Over the last few decades popular music has changed it’s course from major to minor keys. Now, it is more important than ever to have serious control over your ability to perform in minor tonality...
WHAT IS A "MINOR KEY"?
A minor key means that the song is composed in a key or mode based upon minor tonality (the third of the key is lowered "b3"). The song generally has a more darker, melancholic or reflects a sad mood.
To be able to improvise over a minor key you need a minor scale. There are a lot different types of minor scales. However, if we were to focus on the top two scales played over a minor key they would be the "Natural Minor," and the "Dorian Mode."
The minor pentatonic scale should also be mentioned, but since it is simply a 5-tone derivative of Natural Minor, (Minor Pentatonic is created by removing a Natural Minor's 2nd and 6th degrees), there is nothing new arriving upon the melodic landscape between these two scales.
CHORDS and the NATURAL MINOR:
In order to use scales we need to understand how to use the chords built from the natural minor scale to play these scales over.
The chord formula for the natural minor scale is:
minor – diminished – major – minor – minor – major – major
Often notated as Roman numerals: i – ii dim – III – iv – v – VI – VII
If we’re going to play chords found in the key of “A” minor, we would begin from the notes of the "A Natural Minor Scale."
"A" natural minor scale: A – B – C – D – E – F – G
The chords of the key of "A Minor" would be:
Am – Bdim – C – Dm – Em – F – G
You can use these chords to build any progression. A popular and common Natural Minor key chord progression is:
Am, G, F, G, (i – VII – VI – VII)
Example 1). A Natural Minor Progression
CHORDS and the DORIAN MODE:
In order to use the Dorian mode we need to understand how to use the chords that are built from the Dorian mode.
The chord formula for the Dorian mode scale is:
minor – minor – major – major – minor – diminished – major
Often notated as Roman numerals: i – ii – III – IV – v – vi dim – VII
If we’re going to play chords found in the scale of “A” Dorian mode, we would begin from the notes of the "A Dorian Scale."
"A" Dorian Mode: A – B – C – D – E – F# – G
The chords of the scale of "A Dorian" would be:
Am – Bm – C – D – Em – F# dim – G
You can use these chords to build any progression. A popular and common Dorian Minor key chord progression is:
Am, D, G, D, (i – IV– VII – IV)
Example 2). A Dorian Mode Progression
We use scales as a way to improvise and compose over chord progressions. Both of the scales below are in the key of A, but they fit over the structure of chord progressions differently (depending upon the chord types).
The "Natural Minor" Scale
"A Natural Minor":
The Natural Minor scale functions over a natural minor key and is capable of dark and soulful sounds. The scale is widely used in pop, rock, blues and many other styles of music.
It consists of seven notes: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
Example 3). Natural Minor Neck pattern (Tonic notes are solid dots)
The "Dorian Mode" Scale
The Dorian mode minor scale functions over minor key progressions with a "major" quality IV-chord. It sounds more major or bluesy as opposed to the Natural Minor scale.
It consists of seven notes: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Notice the raised 6th as compared to the Natural minor scale.
Example 4). Dorian Mode Neck pattern (Tonic notes are solid dots)
Record the chord progressions from examples one and two and align the scales upon "A" tonic notes to create melody. Start by trying to compose a worked out part at first. Then, work at improvising as you become more accustom to the scales sound and character.
There are plenty more scales to use over a minor key. If you already familiar with the minor pentatonic and the natural minor scale and you want to step up, check out the "Phrygian Mode" as well as the, "Harmonic Minor scale" and the "Melodic Minor scale." They set the stage for beautiful colors and mysterious atmospheres over a minor key.
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