The 5 Secrets of Minor Scale

Minor Scales are generally a topic that almost every guitarist learns early on. Maybe it is  Minor Pentatonic, or perhaps some Minor scale runs, a few licks? Whatever it was the education quite likely just skimmed the surface. The sad truth is that hardly anyone knows all the unique opportunities that Minor Scale can offer... 

In this video, I’m going to show you a collection of FIVE Minor Scale secrets that you can start using right away.


If you are quite limited with your knowledge of the Minor scale, these ideas will help you to fix Minor Scale confusion with five important long term solutions.

My question (up front) to you is; “are you fully aware of what the Minor sound can do in music, and where Minor Scale comes from, and all of Minor’s other sounds – including the Melodic and modes?

If not, that's fine. We'll clear this up right now!

It's terrible, but very few guitar players completely understand the Minor scale. So, in this lesson, I’m going to focus on helping you understand 5 Minor Scale Secrets that unfortunately – very few guitar students are taught…

1). What Makes Minor Scale Happen?
The first Minor Scale secret has to do with, “What establishes Minor Color.” Because, if any melody, or chord riff is going to be, “Minor” there’s one primary thing about the scale or chord that absolutely has to happen.

And, that idea is the “3rd” degree of the scale or chord. It must be a step and a half from the scale or chord’s root.

This distance creates Minor! For example, this means that if we have a scale, or a chord and the Root is (let’s say), “G,” then the distance to the 3rd note will determine whether, or not the sound is going to be Major or Minor.

In this example, (above) you can tell that the distance from “G to B natural” creates a 2 whole-step Major sound. But, if you drop the distance down to become a step and a half, we end up with a “G to a Bb,” and this sound is now Minor.

Once you understand what it is that creates Minor (in a scale, or a chord), another secret I want to teach you is how the Minor Scale is used to create chord progressions.

2). Minor Chord progressions
This area of Minor Scale application is vital to using the scale in melodic situations. And, to understand it will involve learning what the chords are that exist within what’s known of as Minor Key Harmony.

Minor key Harmony involves the construction of chords upon every step of the Minor Scale. In the scale of “A Minor,” we have seven chords for every step of the Minor Scale, they are; “Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, and G.” Once you understand this, you can use these chords to create jams and riffs.

3). Creating Minor Jams and Song-Tracks
That brings us to the third secret of the Minor Scale that I want to talk about, and it has to do with creating jam tracks and songs so that we can actually use the minor scale and create melody lines along with; guitar solos.

The real secret here is that Minor keys use a lot of the same popular harmonic concepts that the Major Keys do. So, luckily, this means that we’ll discover a lot of the same chord movements in Minor that also get used in Major.

For example, there’s the popular application of the; Root, 4th and 5th degree chord movements, (with the 5th being used to make turnarounds).

Let's play you an example of a Chord Jam right now that does this exact thing, (it’s often referred to as the “I-IV-V” chord progression), and I’ll bet you’ve heard something like this before.

Typical Minor Chord Jam:

4). The 3 Forms of Minor
The fourth secret of the Minor scale is based upon something called “Minor Scale Forms.”

If you check out a Music Theory text-book, you’ll find that the Minor Scale isn’t mentioned in the same way that the Major Scale is established in theory.

The Minor Scale consists of three “Forms.” These include the basic Natural Minor, the Harmonic Minor and the Melodic Minor.

Each of these scales have their own unique harmonies, and all 3 function in ways that create unique musical situations. aside from the primary Minor Scale (Natural Minor), the most popular of these other Minor forms is the, “Harmonic Minor.” 

The Harmonic Minor scale is simple to learn because it’s basically the same as Natural Minor, except, the 7th degree is raised up a half-step higher.

You’ll find Harm. Min. used when the fifth chord of a Minor progression switches to either “Major” or more commonly to, “Dominant 7th.” 

As an example of this, if we changed that “Em” chord (of that “Am” progression I played you a minuet ago), to either “E Major” or to “E Dominant 7th,” we could switch to performing the “A” Harm. Minor Scale on that measure.

Let's practice playing on a jam like this, (including a solo using Harm. Min.), so that you can hear exactly how this sound works.

The other form of “Minor” is less popular in contemporary music, it’s called “Melodic Minor.” This scale is very unique and it sometimes can be complicated to apply because of its very different organization of scale tones.

Melodic Minor uses a group of complex chord types when it gets harmonized, and that ends up producing a sound in harmony that’s musically contrasting if you don’t understand how to control it.

Because the “Melodic Minor” could burn up an entire video of its own – I’m going to suggest at this point - that you go and watch my YouTube video called, “Using the Melodic Minor Scale.”


NOTE: The "Using the Melodic Minor Scale," lesson plan comes with a detailed 5-page handout along with an MP3 jam-track that you can use to apply the scale ideas discussed in the video.

5) Modal Soloing with Minor Scale
The final Minor Scale secret I want to share with you has to do with the fact that Minor Soloing is not limited to the Natural Minor and its other forms.

One of the coolest things that we can do when playing a Minor Solo is shift around the scale-tones to reflect modal ideas.

Guitar players like; Kirk Hammett, Richie Blackmore, Jimmy Hendrix and many others didn’t limit their note choices to what’s found in the Natural Minor. Because they knew that we can include other modal tones like Dorian’s raised 6th, and Phrygian’s lowered 2nd.

These altered notes can create some very cool Minor effects!

Here’s an example of how to do something like this. Record a basic minor key jam using the process described back in steps 2 and 3.

While playing over your Minor key chord changes test ways of inserting the unique tones from Dorian and Phrygian mode.

Using additional notes that exist outside of the standard Minor scale can sound fantastic when done right.”

Let's say that your progression was in "G Minor," you could apply some, “G Dorian,” as well as, some sounds from the, “G Phrygian” mode.

This really is like saving the best for last. And, when you hear these minor effects, you’ll know right away why so many famous guitar players use these minor mode concepts around standard Minor key harmony.

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