23 Apr 2012

Know Your Relatives

There is a special relationship between the first and sixth step of the major scale which is called RELATIVE. The third step of the minor scale is called the RELATIVE MAJOR. The sixth step of the major scale is called the RELATIVE MINOR. To find the relative minor when given a major scale you would go up six steps in the major scale. You could also go down two steps from the relative major to find the relative minor. After you find the relative major or minor root, you can then build the appropriate major or minor scale. Relative major and minor scales share the same KEY SIGNATURE.

Relative Major and Minor

The basics:

For every major scale there is a related minor scale. These two scales are built from the same notes:

Major Scale:

C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

Relative Minor Scale:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A


The only difference between the two scales is which note you start with. The minor scale starts from the sixth note of the major scale. The scales are called RELATIVE because they share the exact same notes.

Let’s look at a couple more keys, and I’m sure you will get the hang of this one:

Major Scale:

G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G

Relative Minor Scale:

E – F# – G – A – B – C – D – E

Major Scale:

D – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D

Relative Minor Scale:

B – C# – D – E – F# – G – A – B

The minor scales we have looked at so far are termed as “Natural minor” when looking at the minor system as a whole there are two other important minor scales to consider the “Harmonic minor” and the “Melodic minor”.

The Harmonic minor has a raised 7th degree by one semi-tone.

The Melodic minor is slightly different from other scales in that depending on which direction you are travelling in the scale, either up or down will determine the following:

Travelling up the melodic minor scale both the 6th and 7th degree are raised by one semi-tone, travelling down the melodic minor scale the 6th and 7th degree are flattened by one semi-tone or naturalised . In fact putting a natural minor scale at the end of an upward travelling melodic minor scale achieves the same result.

It is useful to compare each minor scale to evaluate this difference and as with any scale stacking three notes a 3rd apart on top of each other from each degree of the scale produces a triad or basic chord. The option of utilising the raised 6thand 7th degrees gives greater scope to the development of chords introducing the augmented 5th or “Augmented Chords” allows for greater texture and colour when combining these raised degrees with standard major and minor chords.

Let’s compare the following; Em scales:


Major Scale:

G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G

Relative Minor Scale:

E – F# – G – A – B – C – D – E           (natural minor).


  E – F# – G – A – B – C – D# – E        (harmonic minor)       

                                Ascending:    E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D# – E      (melodic minor)

                                Descending:  E – F# – G – A – B – C  – D –  E      (melodic minor)

Check out post ” Comparing minor scales” for more information on this!