Natural Minor Scale: Theory & Ear Training

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The Natural Minor Scale is widely used in modal music and also provides the key signature for tonal minor music.

Theory

Here, for example, are the notes in the C Natural Minor Scale identified by letter name, scale degree, and Solfege syllable…

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  1. The scale structure of the Natural Minor Scale is always 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7-1, no matter what key you are in.
  2. The Solfege syllables of the Natural Minor Scale are always Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-Le-Te-Do, no matter what key you are in.
  3. The only thing that changes when you change keys are the letter names.

Comparative Scale Study

Compare the Natural Minor Scale to the Major Scale and notice that…

  • Mi becomes Me (both start with the letter M… Me = “Mi flat”).
  • La becomes Le (both start with the letter L… Le = “La flat”).
  • Ti becomes Te (both start with the letter T… Te = “Ti flat”).

Mi is the defining note that makes music sound major and Me is the defining note that makes music sound minor. Play and sing the “bottom three” notes of the Major scale (Do Re Mi) and Minor scale (Do Re Me) side by side. Be sure to sustain each note long enough for the “bright” sound/feeling of Mi and the “dark” sound/feeling of Me to really sink in. Notice how these notes dramatically define the sound, feeling, and character of their respective scales. Do the same comparative listening between LaLe and TiTe.

By the way, the name “natural” is purely an artifact of historical musical convention. The common practice is to use the notes in the “Natural Minor” to define the key signature in tonal music. There is nothing “un-natural” about other minor scales.

Solfege Ear Training

Let’s take a moment to talk about how to get the most benefit from the Solfege ear training studies below…

  1. Singing the Solfege syllables out loud is the most effective way to internalize the unique sound-feeling of each note in any musical scale. Why? Because singing out loud requires you to actively process the sounds at a much deeper level than merely passively listening.
  2. It is absolutely essential that you go slowly enough to allow the unique sound-feeling of each Solfege syllable to make a meaningful impression on your mind’s ear.
  3. This is not interval training. It’s okay if you hear the intervals between successive notes, but your goal is to hear and feel the unique character of each Solfege syllable with respect to the key center DO and to each other.
  4. Solfege ear training generalizes to any key. In other words, if you can hear and feel the unique harmonic pull of Ti towards Do in the key of C, you will be able to hear and feel the unique harmonic pull of Ti towards Do in any key!
  5. At first, it’s quite alright to play each note on your instrument before you sing, but I promise you this: If you do these studies as described above, you will quickly internalize the unique sound-feeling of each Solfege syllable in you mind’s ear without help from your instrument.
  6. In summary… Sing out loud, take your time, and fight for every note. If you do, you will enjoy musical dividends for a lifetime, guaranteed!

C Natural Minor Scale: Linear, Ascending…

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C Natural Minor Scale: Linear, Descending…

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C Natural Minor Scale: Do-X-Do, Ascending…

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C Natural Minor Scale: Do-X-Do, Descending…

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Many other patterns are possible as well, but at this point your time is better spent going right to the kinds of music that YOU want to play for your study-practice material.

learn more… Melodic Minor Scale: Theory & Ear Training