Let’s look at how to build a C minor scale on the piano. We’ll look at how to build both C natural minor and C 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 C minor used the notes of the C 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, and playing through the notes of that scale.
Another way to build a natural minor scale is by using 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 a natural minor scale, we can find our starting note (the note the scale is named after), and then follow this pattern of half-steps and whole steps:
W – H – W – W – H – W – W
How to Build a C Natural Minor Scale
Or we can start on C, and play the note one whole step up, which is D. Then we can play the note one half-step up, which is E♭. Then we can play the note one whole step up, which is F. We can continue following the pattern of half-steps and whole steps until we reach the next C and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes for a C Natural Minor Scale?
Here are the notes for a C natural minor scale:
C – D – E♭ – F – G – A♭ – B♭ – C
Labeling the Notes of the Scale
You may be wondering why the E♭ is labeled as an E♭ instead of a D♯, or why the A♭ is labeled as an A♭ instead of a G♯ (sharps indicate the note 1/2 step up, flats indicate the note 1/2 step down).
The reason is because the notes of a scale must progress in alphabetical order. Since this is a C minor scale, the second note will be some sort of D, the third note some sort of E, the fourth note some sort of F, and so on.
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 a C Harmonic Minor Scale
To build a C harmonic minor scale, we can start with a C natural minor scale. Then we’ll raise the seventh note B♭ by 1/2 step to B.
What Are the Notes for a C Harmonic Minor Scale?
Here are the notes for a C harmonic minor scale:
C – D – E♭ – F – G – A♭ – B – C
Melodic Minor Scales
Melodic minor scales aren’t as common as the other two, 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 C natural minor and C harmonic minor scales on the piano! You can use this knowledge to build other minor scales by finding your starting note and following the pattern.
Minor keys provide a nice contrast to major keys, and work well when playing music that’s more reflective or somber.