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Why Are There 3 Different Minor Scales?

What's the difference, and why do we even need them?

Lisa Witt - Oct 22, 2019

Natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, WHAT?!


There is only ONE major scale, so why the heck are there 3 minor scales? And what’s the difference between them?


The big difference comes down to the role or function of the notes.


What do I mean? Let me explain.


The Natural Minor


This is the minor scale in its most basic form. Every major scale has a ‘relative’ minor. G major has one sharp (F#). Its relative minor is Em, which also has one sharp (F#).


The notes of Em are exactly the same as G major, just starting on E. This is the ‘natural’ minor. The scale is played according to its key signature, and looks like this:



This is probably the most commonly used minor scale, especially in popular music.


It sounds fine -- but there’s not real ‘pull’ to the final note. It sounds a little bland. Music is all about 'tension' and 'resolution', and we don't find too much of that here.




The Harmonic Minor


In music, the 7th note is called the ‘leading note’. It ‘leads’ the ear towards the next note, which is often the tonic (root or 8th note). Its role is to create that tension and make us want to hear a resolution. In the natural minor, there is no strong leading note function.


That’s where the harmonic minor comes in. This scale raises the 7th note by a half-step, so D now becomes D#. This creates a lot of tension, that wants to resolve as we reach the E.


Here's the scale in the treble, with the natural scale in the bass for comparison:


That D# creates a lot of tension now, and our ears really want a resolution. 


As the name implies, the harmonic minor scale is used a lot in harmony and chord formation.


But there's still a problem, so we need ...


The Melodic Minor


So now we have a raised 7th that creates some nice tension -- but it also creates a big gap between the 6th and 7th note. It’s 3 half-steps. That gap is quite ‘crunchy’ to the ear and a little harsh. 


In order to make that sound less harsh, and create more opportunities for melodies, we need to close that gap.


The melodic minor scale does this by raising the 6th note as well as the 7th. In Em that’s the C#. It gives us a much nicer approach to the tonic (the E) while still wanting to resolve. Here's how it looks, with the natural minor in the bass for comparison:


Now the biggest and weirdest thing you may notice is how the melodic minor scale is DIFFERENT going up than it is going down. What happened to all those sharps?


When we go back down - the 7th and 6th notes are returned to the natural scale. So the D# is just a D, and the C# is just a C.


Why? Why on earth would they make things this complicated??!!!


It all has to do with direction. Remember when we are playing UP the scale the 7th is the 'leading note'. It's leading us to the tonic. When we play DOWN the scale we are moving AWAY from the tonic, so we don’t need those raised notes to ‘pull’ us towards the E.


This is the least used of the minor scales, so if it’s a little confusing, don’t worry too much! It's mostly used in classical music.


The One Takeaway


Minor scales are super fun to learn and play. Start with the natural minor, because it is the easiest to learn and remember, and it's also the most common minor scale used in popular music.


Learning the natural minor scale first will give you lots of ways to practice, and once you feel comfrortable you can start playing around with the other scales to create some very cool sounds.

#Learn Piano

#Minor Scales

#Natural Minor Scale

#Harmonic Minor Scale

#Melodic Minor Scale

#Whey Are There 3 Minor Scales

#Minor Scale Differences


How To Play Boogie Woogie

Learn this awesome bassline to get everyone in a Boogie Woogie mood!

Lisa Witt - Oct 18, 2019

Are you ready to boogie?!


You're about the learn the DEFINITIVE Boogie Woogie bassline. It's literally the first bassline you see when you search Wikipedia for "Boogie Woogie".


Don't believe me? Go look, I'll wait :)


You see? So you are going to learn something awesome today, but I will warn you -- this is not the easiest bassline to play. It will take some practice, especially when you start changing chords. But it is SO MUCH FUN and if you play this for someone, guaranteed they'll smile :)


And you'll be working on your left-hand strength and dexterity!


The pattern


The great thing about this bassline is that it follows the same pattern, no matter what chord you're playing it over.


We'll be in the key of C today, and we'll use the C, F and G chords.


Over C, the bassline looks like this:



It looks complicated, but we can break it down.


Starting on C, you play an octave above to a higher C. Then you start on the 3rd (E) and walk-up by half-steps until you reach the 5th (G). Once you do, you simply play a G octave below.


And that repeats over and over again.


The hard part is changing chords


This is where it gets a little tricky. This bassline is fast and jumps around a lot. It can take a bit to master, but the real challenge comes when it's time to change chords.


From the C we'll move to an F. The pattern is identical, but everything is now in relation to the F chord.


So we'll start with the F octave, and then find the 3rd (this time it's A) and walk-up by half-steps until you reach the 5th (now a C) and then play that C octave.


After F, we'll move to G. I'll leave it up to you to figure out the notes. Remember, the pattern NEVER changes.


Don't forget to boogie


This is the Boogie Woogie, so don't forget to play it with some style and bounce!

This is not the bassline to play with a straight rhythm. You want to swing, and really 'feel' the bassline.


So get to the keys and start to boogie!

#Piano Lessons

#Blues Piano

#Hand Independence

#Left Hand Exercises


#Learn Piano

#Boogie Woogie

How To Play Complicated Rhythms

A simple trick to make complicated rhythms easy.

Lisa Witt - Oct 15, 2019

There's a lot to learn when you play the piano.


Think about one line of music. You need to know the key signature, the time signature, then you need to read the actual notes AND figure out which fingers you'll use to play them.


And we haven't even got to the rhythm yet.


Rhythm is one of those things that can easily derail your playing and demotivate you -- if you don't know how to approach it correctly.


This is especially true when it comes to complicated rhythms. Luckily for us, Cassi is here :)


And she has fantastic advice for how to make complicated rhythm sections seem easy.


Write it out by hand


We're going old-school. But this is an amazing technique to help you get the rhythm into your head.


It's so easy. 


Simply write out the RHYTHM of the line you are working on. Don't worry about the notes -- we are only interested in the rhythm. 


I'll show you what I mean.


Look at this line from Ecossaise in G Major by Beethoven:



There's a lot going on here. We have eighth notes and sixteenth notes, plus we're in 2/4 time signature.


So for now -- don't even think about what the notes are. Look at the rhythm and write it out by hand. 


I'll look something like this:



As you can see, it also helps to write out the beats underneath.


Clap it out


Now we have the rhythm written out -- it's time to clap.


This will get the rhythm into our heads, and counting out loud will also help here.


Do this as often as it takes to really remember the rhythm.


Play it!


Now you know the rhythm by heart, it's time to go back and focus on the notes themselves.


But because you already know the rhythm -- it will make it a LOT easier to learn which notes to play.


And the great thing about this technique is that you can apply it for one hand -- or both.


Once you have the right-hand part down, take a look at the left hand, and write out the rhythm.


But this time -- instead of clapping, tap on your leg while you're playing the right-hand part.


It's a fantastic bridge between learning the song hands separately and putting it all together.


Final tip


This is a big one - use a metronome!


You should be using a metronome for all of your practices, but it's especially important when learning a new piece with difficult rhythms.


The metronome will keep you in time -- and will help solidify the beats in your head.


So now you're ready to tackle that song or section of a piece that you've been avoiding.


And as always, have fun!



#Piano Lessons


#Piano Practice

#Time Signatures


#Complicated Rhythm

#Practice Exercises