How to Build an A Minor Scale on the Piano

Minor Scales

Let’s look at how to build an A minor scale on the piano. We’ll look at how to build both natural minor and 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 minor used the notes of the A minor scale to write the song.

Three Types of Minor Scales

There are three types of minor scales:

  • Natural minor
  • Harmonic minor
  • Melodic minor
minor scales piano charts printable pdf

Minor Scales Printable

This 38-page PDF will help you learn and visualize the notes for both natural minor and harmonic minor scales, laying a wonderful foundation for building chords!

Natural Minor Scales

Natural minor scales are the easiest to build, because each one has a matching major scale on the piano! These matching scales are called “relatives”. The relative major and natural minor scales use the same notes on the piano to build the scales, but they start and end on different notes.

For example, A natural minor is relative to C major, so these two scales use the same notes on the piano. But C major starts and ends on C, and A natural minor starts and ends on A.

relative c major and a minor scale piano

Natural minor scales are built off the sixth note of their relative major scales. So you can build any natural minor scale by starting with the sixth note of a major scale, and using the notes of that scale to build the relative natural minor 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.

So to build any natural minor scale, find the note the scale is named after, and then use this pattern of half-steps and whole steps to build the scale:

W – H – W – W – H – W – W

How to Build an A Natural Minor Scale

So to build an A natural minor scale, we can start on A and play the notes of the C major 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, C. Then we can play the note one whole step up, D, and continue following the pattern of half-steps and whole steps until we reach the next A.

Here are the notes for an A natural minor scale:

a natural minor scale piano

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A

Harmonic Minor Scales

Harmonic minor scales are similar to natural minor scales, but the seventh note has been raised 1/2 step.

These scales are popular to use because of the way the raised seventh note sounds.

How to Build an A Harmonic Minor Scale

To build an A harmonic minor scale, we’ll start with an A natural minor scale, but raise the seventh note 1/2 step. So instead of playing G, we’ll play a G♯.

Here are the notes for an A harmonic minor scale:

a harmonic minor scale piano

A – B – C – D – E – F – G♯ – A

If you’re wondering why we call the seventh note G♯ instead of A♭, it’s because the notes of a scale must progress in alphabetical order. Since the note before G♯ is an F, the next note must be some type of G.

Melodic Minor Scales

Melodic minor scales aren’t as common as the other two types, because they raise the sixth and seventh notes 1/2 step ascending (going up), and then follow the natural minor pattern 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

Conclusion

Now you know how to build minor scales, and you can apply these patterns starting on any note to build natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales!

Minor keys add a nice richness and depth to music as they lend themselves naturally to introspection and reflection.

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6 Comments

  1. Lisa

    Am I right that the melodic minor sounds one way going up and different going down? (Does that make sense?)

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Hi, yes you’re right! To build a melodic minor scale, we can start with a natural minor scale, but raise the 6th and 7th notes when we play the scale going up, and then play the natural minor scale when going down.

    • Lisa

      Thanks Julie!

  2. Pat C

    Great post! thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome, I’m glad it’s helpful!

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