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Mode

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Aeolian (Natural Minor)

Natural minor is the same as aeolian mode. If we are discussing the scale in the classical major/minor context, it is natural minor. In a modal context it is aeolian mode. But it is the same scale and the same harmonies.

The A natural minor has no sharps or flats. It contains exactly the same notes as a C-major scale. The only technical difference is that we start and end on A instead of C, but the sound is different. If you play the white keys on a keyboard from A to A, you get A natural minor.

If you have learned to play the major scale in different positions, it is easy to play the natural minor. You use the same boxes, and just choose another note as tonic or root. If we choose the Major Box 5, you should know how to play the C-major scale. Here is the same box. All I have done is to change the numbering, making the tonic of the natural minor (here A) no 1.

The most important features of the A natural minor is that it has a minor 3rd, a perfect 5th and a minor 7th. The minor third makes it a minor scale. The perfect fifth makes it stable scale. The minor 7th means that the scale has no leading note that will take us back to the tonic. Then we can also notice that it has a minor 6th, compared to the major sixth in the major scale. If we put a C-major and a C-natural minor side by side, they will look like this:

If we make a harmonized A-natural minor scale, we get these chords:

The primary chords are Am, Dm and Em, and the secondary chords are C, F and G. The primary chords of C-major are the secondary chords of A-natural minor, and the secondary chords of C-major becomes the primary chords of A-natural minor. Once again we end up with a , which is neither primary nor secondary.

We have one major scale and a minor scale that in it's natural form have the same notes and the same chords. It is just the sequence that is different. The minor scale is called the relative minor scale to he major scale with the same notes and chords, and the major scale is called the relative major to the major scale. It is not always easy to decide if a song is in the major key or it's relative minor, or vice versa. If you start with the three primary chords of the major scale, and then use secondary chord substitutions to a large extent, the music will be more and more minorish, and you might end up in the relative minor key. Or one might wonder if the tune modulate from major to it's relative minor, and maybe back to the major key. If we start from natural minor, and use the secondary major chords a lot, the music might sound majorish, and in the same way we may ask if we still are in the minor key, of if the music has modulated to it's relative major. If you go to the circle of fifth lesson, you will find the major keys on the outside, and their relative minor keys on the inside of the circle in the same positions.

If we use the dominant seventh, V7 instead of the V chord in a V7-I change, G7 instead of G if we are in the key of C, we get a very strong statement of C-major. A dominant 7th will keep you in the key, while a dominant triad is more likely to let you slip away into the relative minor key. We can reinforce the minor key in the same way, but we will come to this in the next lesson on Harmonic Minor.

Recordings with Aeolian (Natural Minor) - Mode


Books


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Ultimate Guitar Techniques - Soloing With Modes
In this indispensable DVD, Danny Gill takes an in-depth look at the seven major scale modes.
RefNr: RDR0129
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The Aeolian Mode (Michael Schenker)
Learn to improvise, compose and recognize modal music. Also includes a guitar jam track and licks in the style of Michael Schenker. Lessons by Danny Gill. The modes of the major scale have been used for centuries as a compositional tool and as a source for improvisation.
RefNr: RDR0391
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