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The Minor Scale

The minor scale is the second important scale for learning how to play lead guitar. Just like the major scale, it’s a seven note scale.

Before getting started with the minor scale, you’ll want to make sure you have a really good understanding of the major scale. If you haven’t already, go through the previous article on The Major Scale.

The Minor Scale Formula

Like the major scale, the minor scale is made up of a series of whole-steps (W) and half-steps (H). This is the order of whole-steps and half-steps that make up the minor scale.

The Minor Scale Formula

The Notes Of The A Minor Scale

To find the notes of the minor scale, we apply the minor scale formula to the musical alphabet. If we were making a D minor scale, the note we’d start on would be D. If we were making an F# minor scale, we would start on an F#. In this case, we’re going to be making an A minor scale. So the first note will be an A. The rest of the notes are defined by applying the minor scale formula.

The Notes Of The A Minor Scale

The Degrees Of The A Minor Scale

Now we’ll number the notes of the A minor scale. Knowing the degrees of your minor scale will help you relate this scale to other scales as well as help you to develop an understanding of the intervals within the scale.

The Degrees Of The A Minor Scale

Relative Major & Minor Scales

The relative major scale can be found by going up 3 frets/semi-tones from the minor scale root note. Alternatively, you could locate the 3rd degree of the minor scale. In our A minor scale, this note would be the C. This makes our relative major scale a C major scale.

C Major & A Minor Scales

Here are the most commonly used shapes for the C major scale and the A minor scale. The black dots mark the root notes (the C notes in the C major scale and the A notes in the A minor scale) of each scale.

C Major & A Minor Scales

Extended A Minor Scale

You should already know that the A minor and C major scales contain the exact same notes. They just start at different points. The A minor scale contains the notes 1A 2B 3C 4D 5E 6F 7G, and the C major scale contains the notes 1C 2D 3E 4F 5G 6A 7B.

Because of this, we can combine the standard major scale shape and the standard minor scale shape into our larger “extended” scale.

The Minor Scale

C Major & A Minor Extended Scales

The only difference between the C major and A minor extended scales is the root note locations. In the C major shape, the C notes are our root notes. In the A minor shape, the A notes are our root notes.

C Major & A Minor Extended Scales

Extended Scale Horizontal View

Here’s another way to look at this extended A minor scale shape.

Minor Scale Horizontal View

Using The Extended Minor Scale Shape In Other Keys

It’s really easy to use this scale shape in other keys. All you have to do is move the entire shape so that the root note locations become the root note of our minor key. If you wanted to play this minor scale shape in B minor, you would move the entire shape up two frets so that your A root notes became B root notes.

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