A relative minor

The Solution below shows the relative minor key of the A major scale on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.

The Lesson steps then shows the note relationship between the major and its relative minor, and how to calculate the relative major from a minor scale.

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

Circle of fifths major keys for the relative minor
Sharps/flats01#2#3#4#5#6#7#1b2b3b4b5b6b7b
KeyCGD[A]EBF#C#FBbEbAbDbGbCb

Solution

1. Relative minor of A major is F-sharp

This step identifies the relative minor key of the A major scale.

The 6th note of the A major scale is F#, which identifies the tonic note of the relative (natural) minor key.

So the name of the A major scale relative minor is the F# natural minor scale.

Relative minor of A major is F-sharp

Below are both notes shown first on the treble clef, then on the bass clef.

Relative minor of A major is F-sharp

Relative minor of A major is F-sharp

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 major scale note interval positions

This step shows the major scale note positions in the key of A, so that the note names can be identified in a later step.

The major scale uses the  W-W-H-W-W-W-H  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 for identifying the notes in the scale.

A major scale note positions

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

3. The 6th note in the A major scale

This step identifies the 6th note of the A major scale to identify the relative minor tonic note.

A major 6th note and relative minor is F-sharp

The note names of this major scale are: A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A.

The 6th note of this major scale is F#, which identifies the tonic / starting note of the relative minor key.

So the name of the relative minor key is the F# natural minor scale.

4. F-sharp natural minor note interval positions

This step shows the minor scale note interval positions of the F-sharp minor scale, so that the note names can be compared with the relative major scale in a later step.

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 for identifying the notes in the scale.

F-sharp minor scale note positions

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

5. F-sharp natural minor scale note names

This step compares the major and related minor scale, identifying the common notes.

F-sharp minor scale

The note names of this natural minor scale are: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#

The white and black keys are the same as those used in Step 3 above, which is why it is called the relative minor - the two scales have the same note names.

The difference between a major scale and the relative minor is that the notes are played starting from a different note, and they sound different to each other because different intervals were used to build each scale (Steps 2 and 4 above).

The major scale will sound happier than the relative minor because it separates notes 2 and 3 with a whole tone (2 piano keys), whereas the relative minor only has one half-tone / semitone (1 piano key) separating them, which gives a sadder feel to the scale.

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

6. Relative major of F-sharp minor scale

This step describes how to calculate the relative major scale of the F-sharp minor scale

As described above, the music theory term relative major refers to the natural minor scale having the same notes as the major scale we know about.

But given any natural minor scale, it is possible to identify the relative major scale having the same notes.

To do this, just identify the 3rd note of the natural minor scale.

Using the minor scale in the previous step as an example, the third note is A,which is the key of the relative major we want.

So the relative major scale in this case is A major scale.