Natural Minor Scale Guitar: Mastering Melodies and Chords

· 6 min read

article picture

Understanding the Natural Minor Scale

Origin and Theory

The natural minor scale, also known as the Aeolian mode, is one of the most commonly used scales in music. It has a unique pattern of intervals that gives it its distinct sound. The formula for constructing the natural minor scale is whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, and whole step. This means that when playing the scale on a guitar or any other instrument in standard tuning, you would start on a note and follow this pattern to play the rest of the notes in sequence.

Natural Minor Scale Formula

The formula for constructing the natural minor scale is fairly simple: starting from any note on a guitar's fretboard (or any musical instrument), you move up two frets (a whole-step) to reach the next note. Then you move up one fret (a half-step) to reach the following note. After that, you repeat this process by moving up two more frets (whole-step), followed by another one-fret movement (half-step). Finally, you move up three more frets (whole-step) and end with another one-fret advancement (half-step). By following this formula starting from different notes on your guitar's neck or anywhere else along an instrument's fingerboard can produce all twelve possible natural minor scales.

Comparing Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor Scales

"Comparing Natural" - When comparing these scales side-by-side with each other we can observe some interesting differences between them: Harmonic Minor Scale contains raised seventh degrees compared to Natural Minor Scale while both Melodic Major Scales have raised sixth and seventh degrees but differs between ascending ('melodic') form where they are augmented steps apart versus descending ('natural') form which behaves identically like harmonic major tonality throughout entire range of notes.

Natural Minor Scale Patterns on Guitar

The 5 Pattern System

The natural minor scale on guitar can be easily learned using the 5 pattern system. This system divides the fretboard into five patterns or positions, each covering four adjacent frets. By learning these patterns, guitarists can navigate through the entire neck and play in any key. Each pattern starts on a different string, allowing for flexibility and variation in playing styles.

Pattern 1: Starting on the Low E String

Pattern 1 of the natural minor scale on guitar starts on the Low E String. It is commonly referred to as 'position one.' Starting with your index finger at the first fret of this string, you can play all seven notes of the natural minor scale within this position spanning four frets. By practicing this pattern and memorizing its shape, you will have a solid foundation for playing melodies and improvising in the natural minor key.

Pattern Two: A String Root

'Pattern two' of the natural minor scale focuses on starting with a root note on the A string. This pattern allows for easy transition between positions since it connects seamlessly with Pattern one when moving up or down across strings. By incorporating both Pattern one and Pattern two into your practice routine, you will gain fluency in navigating through multiple octaves while maintaining consistency in fingering.

Connecting Patterns Across the Fretboard

Connecting patterns across various areas of the fretboard is an important skill for guitarists seeking to master scales like Natural Minor Scale.The ability to seamlessly move from one position to another creates fluidity and enhances musical expression.By understanding how each pattern links together along different strings,i.e., connecting Pattern One played starting from low E string with Pattern Two played starting from A string,you open up a world of melodic possibilities and gain confidence in playing the entire natural minor scale across the fretboard.

Playing the Natural Minor Scale

Single Octave Shapes

The natural minor scale on the guitar can be played using single octave shapes. These shapes consist of five notes per string, starting from the root note and following the pattern of whole step (two frets) and half step (one fret). By memorizing these shapes, guitarists can easily navigate through different positions of the natural minor scale across the fretboard.

Two Octave Shapes

In addition to single octave shapes, guitarists can also play the natural minor scale using two octave shapes. These larger patterns cover a wider range on the fretboard and allow for more melodic possibilities. Two octave shapes typically involve shifting positions and utilizing different fingerings to maintain smooth transitions between octaves.

Using the Scale in Solos and Melodies

When soloing or creating melodies on the guitar, incorporating the natural minor scale can add an emotive quality to your playing. By understanding how each note in this scale relates to a specific chord progression or key, you can create captivating solos that evoke various moods. Experiment with bending notes, sliding between positions, and adding vibrato to infuse expression into your solos and melodies.

Key Signatures and the Natural Minor Scale

Identifying Key Signatures

Identifying Key Signatures: The natural minor scale is a commonly used scale in music. It is constructed by starting on the root note of any major scale and playing the corresponding notes within that major key, but with a different tonic or starting point. To identify the key signature of a natural minor scale, you need to determine its relative major key. This can be done by finding the major key that has the same set of sharps or flats as the natural minor scale.

Relative Minor and Major Relationships

Relative Minor and Major Relationships: Understanding the relationship between relative minor and major keys is important when studying scales on guitar. In music theory, every major key has a relative minor key that shares the same set of notes, but starts on a different tonic or starting point. For example, if C Major is considered as our major key, its relative minor would be A Minor because both scales share all seven notes without changing their order. By knowing this relationship, guitarists can easily find and play in both related keys using similar patterns and shapes.

Natural Minor in Different Keys

Natural Minor in Different Keys: The natural minor scale can be played in various keys on guitar by simply shifting its patterns along the fretboard accordingly. Each root note will determine which specific natural minor scale you are playing. For instance, if you start at E (the open sixth string) and follow the pattern for a natural minor scale shape (whole step - half step - whole step - whole step - half step - whole step), you will be playing an E Natural Minor Scale on guitar. Similarly, shifting this pattern to other root notes such as A or D will allow you to play A Natural Minor Scale or D Natural Minor Scale respectively.

Practical Applications for Guitarists

Composing in the Natural Minor Scale

Composing in the Natural Minor Scale: The natural minor scale is a popular choice for composers looking to create melancholic or dark-sounding music. By using the notes of this scale, composers can evoke feelings of sadness, mystery, and tension in their compositions. One common approach to composing in the natural minor scale is to start with a chord progression that uses chords derived from this scale. For example, a typical progression might include chords like Am, Dm, Em, and G. These chords create a moody atmosphere that fits well with the characteristics of the natural minor scale.

Improvisation Techniques

Improvisation Techniques: Improvising in the natural minor scale can be an exciting way for guitarists to express themselves creatively. When improvising in this scale, it's important to familiarize yourself with its unique intervals and patterns. The most commonly used positions on the guitar neck for playing the natural minor scale are known as box shapes or patterns. These patterns allow guitarists to easily navigate through different areas of the fretboard while maintaining consistency in their playing. Additionally, incorporating techniques such as bends, slides, vibrato, and hammer-ons/pull-offs can add depth and emotion to your improvisations.

Famous Songs in Natural Minor

Famous Songs in Natural Minor: Many famous songs across various genres have been composed using elements of the natural minor scale on guitar. One notable example is "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin which features sections that utilize A natural minor pentatonic scales alongside other modes derived from this key center. Another iconic song featuring prominent use of the natural minor is "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica which showcases emotional melodies played primarily on open strings within E natural minor tonality. These songs demonstrate the versatility and expressive qualities of the natural minor scale when applied to guitar composition.