In this lesson you will learn more about the Natural, Harmonic and Melodic minor piano scale patterns, and how they're different from the major scale.
The natural minor scale, also called aeolian mode, can easily be found on the white keys on the piano by starting from the note A. Of course you can start on any note, but when starting from A it is ready, no sharps or flats needed! If you start from another key you'll have to keep the exact pattern of whole and half steps between the keys.
There are two more variations of the minor pattern. One is called harmonic minor and the other is called melodic minor. It is the same basic pattern- it just alternates the 6th and the 7th steps.
In harmonic minor the 7th step is raised 1/2 step higher, both going up and down:
In melodic minor the 6th and the 7th step is raised 1/2 step when the piano scale is played moving up (ascending), but when it goes down again (descending) it lowers them, or simply; it becomes natural again.
Now why confusing things like that? Why isn't there just one minor scale pattern as there is only one major scale pattern?
In the western "classical" music- up to approximately the 1600's - it was common to use the 7 musical modes. (These modes are not major or minor. They have a different sound.)
But during the Baroque and Classical era it became more and more popular
to use mainly major and minor tonalities. Simplicity! Clarity! This was
the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment!
No confusing harmonies and modes from the Renaissance with Polyphony (many "melodies" interwoven) and stuff. Homophony (melody and accompaniment by chords) was all the rage!
Music should be either happy or sad- nothing in between- and simpler clear
melodies with accompaniment; not four or five equal melodies weaving
around each other. How else was people supposed to know what to sing along with? :)
Even J. S Bach with his (marvelous!) fugues (polyphonic) was considered by many contemporaries to be really old fashioned. Out with the old- in with the new! The new invention of the Opera surely had something to do with the popularity of major and minor modes as well: People had to know when to laugh and when to cry!
combining the old melodies made from the older "church" modes with minor chords
just didn't sound so good. So altering the 7th step and even the 6th
sometimes, was a compromise to solve the dilemma of adding harmonies to the melodies. This is where the name "harmonic" minor comes from. The minor scale used for harmonizing the melodies.
raising the 7th step in a minor scale you also get this feeling of a
really strong pull back to the first (or last) note - and in this way you get a stronger sense of tonality- or a tonal center.