Music Theory

Here is a preview of some of the lessons included in Musicopoulos

Relative Minor Scale

Understanding the Relative Minor Scale

In order to understand the origin of the Relative Minor scale, we much first understand the concept of Modes.

Modes are simply a group of related scales. The term “mode” may be confusing at first but don’t let this intimidate you. Modes are simply scales that are related to each other.

We have already studies the Major Scale in previous lessons. The Major scale is a group of 7 repeating notes. Each Major Scale is spelled by starting at the root note and following the order of the alphabet.

Now, consider the C Major scale

Relative Minor Scales Example 1

If we spell out the scale starting at the II degree, D, instead of the root note, we derive the following scale

Relative Minor Scales Example 2

This scale is referred to as the “D Dorian Mode”. We will study all the Modes of the Major Scale in a later lesson. This example has been used only to illustrate how Modes are created.

If we continue to follow this pattern of displacing the different notes of the Major Scale, we will find 7 different Modes.

In this lesson, we will focus on the Mode derived from starting at the VI degree of the Major Scale. This Mode is referred to as the Relative Minor Scale.

Although the Major Scale and its Relative Minor Scale share the same note, music that is created using a Major Scale with significantly different from music that is created using a Relative Minor Scale. Music in minor keys will have a different quality because they follow a different pattern, leading to different relationships with each other. Music in minor keys has a different sound and emotional feel and is sometimes described as sounding more solemn, sad, mysterious, or ominous than music that is in a major key.

The Relative Minor scale sounds different from its major scale because they are based on a different pattern of halfsteps and wholesteps.

The Relative Minor Scale can be derived using the following pattern of halfsteps and wholesteps when using the chromatic scale

2 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 2

As each mode shares the same notes as its relative major scale, it follows that they share the same Key Signature. For example, if we consider the G Major Scale:

Relative Minor Scales Example 3

It has 1 sharp with a Key Signature of F#

The Natural Minor Scale, derived from the 6th degree would be E Minor

Relative Minor Scales Example 4

And has the same Key Signature, F#

With this information, we can now revise Circle of 5ths to include the Relative Minor Scales

Relative Minor Scales Example 5

Below is a list of the Relative Minor Scales