Let’s look at how to build an A flat minor scale on the piano. We’ll look at how to build both A flat natural minor and A flat harmonic minor scales.
What Are Minor Scales?
Minor scales are groups of eight notes, played in alphabetical order, starting and ending on the same note. They’re groups of notes used to write songs.
Songs written in the key of A flat minor used the notes of the A flat minor scale to write the song.
Three Types of Minor Scales
There are three types of minor scales:
- Natural minor
- Harmonic minor
- Melodic minor
Natural Minor Scales
Natural minor scales each have a relative major scale on the piano. This means these two scales use the same notes to build their scales, but start and end on different notes.
We can build a natural minor scale by starting on the sixth note of a major scale, then playing through the notes of that major scale.
Another way to build a natural minor scale is to use a pattern of half-steps and whole steps.
A half-step is the distance from one note to the very next, whether black or white.
A whole step is two half-steps.
To build a natural minor scale, we can find our starting note, then play through this pattern (where W = whole step, and H = half-step):
W – H – W – W – H – W – W
How to Build an A Flat Natural Minor Scale
Or we can start on A♭ and play the note one whole step up, which is B♭. Then we can play the note one half-step up from that, which is C♭. The reason we call this note C♭ instead of B is because scales must progress in alphabetical order. Then we’ll play the note one whole step up from C♭, which is D♭.
We can continue following this pattern of half-steps and whole steps until we reach the next A♭ and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes for an A Flat Natural Minor Scale?
Here are the notes for an A flat natural minor scale:
A♭ – B♭ – C♭ – D♭ – E♭ – F♭ – G♭ – A♭
Labeling the Notes of the Scale
You’ve probably noticed all the notes of this scale are flat. And you may be wondering why we would label the F♭ as F♭, instead of E (flat indicates the note 1/2 step down, sharp indicates the note 1/2 step up). Good question!
The reason is that the notes of a scale must progress in alphabetical order. Since this is an A flat minor scale, the second note will be some kind of B, the third note some kind of C, the fourth note some kind of D, and so on.
Some scales use the same notes on the piano to build their scales, but go by two different names. These are called “enharmonic scales”. There are three sets of enharmonic major scales on the piano:
B major and C♭ major
F♯ major and G♭ major
C♯ major and D♭ major
Since these major scales are enharmonic, their relative minor scales will also be enharmonic.
Here are the enharmonic minor scales:
G♯ minor and A♭ minor
D♯ minor and E♭ minor
A♯ minor and B♭ minor
Harmonic Minor Scales
Harmonic minor scales are similar to natural minor scales, except the seventh note has been raised 1/2 step.
These scales are popular because of the way the raised seventh note changes the sound of the music.
How to Build an A Flat Harmonic Minor Scale
To build an A flat harmonic minor scale, we’ll start with an A flat natural minor scale. Then we’ll raise the seventh note, G♭, 1/2 step to G.
What Are the Notes for an A Flat Harmonic Minor Scale?
Here are the notes for an A flat harmonic minor scale:
A♭ – B♭ – C♭ – D♭ – E♭ – F♭ – G – A♭
Melodic Minor Scales
Melodic minor scales aren’t as common as the other two types, because they raise the sixth and seventh notes ascending (going up), and play the natural minor scale descending (going down).
Other Minor Scales
Here are all the minor scales:
A minor scale
E minor scale
B minor scale
F♯ minor scale
C♯ minor scale
G♯ minor scale
D♯ minor scale
A♯ minor scale
D minor scale
G minor scale
C minor scale
F minor scale
B♭ minor scale
E♭ minor scale
A♭ minor scale
Now you know how to build different kinds of A flat minor scales on the piano, and you can use these patterns to build other minor scales!
Minor keys are enjoyable to play because they provide a nice contrast to major keys, lending themselves naturally to reverence and introspection.