Songwriter Theory Podcast
Episode 9

How to Figure Out All Notes For Minor Keys

Joseph Vadala published on

Accompanying Blog Post With Helpful Pictures: https://songwritertheory.com/how-to-figure-out-all-notes-for-minor-keys

 

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Episode Writeup:

Do you know what notes you’re working with when someone says “This song is in the Key of E natural minor”? If you forget what notes are sharp or flat in a key, do you have any way to figure it out?

This post is going to make sure you can figure out all notes in any natural, harmonic, or melodic minor key when given the name of the key.

And it is going to be very simple.

First thing to understand is that every minor key has 7 notes.

The second thing to understand is that each key in each minor key type has the same intervals between each note.

Natural Minor:

Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step

Harmonic Minor:

Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Augmented Second - Whole Step

Melodic Minor:

Ascending: Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step

Descending (same as Natural Minor): Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step

Ok, so what are these “steps”?

A half step is going from one note to the very next note. This is also called a semitone. It is the smallest step possible between notes in western music.

So what is a whole step? 2 half steps or 2 semitones.

And what is that Augmented Second? 3 half steps or 3 semitones.

Now, let’s figure out each note in the keys of C natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor:

Here is what we did:

  1. We started with C as it is the key of C natural minor

  2. We took a whole step over Db to D

  3. We took a half step to Eb

  4. We took a whole step over E to F (there is no E#)

  5. We took a whole step over Gb to G

  6. We took a half step to Ab

  7. We took a whole step over A to Bb

  8. We took a whole step over B and back to C (there is no B#)

Let’s look at what C harmonic minor looks like.

  1. We started with C as it is the key of C natural minor

  2. We took a whole step over Db to D

  3. We took a half step to Eb

  4. We took a whole step over E to F (there is no E#)

  5. We took a whole step over Gb to G

  6. We took a half step to Ab

  7. We took a augmented second step over A and Bb to B

  8. We took a half step to C (there is no Cb)

Finally, let’s investigate this for the key of C melodic minor.

When we are going up the scale, it looks like this:

  1. We started with C (lighter blue) as it is the key of C melodic minor

  2. We took a whole step over Db to D

  3. We took a half step to Eb

  4. We took a whole step over E to F

  5. We took a whole step over Gb to G

  6. We took a whole step over Ab to A

  7. We took a whole step over Bb to B

  8. We took a half step back to C

When we are going down the scale, it is the same as the natural minor.

That’s all there is to finding notes within the 3 main minor keys!

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