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The Minor Scales and Its Structure

As piano beginners, we have to go through all the minor scales:

12 natural minors, 12 harmonic and 12 melodic.

The undertaking of studying this voluminous quantity seems daunting and infinite, but if we know their structure, they become much easier and pleasant to practice them.

A prevalent way to approach the study of the minor scales from the majority of the piano tutors is to start with either the melodic or the harmonic scales, but if we go chronologically, and we grasp the why of the changes and accidentals, their study will become an easier task.

Firstly, we have to start from the true beginning. The minor natural scales, as the major scales are part of a larger corpus of scales. Our modern scales come, like many things in Western culture, from the Greeks. Naturally, they had other names but the Major scales was called Ionian and the minor, Aeolian, and they referred to towns in Greece.

During the Renaissance and starting the Baroque, just two scales our the seven used, and they were named with our "modern" names: Major and minor.

So far, so good, but within the minors, we have three types or categories.

We should start with the natural minor, which does not change any of the notes related to their relative major ones, just starting three notes below the tonic of every major scale. We will easily have within our grasp the natural minor. From there, we will go to the harmonic, which started to be in use during the Renaissance period. This scale raises its seventh degree by one semitone, and it gives an "Eastern" flavour to it.

Finally, we have the melodic scale:

This last characteristic of the harmonic is overridden by the raising of the six and seventh degrees ascending and in the descending, the natural scale is played. Easy!

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