Introduction to minor scales

Major scales follow an easy formula we talked about before, it's simply 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.

To go from Major scale to a minor scale we have to modify a few notes, we do so by adding flats to some of the notes. Remember that to flatten a note is to lower it's pitch by one note.

To get a minor scale we take a Major scale and we flatten the 3rd, 6th and 7th scale degrees.

Major Scale Degrees minor Scale Degrees
1 1
2 2
3 b3
4 4
5 5
6 b6
7 b7

Now's a good time to say Major tends to be written with a capital M while minor tends to go with a lowercase m. This is not a strict rule, but a good practice nonetheless.

In bold I have highlighted the difference between Major and minor scales. The 3rd, 6th and 7th are flattened as compared to Major.

When a note is flattened we call it's interval minor.

For example, the interval of a 3rd is actually called by full name as a Major third, and the interval of a flat 3rd is also named a minor third (sometimes written b3, and pronounced “a flat three”).

So the interval names of a minor scale are:

Scale degrees Interval Names
1 Perfect Unison
2 Major Second
b3 minor Third
4 Perfect Fourth
5 Perfect Fifth
b6 minor Sixth
b7 minor Seventh

Meaning that a minor scale swapped the Major intervals (like Major third, Major sixth and Major seventh) for minor intervals (minor third, minor sixth and Major seventh). The only Major interval left is the 2nd. In a minor scale the 2nd remains Major.

A minor 2nd does in fact exist, it just does not clearly appears on a minor scale. It's presence it's more obvious on the Phrygian mode, a scale we will look at later.

Even though the minor scale formula (1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7) does not specifically include the minor second (also referred to as the flat two / b2) it IS present in the minor scale, it's just initially hidden, in fact it's also present on a Major scale, this is the next topic we will tackle, for now I leave you with this:

An important realization is that all the intervals that are perfect are the intervals that the Major and minor scale have in common...... expect for the Major or minor 2nd. The reason why we will explore shortly!