natural minor scale (also the 6th mode of the major scale, Aeolian) is a very
commonly used minor scale on
guitar. There are a number of reasons for this, and
it's therefore an important scale to understand.
forget to grab your free scale pattern cheat sheet
Essential scale patterns that every guitarist must know... Click
here to start now
just throw scale patterns at you (like many guitar sites out there)
I'll provide you with some essential minor scale theory and backing
tracks to help you explore this scale's unique flavour. You'll then be
ready to apply the scale across the entire fretboard in a fluid
minor scale guitar basics
First, let's look at the root position box pattern and analyse what makes up
the natural minor scale.
of the flat 3rd (b3), also known as the minor 3rd, tells us
it's a minor scale (ok, and the name "natural minor scale" is a bit of
The minor triad is made up of the root
minor 3rd and 5th. The other tones in natural minor can be seen as
"coloring", giving this particular minor scale its unique sound. We'll
look at how these other tones interact with chords later.
The most common fingering for the above boxed pattern is as follows...
It's also useful to learn the boxed pattern for natural minor rooted on
the A string, allowing you to play it conveniently around
those A form minor barre/movable chords rooted on that same string...
expand out of these boxes in another lesson. First, we need to
understand a little theory behind the natural minor scale and how to
use it over chords and chord progressions.
the natural minor scale over chords
As we established before, the natural minor scale is a... minor scale!
Therefore it will be compatible with minor chords. However, it's often
not that simple, as you'll be most likely playing over a sequence of chords,
so you need to be able to identify natural
For example, take a listen to a typical minor key progression below
that resolves around the tonic of E minor...
In that example, E minor is clearly our tonic chord, so if we chose to
play natural minor, we'd play the E
natural minor scale.
A lot of knowing whether the other chords in the progression will "fit"
with the scale will become clearer with time, as your ear develops. The
chord sequences in the backing tracks we'll be playing over later will
be compatible in this way.
Now, when resolving to that tonic minor chord, there is a tone you need
to watch out for in natural minor...
The minor 6th
The flat/minor 6th is most often used as a passing
tone. These are tones you shouldn't emphasise as they will
sound dissonant or too jarring on the
tonic chord of a progression. Try to glance over them
instead, as part of a larger phrase involving the other more stable
tones from the scale (the most stable tones in the context of minor scales are those that make up the
minor triad - the root, minor 3rd and 5th).
The lead section covers many techniques that will help negotiate
passing tones effectively, but here are a couple of examples, in
the key of D minor...
So, make sure when you're learning a natural minor scale pattern that you learn
where the flat 6th is situated (as well as the other tones!) so you can
negotiate it properly over that root minor chord.
When the chord changes from the tonic minor chord, you'll have to use
your best judgement as to which tones
from the scale will be compatible. Again, over time your ear will get
better at picking out chord movements that will correspond with phrases
from the scale.
minor scale backing tracks
So, from what we've learned - the basic boxed patterns and using the
flat 6th as a passing tone, have an experiment with natural minor over
the backing tracks below. They are written specifically for this scale
and use chord sequences that reside firmly within the key of A minor
minor respectively. One easy going, the other more rock/metal! There's
also a drone track, which is just a minor chord with no changes, to
help you explore the scale over a single chord.
At this stage, the most important thing is you hear how each tone
interacts with the chords, and especially the tonic minor
chords of each sequence. Don't worry too much about elaborate lead
guitar techniques at the moment - there's plenty of time to incorporate
those! This lesson is all about hearing that "natural minor sound" in music.
As we're using the box patterns (provided for you again below), it's
simply a case of positioning the low root of the pattern at the right fret for the key you're