So I got myself a book of scales (title/authors in question title) and it seems pretty extensive, with the scales presented 'plain' and in 3rds and tenths and sixths, in contrary and similar motion.

Yet I'm confused by what it doesn't have, and that is anything at all marked as Natural Minor scales. It provides Harmonic Minor scales and Melodic Minor scales (indeed, multiple arrangements of them, in contrary and similar motion, in octaves, thirds/tenths, and sixths). From searching and reading questions and answers about minor scales I get that one can quite simply modify a natural minor to figure its harmonic or melodic form and vice versa, but I also see the Natural Minor scale described as the 'default' form of the minor scale. So if the Natural Minor is the default form of a minor scale, why is there no Natural Minor scales in my otherwise comprehensive-seeming book? Am I better off replacing it with a different book of scales that includes Natural Minor scales? Do I just practice the Harmonic and Melodic Minor scales and not worry about the absence of Natural Minor scales (both in the book and therefore in my practicing)?

1 Answer 1


The classical melodic minor scale is a mixture. Ascending, it uses the 6th and 7th notes of the parallel major scale, but descending actually is the natural minor.

If you wanted, you could use the harmonic minor as one, the melodic as another (as is), and work on the descending melodic, but go both ways, for the natural minor. In fact, jazzers do the opposite - they tend to use the melodic notes rising, and keep the same notes falling.

Don't worry that the natural minor isn't featured. ABRSM only included it a few years ago in their syllabus,(but only in lower grades) having given options of harmonic or melodic for decades.

Yes, the natural minor is a sort of default scale, having exactly the same notes as its relative major, but that has become tweaked over centuries for reasons too lengthy to include here. To my mind it's a natural extension (no pun intended!) to beginners learning the major scales - same notes, but not in the same order - so has value in the early stages, after which students can better understand how the other minor scales have developed.

If you really want to immerse yourself in minor, have a look (later, maybe) at the minor modes - Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian (whichis the natural minor) and Locrian.

  • Thank you for this. My primary goal for getting myself a scale book and practicing them is to become more proficient with sight reading in different keys. So aside from just playing them to learn them, I also try to ID the key of a piece I'm about to sight read, then play the appropriate scale to get 'into' that key, then sight read. That's easy when I see the key of a piece is, say D Major, and I can then play the D Major scale as a quick prep for sight reading the piece, giving my ear and hands a headstart. So for (most classical) minor pieces, the melodic would be best as my prep scale?
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 12:48
  • 1
    @Steve - that's one strategy I use all the time sightreading, myself and students. Prep. for minors - I'd play the first 5 notes, then chromatic to the root octave!
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 18:57

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