Intro to Scales #6: Relative Minor, Natural Minor, and Parallel Minor

In Superman comics, there was a Bizarro world that operated like a parallel universe where everything was all backwards and crazy.  They say goodbye when they arrive, hats on their feet, hamburgers eat people, all that kind of craziness (not unlike Australia).  

The idea that there is some alternate dimension out there, mirroring our own and housing a version of you that is living a life different from yours is a strange idea indeed.  

This is a lesson that is far less confusing than it sounds.

A relative minor is the Minor Key that relates to a given Major key.

It is referring to the Natural Minor scale, if you have heard that name before.  It is called this as it is naturally occurring in the scale.  

Any guesses as to what this could be, given what we have been discussing previously?

In C Major, A Aeolian is the Natural Minor Scale which occurs in that key.  It is pure minor without any crazy alterations, bells and whistles or ricketa racketa.  

The major scale and minor scale have two different Tonics, but they are related because they are both built using the same scale formula.  Because of this, A is considered to be the Relative Minor Key of C Major.  Minor Keys borrow from their Relative Majors to determine the key signature.  Since C Major has no sharps or flats,  writing for A Minor would also have a key signature with no sharps or flats.  G Major has one sharp, that being F#.  The Aeolian mode for that key starts on E, so writing for E Minor would require a key signature of one sharp also.

Thus, the Relative Minor Key, or Natural Minor Scale Tonic, for any given Major Key is the 6th scale degree.  

Conversely, the Relative Major for any Minor is on the 3rd scale degree of that minor scale.

Now we have one more concept to discuss, which is like throwing a second, slightly more similar/different Bizzarro Superman into the mix.  

This is the Parallel Minor.  He flies sideways instead of backwards or forwards.

A Parallel Minor is different from a Relative Minor.  The Relative Minor is a key or scale derived from its related major key.  A Parallel Minor is a Minor scale derived from the same Tonic, but of a completely different key.

C Major   C D E F G A B C

has the Relative Minor Key of   A Minor

Its Natural Minor/Relative Minor scale is A Aeolian    


and C Major has a parallel minor of                       C Natural Minor  

 C D Eb F G Ab Bb

In summary, a Major scale and its Relative Minor have the same key signature, but a different Tonic.  

A Major scale and its Parallel Minor have a different key signature, but the same Tonic.

This requires a bit more memorizing and some brain power on your part, but don't worry!  You probably didn't think you'd get which notes go where on the musical staff either, and look where we are now.  

Take your time with these lesson and the resources on the website, because this isn't a race.  You move forward or review at your own pace.  

Unlike that awful Bizzarro you that tries to brag about reading all the lessons in one go but doesn't retain any of the information.  

That guy is a dick.

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Lazer Monk

Lazer Monk

Hamilton, Ont