A natural minor scale

The Solution below shows the A minor scale notes, intervals and scale degrees on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.

The Lesson steps then explain how to identify the A minor scale note interval positions, choose the note names, and scale degree names.

For a quick summary of this topic, have a look at Natural minor scale.

Keys in the natural minor scale
KeyCC#DbDD#EbEE#FbFF#GbGG#Ab[A]A#BbBB#CbAll On 1 page

Solution - 2 parts

1. A natural minor scale

This step shows the ascending A natural minor scale on the piano, treble clef and bass clef. It also shows the scale degree names for all 8 notes.

The A natural minor scale has no sharp or flat notes.

This minor scale key is on the Circle of 5ths - A minor on circle of 5ths, which means that it is a commonly used minor scale key.

A natural minor scale note names
Note no.Note intervalNote name
1tonicThe 1st note of the A natural minor scale is A
2A-maj-2ndThe 2nd note of the A natural minor scale is B
3A-min-3rdThe 3rd note of the A natural minor scale is C
4A-perf-4thThe 4th note of the A natural minor scale is D
5A-perf-5thThe 5th note of the A natural minor scale is E
6A-min-6thThe 6th note of the A natural minor scale is F
7A-min-7thThe 7th note of the A natural minor scale is G
8A-perf-8thThe 8th note of the A natural minor scale is A

A minor scale

Middle C (midi note 60) is shown with an orange line under the 2nd note on the piano diagram.

These note names are shown below on the treble clef followed by the bass clef.

A minor scale

A minor scale

For all other minor scale keys, the staff diagram above would show the scale notes with the sharp and flat symbols shown before each note on the staff, and then the key signature page eg. A natural minor key signature, would show those symbols as a key signature next to the bass or treble clef symbol.

However, since the A minor scale has no sharps or flats, the diagram above is identical to that shown at A natural minor key signature, as there are no accidentals that sharpen or flatten the notes.

A natural minor scale degrees
Note no.Degree name
1A is the tonic of the A natural minor scale
2B is the supertonic of the A natural minor scale
3C is the mediant of the A natural minor scale
4D is the subdominant of the A natural minor scale
5E is the dominant of the A natural minor scale
6F is the submediant of the A natural minor scale
7G is the subtonic of the A natural minor scale
8A is the octave of the A natural minor scale

The difference between the A natural minor scale and the A major scale is that the 3rd, 6th and 7th note positions of the major scale are lowered by one half-tone / semitone.

So whereas the A major scale has notes C#, F#, G# for the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes, these notes are lowered to arrive at notes C, F, G for this natural minor scale.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. A natural minor scale descending

This step shows the descending A natural minor scale on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.

A minor scale descending

A minor scale descending

A minor scale descending

A natural minor scale descending
No.1234567
NoteGFEDCBA
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

Lesson steps

1. Piano key note names

This step shows the white and black note names on a piano keyboard so that the note names are familiar for later steps, and to show that the note names start repeating themselves after 12 notes.

The white keys are named using the alphabetic letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which is a pattern that repeats up the piano keyboard.

Every white or black key could have a flat(b) or sharp(#) accidental name, depending on how that note is used. In a later step, if sharp or flat notes are used, the exact accidental names will be chosen.

Sharp and flat note names

The audio files below play every note shown on the piano above, so middle C (marked with an orange line at the bottom) is the 2nd note heard.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. A tonic note and one octave of notes

This step shows an octave of notes in the key of A, to identify the start and end notes of the scale.

The numbered notes are those that might be used when building this note scale.

But since this is a scale in the key of A, it is certain that notes 1 and 13 will be used in the scale.

Note 1 is the tonic note - the starting note - A, and note 13 is the same note name but one octave higher.

A chromatic scale-1 octave of notes

A chromatic scale-1 octave of notes
No.12345678910111213
NoteAA# / BbBCC# / DbDD# / EbEFF# / GbGG# / AbA
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

3. A natural minor scale note interval positions

This step applies the minor scale note interval pattern starting from A, so that the correct piano keys and note pitches can be identified.

The natural minor scale uses the  W-H-W-W-H-W-W  note counting rule to identify the scale note positions.

To count up a Whole tone, count up by two physical piano keys, either white or black.

To count up a Half-tone (semitone), count up from the last note up by one physical piano key, either white or black.

The tonic note (shown as *) is the starting point and is always the 1st note in the natural minor scale.

A minor scale note positions

Again, the final 8th note is the octave note, having the same name as the tonic note.

So why does the A minor scale have no sharps or flats, and why is it the only minor scale with no sharps or flats ?

It is because the Whole tone-Half-tone note interval positions are selected to fall on white keys, and never on black keys.

This is because the A minor scale historically comes from the aeolian mode, and all Modes in their simplest form only use white / natural notes.

C major scale is the relative major key of A minor, and since it contains the same note names (ordered differently), it too has no sharps or flats.

The Mode topic introduction section shows a table of all modes.

These are the only common scales is music theory having no sharps or flats. All other major and minor scales (harmonic, melodic) have at least one sharp or flat.

A natural minor scale
No.12345678
NoteABCDEFGA

What is the difference between the A natural minor scale and the A major scale ?

The 3rd, 6th and 7th note positions (or scale degrees) of the major scale are lowered by one half-tone / semitone to arrive at the minor scale note positions shown above.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

4. A natural minor scale descending

This step shows the notes when descending the A minor scale, going from the highest note sound back to the starting note.

For natural minor scales, the notes names when descending are just the reverse of the ascending names.

So assuming octave note 8 has been played in the step above, the notes now descend back to the tonic.

A minor scale descending

A natural minor scale descending
No.1234567
NoteGFEDCBA
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

5. A natural minor scale degrees

This step shows the A natural minor scale degrees - tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, subtonic, and tonic.
In music theory, each note in this scale has what is called a scale degree name, which describes the relationship of that note to the tonic(1st) note.

Scale degree names 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 8 below are always the same for all major and minor scales (ie. 1st note is always tonic, 2nd is supertonic etc.) , but obviously the note names will be different for each scale / key combination.

In the natural minor scale, the 7th note is called the subtonic, and it has a whole tone (two half-tones / semitones, two notes on the piano keyboard) between the 7th and 8th notes in the scale.

In contrast, the A major scale has only one half-tone / semitone separating the 7th and 8th notes, and in this case the seventh note is called the leading note or leading tone, as the 7th note feels like it wants to resolve and finish at the octave note, when all major scale notes are played in sequence.

Both the A harmonic minor scale and A melodic minor scale scales share the same property - having a leading tone, with the major scale.

A natural minor scale degrees
Note no.Degree name
1A is the tonic of the A natural minor scale
2B is the supertonic of the A natural minor scale
3C is the mediant of the A natural minor scale
4D is the subdominant of the A natural minor scale
5E is the dominant of the A natural minor scale
6F is the submediant of the A natural minor scale
7G is the subtonic of the A natural minor scale
8A is the octave of the A natural minor scale