string skipping.

Length: 26:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Non-Diatonic ProgressionsLesson 20

Non-Diatonic Progressions

In lesson 20, Matt discusses chord progressions that don't follow a diatonic tonality.

Length: 29:07 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Harmonic MinorLesson 21

Harmonic Minor

Matt begins to discuss and demonstrate the harmonic minor scale.

Length: 29:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Improvising Over Harmonic MinorLesson 22

Improvising Over Harmonic Minor

In lesson 22, Matt continues his discussion of the harmonic minor tonality.

Length: 14:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sweet Child O' MineLesson 23

Sweet Child O' Mine

In lesson 23, Matt takes a look at the solo section for the song "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Length: 19:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
TodayLesson 24


Matt will be taking a look at the solo section from the live version of the Smashing Pumpkins song "Today".

Length: 7:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Back In Black SoloLesson 25

Back In Black Solo

Matt Brown reviews and discusses the solo section to AC/DC's hit "Back In Black".

Length: 9:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
BrotherLesson 26


In lesson 26, Matt covers the solo section from the Alice in Chains song "Brother".

Length: 9:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Matt's Rock ManifestoLesson 27

Matt's Rock Manifesto

Matt Brown discusses lead guitarists, what makes a good solo, and tips for your own lead playing.

Length: 41:06 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Legato Playing ExercisesLesson 28

Legato Playing Exercises

Matt Brown teaches a number of exercises aimed at improving your legato playing technique.

Length: 37:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Right Hand ExercisesLesson 29

Right Hand Exercises

Matt Brown demonstrates a few exercises to build skill and speed in your right hand.

Length: 15:06 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
String Skipping EtudeLesson 30

String Skipping Etude

Matt Brown teaches Heitor Villa-Lobos' 1st Etude as a lesson in string skipping.

Length: 38:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Three Octave ScalesLesson 31

Three Octave Scales

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play three octave versions of the minor pentatonic and the major scales in all 12 keys.

Length: 16:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Diatonic IntervalsLesson 32

Diatonic Intervals

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play all seven of the diatonic intervals within the framework of a horizontal major scale.

Length: 23:01 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Diatonic 7th ArpeggiosLesson 33

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Matt Brown discuss diatonic arpeggios as a theory lesson as well as demonstrating the technique.

Length: 9:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Diatonic 7ths Across the NeckLesson 34

Diatonic 7ths Across the Neck

Matt Brown explains how to play the diatonic seventh chords of the major scale. Similar to lesson 32, this lesson takes a horizontal approach to the fretboard.

Length: 10:46 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Solo Ideas #1Lesson 35

Solo Ideas #1

Matt Brown teaches a progression and accompanying solo to demonstrate ideas for creating your own.

Length: 21:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Solo Ideas #2Lesson 36

Solo Ideas #2

Matt Brown takes a look at another chord progression and solo.

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Legato Playing IdeasLesson 37

Legato Playing Ideas

In lesson 37 of the Rock Series, Matt Brown demonstrates and talks about legato playing ideas.

Length: 21:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Rhythm ConceptsLesson 38

Rhythm Concepts

Matt Brown switches gears in lesson 38 to start talking about rhythm concepts for rock playing.

Length: 27:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Compositional TechniquesLesson 39

Compositional Techniques

Matt Brown discusses some often used techniques to build effective rock compositions.

Length: 17:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Creative Chord VoicingsLesson 40

Creative Chord Voicings

Matt Brown shows off some ways to add some creativity and originality to your rock chord voicings.

Length: 11:59 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lead ApproachLesson 41

Lead Approach

Matt Brown takes another look at his approach to soloing. He demonstrates ideas you can use in your own playing.

Length: 12:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lead Approach #2Lesson 42

Lead Approach #2

Matt Brown adds practice to his lead approach by giving you another chord progression to solo over.

Length: 7:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lead Approach #3Lesson 43

Lead Approach #3

Matt Brown has another chord progression and solo exercise to go over in this lesson on lead approach.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
String Skipping RevisitedLesson 44

String Skipping Revisited

Matt Brown takes another look at string skipping. He breaks down some key areas of Matteo Carcassi's Allegro as an exercise.

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Matt Brown

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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