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Lesson 24 - The Minor Scale

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Previous page: Lesson 23 - Barre Chords Next page: Lesson 25 - Polychords

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson: 24
Title: The Minor Scale
Level: Beginner
Style: Heavy Metal Rhythm
Instructor: Ky MacPherson

Hey kids, my name is Ky, and I am going to teach you the Minor scale! If you are confused and/or discouraged by the discussion of the various "modes" or "scales", then this lesson is for you! The minor scale is very popular in heavy metal, as well as a lot of other types of music. So even if you don't care for heavy metal, you might learn something! To me the minor scale sounds sadder, more emotional than the major scale. Check out some previous lessons for a discussion of the major scale.

I will go out on a limb and say that 95% of all heavy metal is in either a MINOR key, or in the CHROMATIC key. You are already familiar with the chromatic key (whether you know it or not!) ... it is simply the collection of all the notes on the fretboard. The MINOR scale is a subset of the CHROMATIC scale. Let me also point out that the PENTATONIC MINOR scale is a subset of the MINOR scale.

Let me now define some important terms:

An INTERVAL is the distance between two notes. Two very important intervals that you need to know are the HALF-STEP, which is two consecutive notes in the CHROMATIC SCALE, i.e. two adjacent frets, and the WHOLE-STEP, which equals two HALF-STEPS.

The ROOT of a scale is the first note of the scale, and the scale is named after the ROOT note. For example, when you hear a reference to the "key of B minor" - the B is the root note.

OK! Now we are ready to learn the minor scale.

    whole  half  whole  whole  half  whole  whole
    step   step  step   step   step  step   step
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
| 1 |   | 2 | 3 |   | 4 |   | 5 | 6 |   | 7 |   | 1 |
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
(Root)                                          (Root)

Let's do a specific example. First I will write out all the notes in the G chromatic scale:

G - Ab - A - Bb - B - C - Db - D - Eb - E - F - Gb - G

Remember that the flats ("b"s) correspond to the black keys on the piano. But on your guitar, these are just 12 consecutive frets starting with a "G". (Any G will do fine!)

Now lets select the notes which make up the G minor scale.

G - - A - Bb - - C - - D - Eb - - F - - G

There you have the G minor scale! Painless, wasn't it!

Let me end this lesson with some musical examples.

Here we are ascending and descending in the G minor scale:

     G  A  Bb C  D  Eb F  G  F  Eb D  C  Bb A  G
E|---------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------|
E|---3--5--6--8--10-11-13-15-13-11-10-8--6--5--3-----|

Now here's an easier way to play it, using several strings:

     G  A  Bb C  D  Eb F  G  F  Eb D  C  Bb A  G
E|---------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------3--5--3-----------------------|
A|------------3--5--6-----------6--5--3--------------|
E|---3--5--6-----------------------------6--5--3-----|

Finally, here's a simple G minor lick:

     G  D  G   A Bb  D Bb  A       G  D  G   A Bb  D Bb  A
E|-----10-----------10---------|-----10-----------10---------|
B|---8-----8--10-11----11-10---|---8-----8--10-11----11-10---|  etc ...
G|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
D|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
A|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|

It is helpful to have some kind of map of the fretboard, so that you can find notes easily. One of the previous lessons contains an ASCII fretboard map. There is also a PostScript file that creates maps for many different scales and modes, however, I can't tell you where to get that! I couldn't find it at any ftp sites. If demand is high, maybe I will include it in a future lesson.

In our next lesson we will look at power chords, the fundamental tool of the heavy metal rhythm guitarist! See you then!

--
Ky MacPherson (KMACPHE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU)
"Yeah, but what are you gonna do" - Homer Simpson
(I am currently moving so don't expect a quick response!)
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Previous page: Lesson 23 - Barre Chords Next page: Lesson 25 - Polychords