I've heard throughout several forums online that playing a major scale on a minor song doesn't work, yet playing a minor scale on a major song DOES work. Perhaps I misunderstood but that's as much as I could get from what I read.

If this is the case, that a major scale doesn't work on a minor song, why is that if it works the other way around?

3 Answers 3


Often it doesn't work if you play a minor scale over a major song. What they probably mean is the blues. In a standard blues you have dominant seventh chords, and they contain a major third (and a minor seventh). The appropriate chord scale over these chords is the mixolydian scale, which is simply a major scale with a lowered seventh scale degree. However, since it's a blues you can also use the blues scale, which is just a minor pentatonic scale with an added #4/b5. So in the blues you can usually mix major and minor sounds, and this is what makes the bluesy sound.

As an example, take a C7 chord:

C - E - G - Bb

The corresponding mixolydian scale is

C - D - E - F - G - A - Bb

and the blues scale is

C - Eb - F - F# - G - Bb

As you can see, the blues scale adds the note Eb, which is a minor third up from the root C, even though the chord actually contains the major third. In this sense, you mix minor and major. However, this only works if a bluesy sound is desired and appropriate, it won't work so well over "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ...

  • thanks for your response, though I'm still somewhat confused. You go deep as to why IT WORKS, but not so much as why it doesn't.
    – reddish
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 17:14
  • @reddish: Well, by default, it doesn't work to play wrong notes, such as play in a major scale if the song is in minor or the other way round. There are just special situations (such as the blues), where this can work to give a certain sound. So since it's understood that playing the wrong notes normally doesn't work, I took more effort to explain why it can work in certain special situations. I hope this clarifies my answer a bit.
    – Matt L.
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 17:22

I'm no specialist, so I can't add a proper argumentation, but I know a Youtube channel where the author switches popular songs from major to minor, and from minor to major. In some cases, the results are surprisingly good !

The Youtube channel link : majorVSMinor.

For a minor song converted to a major one, see for example The happy Godfather.


A minor 3rd over a major chord is pleasantly 'blues'. Like the 'Hendrix chord' which is a dominant 7th shape with a minor 10th on top (though you'll get told off if you don't call it a +9 :-) A major 3rd (10th) on top of a minor chord just sounds wrong.

  • This answer is probably being downvoted because it's written in a way such that someone who is able to understand it probably already has an answer to OP's question, and vice versa. I actually think the "substance" of this answer is better than any of the others given so far, but it's presented in such a way that it's inaccessible to someone who might actually find it useful. If I was you I would re-phrase it a little with your target audience in mind.
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 14:15
  • Want to do it for me? I'm not that worried about downvotes really :-)
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 0:24

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