How to play the Minor Scale on Guitar

Published Categorized as Guitar lessons, Scales

This page is dedicated to teaching you how to play the minor scale on guitar.

minor scale on guitar

When we are talking about minor scales it is important to distinguish which minor scale we are talking about. This is because there are 3 different minor scales.

  • Natural Minor Scale
  • Harmonic Minor Scale
  • Melodic Minor Scale

This might seem like a lot to learn at first but the difference between the 3 isn?t that huge.

And I’m going to break this up into 3 different lessons so that you can learn it in small chunks (a bit easier on the brain!). This lesson will focus on the natural minor scale.

The Natural Minor Scale

The natural minor scale is in the following pattern:

  • Whole step (W)
  • Half Step (H)
  • Whole Step (W)
  • Whole Step (W)
  • Half Step (H)
  • Whole Step (W)
  • Whole Step (W)

So if you were to play an A minor scale then you would:

  • start on A
  • then a B (whole step up)
  • then a C (half step up)
  • then a D (whole)
  • then an E (whole)
  • then an F (half)
  • then a G (whole)
  • then back to A (whole)

If you remember from the how to play a major scale lesson the major scale does a W, W, H, W, W, W, H. Can you see the difference? So the A major would be:

  • start on A
  • then a B (whole step up)
  • then a C# (whole step up)
  • then a D (half)
  • then an E (whole)
  • then an F# (whole)
  • then a G# (whole)
  • then back to A (half)

There are 3 different notes and this difference makes a big difference in the feel of how the scale sounds. The natural minor sounds darker and sadder than the major scale.

How to play on guitar

let’s stick with the A minor as the example scale since it has no flats or sharps.

Below is the tab which shows you how to play the A minor scale on guitar. If you aren’t sure about how to read tab check out the link below.

The A Minor Natural Scale in the open Position

e:------------------------|
B:------------------------|
G:-------------------0--2-|
D:----------0--2--3-------|
A:-0--2--3----------------|
E:------------------------|

Now let’s make this into a pattern that uses all of the notes on all of the strings in the open position. In this next exercise you are learning more notes in more places and you are practicing going both down and up the scale.

e:----------------------------------0--1--3--3--1--0-------------------|
B:-------------------------0--1--3--------------------3--1--0----------|
G:-------------------0--2-------------------------------------2--0-----|
D:----------0--2--3-------------------------------------------------3--|
A:-0--2--3-------------------------------------------------------------|
E:---------------------------------------------------------------------|
e:---------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------|
G:---------------------------------|
D:2--0-----------------------------|
A:------3--2--0-----------------0--|
E:---------------3--1--0--1--3-----|

In another position up the freboard

You can also try it in this position further up the fret board. Some people find this easier as they don?t have to worry about open notes. This is certainly?easier when you?are learning minor scales with flats and sharps.

e:-------------------------------------------5--7--8--8--7--5----------|
B:----------------------------------5--6--8-------------------8--6--5--|
G:-------------------------4--5--7-------------------------------------|
D:-------------------5--7----------------------------------------------|
A:----------5--7--8----------------------------------------------------|
E:-5--7--8-------------------------------------------------------------|
e:---------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------|
G:-7--5--4-------------------------|
D:----------7--5-------------------|
A:----------------8--7--5----------|
E:-------------------------8--7--5-|

One Final Note

If you are particularly sharp (in the brain sense not the musical sense) today you may have noticed that the A minor scale uses all of the same notes as the C major scale but starts on a different root note.

Check out my last lesson where we looked at major scales to see for yourself if you haven’t seen that lessons yet.

The C major and A minor natural scale use the same notes and these are what are known as relative scales. So:

  • C major is the relative major of A minor
  • A minor is the relative minor of C major

An F# major scale would have D# minor as its relative minor because those two scales also use the same notes but start on a different root note.

Even though they use the same notes they have a very different feel because of the starting point.

Over to You

Now it’s time to practice!

Thanks for reading and I hope this lesson will help you to improve you as a guitarist.

If you haven’t already, then check out my lesson on major scales and also check out harmonic and melodic minors at the links below.

If you’re not already I really encourage you to get structured regular guitar lessons. This will help immensely with your guitar progression. It doesn’t matter if the lessons are online lessons or in-person lessons, the main thing is that they are well structured and teach you things in the right order.

Check out my reviews of the top 2 online guitar lesson providers at the links below if you are thinking of going for online lessons.


Photo Credit

By Sluffs (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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