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Minor scales.


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#1 geek123

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 13:37

Hello, I am just starting out in music theory and would be most grateful if someone can explain the following to me. I do know that a minor scale starts on the sixth note of its relative major / A minor starts on the A of C major / My question is why does it start on A and not another note. To you who know this may seem a silly question and the answer I am sure is obvious but I have looked at this for some time and cannot find an answer so thank you all in advance.


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#2 Edwardo

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 14:47

Or you could wonder instead why the relative major begins on the third of the minor scale ...


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#3 Hildegard

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 15:33

The simplest form of minor scale (the natural minor) has exactly the same notes as its relative major if it starts on note 6 of the major scale.

 

MAJOR  CDEFGABCDEFGABC

MINOR               ABCDEFGABCDEFG

 

The same applies in all keys.


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#4 fsharpminor

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 16:38

Yes don't forget there are Melodic, Harmonic, and Natural (as Hildgard posted) Minor scales.  

I think Harmonics turn up most commonly in compositions, but you need to know Melodics as well for exams, and for theory. Noturals arent quite so important.


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#5 maggiemay

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 17:36

Noturals arent quite so important.

 

Hmm - not sure. I think it would depend who you ask. 

For me, the natural minor provides a link in understanding  between the major and minor ‘forms’  - which was missing when I was ‘taught’ harmonic and melodic minor scales as a child. 

And certainly if you play any modal music or jazz - maybe natural minor is not less important. 

Surely the terms ‘harmonic’ and ‘melodic’ are simply labels attached to patterns that occur in harmony and melody in the tonal tradition? 

Very convenient maybe for exam boards to have such labels  ……. 


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#6 geek123

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 18:05

Hello, I thank you all for your comments but none explain why.  Did someone some time ago just decide that the minor should start on the 6th note of the major or is there a mathematical reason for it, Music has a mathematical bent to it so I am sure that there is a solid reason for it otherwise why not decide that the minor should start on any other note of the major.


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#7 Arundodonuts

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 18:10

No-one decided it. It just does. See Hildegard's explanation.


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#8 geek123

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 19:02

Thank you Arundonuts, You still do not answer the question and Hildegards answer only tells me how it is which I already knew but offers nothing as to why.


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#9 zwhe

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 19:47

It is just something that has evolved over time. There are scales starting on all the notes, but most music is written with the major and minor. You will still find composers using other scales/note selections for their music but it is easier to focus on the most popular ones to begin with.


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#10 geek123

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 20:34

Thank you zwhe for your input and as you say scales could be constructed from any note but as music is very mathematical I do feel that there should be a mathematical connection between the 6th note of a major scale and the start note of its relative minor but I have tried everything and can find no connection so unless someone comes forward with an answer I must conclude that there is no connection and that it was a random choice by someone back in the mists of time.


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#11 LoneM

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 22:01

<Oversimplification> Different cultures have different musical traditions and scales, but our western music theory developed in the church music tradition back in the middle ages. </Oversimplification> This was codified by Guido d'Arezzo in the 11th century who established a notation that would enable someone who did not know a Gregorian chant to sing it. He used seven six-note scales or hexachords which overlapped. These developed into the eight ecclesiastical modes of the 16th century, which in turn gradually were reduced around the end of the 17th century to the major and minor systems used today.

 

Have a look at https://www.piano-co...siastical-modes - as a 'maths geek' you should enjoy it!

a notation of defined heights begins that allows a person who does not know a melodic, to sing it.no   tation of defined heights begins that allows a person who does not know a melodic, to sing it.notation of defined heights begins that allows a person who does not know a melodic, to sing it. Guido d’Arezzo (c 995 -1050)GGuido d’Arezzo (c 995 -1050)


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#12 Cyrilla

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Posted 14 January 2022 - 23:45

@f#m - the natural minor evolved (Aeolian mode) before Musica Ficta helped to develop functional music (and the harmonic and melodic forms of the scale) - and as maggiemay said, there are many forms and styles of music other than Western classical.   Folk musicians and jazzers in particular would disagree with you (as do I)!

 

@geek123 - no way am I as clever as some members of this forum and I have no idea of the answer to your question - but starting on the 6th degree (I'm a solfa person so it's 'la') means that the first third of the scale is minor, whereas starting on 'do' gives you a major 3rd at the beginning.

 

Of course if you start on 're' or 'mi' or 'ti' you also have a minor 3rd at the start (the corresponding modes of Dorian, Phrygian and Locrian share that minor feeling to their tonality) - but from my solfa perspective it does just feel very 'natural' (sorry!) to me that if 'do' is (e.g.) G then 'la' is E - the Ionian and Aeolian modes are related - hence 'relative' minor in that the letter names (and therefore key sig) are the same, but the pattern of tones and semitones is different.

 

Argh - it's late and I'm starting to make no sense at all, not even to me (comme d'habitude)  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes: .


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#13 Hildegard

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Posted 15 January 2022 - 07:59

Just to add to some excellent explanations, the term musica ficta (literally 'fictitious music') was used in the medieval period to describe notes (either written or altered by performers) which moved music away from the modal system towards our modern system of major and minor keys. Thus, ending a melody in the Aeolian mode (what we now call the natural minor) on the last two notes of the mode (G - A) didn't sound as definitive an ending as changing the penultimate note to G# (G# - A). Thus the Aeolian mode:

ABCDEFGA

became the minor scale:

ABCDEFG#A

That is what we now call the harmonic minor, but it has an awkward leap between notes 6 and 7 (F - G#). To avoid this, note 6 was also often raised by a semitone, giving:
ABCDEF#G#A

which is what we now call the ascending melodic minor. The descending melodic minor is the same as the natural minor. There is no need for the raised notes to define the key as descending melodies are more likely to end B - A:
AGFEDCBA

 

So, the minor scales evolved from the modes because musicians began to prefer their sound, and more especially because they were better suited to defining the different keys of the tonal system that (as LoneM said) was developing during the 17th century. So the model was not mathematical, but aural. I suppose one could say that the model was modal. :rolleyes: The minor scale better suited the taste of the 17th century, although the modal system lingered on in folk music, as Cyrilla pointed out, and elements of modality were revived by 20th century composers such as Debussy.


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#14 HelenVJ

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Posted 15 January 2022 - 09:28

See the erudite explanations above, but it may also help to understand that the relatives share the same notes (in the natural form of the minor scale, which is where I start teaching minors)  and therefore the same key signature. Compare F maj/D min,  G maj/E minor and then work out the rest. Also experiment with chords, and improvisation using them
If the relative started on any other scale degree it wouldn't work as they don't use the same scale notes.
Of course, you can also think of the major starting on the 3rd degree of its relative minor  :)


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#15 geek123

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Posted 15 January 2022 - 12:40

Hello, Thank you all for your input.


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