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Minor scales take a back seat to nobody. They
sound terrific and a composer needs to develop skills in playing
different forms of these scales. The following are minor scales
in three different keys.
The first of these keys is A minor, using the harmonic minor form.
Basically, minor scales sound similar to major
that have the same key signature. Harmonic and melodic
forms modify minor scales so that they sound nothing like their
related major scales.
A melodic scale raises the sixth and seventh note of an ascending
scale. However, these same two notes are played as naturals (white
on the way down. Try it... it sounds goooood. I know, I know; I
This scale has the exact same fingering as A minor. Note how the
sixth and seventh note of this scale have a flat and a sharp living
adjacent to each other. Well, if they can live peacefully together
as neighbors, then that should be a shining example for the rest
of us. I'm going to visit my neighbor right now and tell him that
I'm honoured to be living next to him (I'm really not going to do
This scale is more complicated. The sixth and seventh notes ascending
are B and C#, but they are C and Bb on the way down. In both cases,
the sequence involves a white piano key, followed by a black piano
Remember that each harmonic minor scale has the same spacing between
notes, regardless of the key signature. Try this one:
This melodic scale feels like A minor, in the sense that the sixth
and seventh notes are both sharp on the way up, and natural on the
The left-hand fingerings (one octave) for all but the B minor scale
are 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2 and 1. B minor uses 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2 and
1. In addition to playing the above scales, practice copying them!
Even if you feel this is a mundane task, do it anyway. The more
you write, the better you will become at absorbing and recognizing
notes, both on a staff and on a piano.
Those Minor Scales
how about it?. Let’s try making those minor scales twice as
long. To doing so, it's probably best to start an octave lower than
your regular starting note in a two octave scale. Try the following
right hand fingering for an A minor harmonic ascending scale:
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1,
2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
usual, our left hand is getting jealous (or perhaps it’s happy
that it doesn’t have to do all that exercise). At any rate,
let’s make the left hand work with the following ascending
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1,
4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2 and 1
the numbers from right to left is the first step in playing the
A minor harmonic scale in a descending direction. By the way, advanced
pianists play these types of four octave scales. Composers should
acquire the same skill level for these two reasons:
The more efficient you are on the keyboard, the more you can realize
the music in your head;
The more efficient you are on a keyboard, the more you can brag
to pianists that you can play scales just as well as them. “I
play these scales just as well as you and I’m not even a
pianist” is a line that would really get under their skin.
The line would also give you a feeling of smugness and temporary
of course, to administer the quote of the last bullet point to a
pianist who is much weaker than you, as you do not want to be used
as a composer punching bag.
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