Music Literacy
Basic Music Theory
The Basics
The Major Scale
Key Signature
Minor Keys

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Minor Keys

So far we have presented the major scale, major key signatures, and chords belonging to the major keys.  The second most commonly used scale in western music is the minor scale.  It is very similar to the major scale, and much of what we have learned already will apply to minor keys as well.

The Minor Scale

The minor scale pattern is formed by all the white notes on the keyboard from A to A:

A minor scale

Minor Key Signatures

As a result, the key signatures for the minor keys are as follows:

Circle of Fifths - minor keys

The keys in this chart occur in the same order as for the major keys, but rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise.  That is to say, C Major, which has no sharps or flats, was shown at the top of the Major Key Signature chart; C minor has 3 flats, and is shown on the left of the chart above.  Likewise, A Major, which has 3 sharps, was on the right of the Major Key Signature chart; above, A minor appears at the top with no sharps or flats.

Major and minor keys with the same key signature are related.  Both C Major and A minor have no sharps or flats; therefore, A minor is the relative minor to C Major.  Likewise, C Major is the relative major to A minor.

Quick Quiz

G minor has 2 flats.  What is the relative major? 

Chords Belonging to Minor Keys

The chords used for the minor scale are the same as for the major scale; they just occur in a different order.

Chords belonging to the minor scale

The i, iv, and v chords are minor; the III, VI, and VII chords are major, and the ii chord is diminished.

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