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Piano and Music Theory Part 04

Posted on 4th May 2012  · 
Last week in Piano and Music Theory Part 03 we discovered that by flattening (lowering the pitch by a semitone) the third, sixth and seventh notes of any Major scale we can create a minor scale. To test this out simply take the C Major scale and follow the above rule and you will soon find C 'natural' minor.

During your piano practice try alternating between playing different Major and minor scales and you will instinctively find 'modulations' that sound great to your ears. As you progress these will be very useful, especially if you are a budding music producer looking for ways to create more movement and variation in your music...

The minors

When it comes to minor scales not only do we get 12 'natural' minor scales to practice/explore we also get another 24 different minor scales! This is because 3 different forms of the minor scale exist; the natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor.

Harmonic minor

The harmonic minor scale is essentially a variation of the natural minor scale and therefore with a few little tweaks we can create any harmonic minor scale from a natural minor. The harmonic minor scale can be derived from any natural minor scale by simply raising the 7th key by a semitone. So for example the C natural minor (C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C) now becomes the C harmonic minor scale (C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C).

Be sure when you play the harmonic minor scale to listen carefully as you play the raised 7th. The space between the flattened 6th and raised 7th keys can be used to create tension within a piece of music. I often experience profound, thought provoking moments when exploring the harmonic minors. Again a bit of effort practicing these scales will open many doors for musical exploration (I can't stress this enough!).

Melodic minor

The melodic minor scale can be derived from a C natural minor scale by simply raising the 6th and 7th steps by a semitone (half step). So for example to convert C natural minor into C melodic minor raise the Ab and Bb 1 semitone to A and B. The melodic minor scale is in fact very close to the Major scale the difference being that the 3rd key is flattened (this is what makes it a minor scale).

The twist is that the melodic minor is 'hybrid' in nature because the above only applies while ascending the scale. When descending the scale the tonal pattern changes back to follow a natural minor! (don't worry we will re-cap this next week).

I hope this short excursion into the world of scales has given you some new ideas and direction for your piano practice as well as your music making.

Next time... the whole tone

Written by Steve Heath of Wave Alchemy




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