Monday, September 24, 2012


We know that we have major scales/keys and minor scales/keys, but let's take a look at how the two are related. It's quite simple really.

You'll notice that in the circle of fifths the major keys are on the outside of the circle and the minor keys are on the inside of the circle. This shows us that the major and minor key signatures are the same. For example, look at the top of the circle. You have C major and A minor - they both have the same key signature = no sharps or flats; G major and E minor both have one sharp (F#).

What is the theory behind this? Why are those particular majors paired with those particular minors? This is where their "relationship" comes into play. We call it the " relative minor". Each major scale has a relative minor scale and we find this by using our scale degrees. Begin on the first degree of any major scale and find the 6th tone. This is the relative minor of that major scale.

C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C                                                                                                                  
1    2    3   4    5    6    7    8                                                                                                                  

The key signature of the major scale will be the same for the relative minor scale. Try finding the relative minor of E major scale. What is the 6th tone of the E major scale? Yes, it is C#. So the relative minor to E major is C# minor.

Let's look at the scale pattern for a minor scale, using whole steps (ws) and half steps(hs):

A minor:

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    A  
   ws   hs   ws   ws  hs  ws  ws

C# minor:

C#    D#    E    F#  G#    A    B    C#
    ws     hs    ws   ws   hs    ws  ws

So the terms relative minor or relative 6th are really pretty easy to figure out once you know the formula. Have fun with this and see how many minor scales you can find using this formula.

Thanks for reading!

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