A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the G Minor Scale

Western music makes use of 24 keys, 12 of the major and 12 minor. We generally categorize major keys as bright and happy, while minor keys are associated with unhappiness and gloom.

All major and minor keys are based on their corresponding scales. The key of g minor, then, derives from the g minor scale.

Like other minor keys, g minor has always been associated with sadness and other negative feelings. In fact, composers traditionally used it to signify somber emotions like discontent and dislike [1].

Are you a beginning musician trying to figure out how to play a g minor scale? Are you confused about what sharps or flats are found in the key of g minor? Check out the F minor scale, too.

That’s okay! Below you’ll find the complete guide to the g minor scale. It will help you master the key of g minor in no time. Read on for more information!

Building Major and Minor Scales

All scales, including the g minor scale, are nothing more than patterns. Once you master the scale’s pattern, you master the scale.

To learn how to build a scale, let’s visualize a keyboard. All keyboards have black and white keys.

You’ll see the black keys follow a pattern. There are repeating groups of two’s and three’s all the way up the keyboard.

Below and to the left of each group of two black keys is a white key with the name C. That’s true for every group of two black keys.

Starting at C, and going up the white keys, we get the following notes:

C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

These are the pitches in the C Major scale. C is at the bottom and top of the scale. Because it’s the scale’s root, we refer to C as the scale’s tonic.

Between each pair of pitches in the C Major scale is an interval. That term refers to the space between the notes. For both major and minor scales, that space will be either a whole step or a half step.

For our C Major scale, the intervals are:

C to D: whole step

D to E: whole step

E to F: half step

F to G: whole step

G to A: whole step

A to B: whole step

B to C: half step

Only E to F and B to C have half steps between them. All other pairs employ whole steps.

You now have the information necessary to build a major scale starting on any tonic, or root note. It doesn’t matter if your starting pitch is D, E, or F. Follow the same pattern of whole and half steps, and you’ll end up with a major scale.

How to Build a Minor Scale

Building a minor scale follows the same procedure. Instead of starting on C, though, we’ll begin on A.

Following the white keys up from A, we get the following pitches:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

Again, let’s look at the intervals between each pair of notes:

A to B: whole step

B to C: half step

C to D: whole step

D to E: whole step

E to F: half step

F to G: whole step

G to A: whole step

Notice the minor scale’s pattern of whole and half steps is different. Remember, the major scale had half steps between the 3rd and 4th pitches, as well as the 7th and 8th.

The minor scale, on the other hand, has half steps between the 2nd and 3rd pitches (in this case, B to C) and the 5th and 6th pitches (E to F).

These different patterns of whole and half steps give major and minor scales their unique emotional suggestions. That’s because, when we start building chords from minor scales, we hear the lowered third pitch of the minor scale as a sadder sound [2].

The G Minor Natural Scale

Now, we come to the g minor natural scale. In the section above, we built a minor scale with a tonic of A. To build a minor scale using a different tonic, start at the new pitch. Then, follow the pattern of whole and half steps from the a minor scale.

For g minor, then, we get:

G to A: whole step

A to B-flat: half step

B-flat to C: whole step

C to D: whole step

C to E-flat: half step

E-flat to F: whole step

F to G: whole step

Notice we have to add accidentals to the pitches to maintain the pattern. In this case, we’ve added two flats: b-flat and e-flat. The pattern of whole and half steps above is called the g minor natural scale.

If you’re playing music in the key of g minor, those are the two accidentals you’ll find in the key signature. Every b and e will automatically be flat unless the composer writes in a natural sign. That’s because the key of g minor is based on the g minor scale.

Note, also, that every minor key has a corresponding major one. In this case, B-flat Major also uses two flats. We say, then, that B-flat Major is the relative major of g minor.

Although both g minor and B-flat Major use the same pitches in their scales, their tonics are different. This means their whole steps and half steps are ordered differently as well, giving g minor its dark sound and B-flat Major its bright one.

Many famous composers have written their music in the key of g minor. Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, as well as “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, are both in this key.

Two Other Versions of G Minor

All minor scales have three versions [3]. As a musician, you need to be aware of all three. The other two types of the g minor scale are the:

  • g minor harmonic scale
  • g minor melodic scale

Both of these minor scales are based on the g minor natural scale shown above.

The G Minor Harmonic Scale

To build the g minor harmonic scale, raise the 7th pitch by a half step. This will give you:

G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, F#, G

Notice that we have to add a sharp to F in order to raise its pitch.

The G Minor Melodic Scale

The g minor melodic scale, on the other hand, has different ascending and descending forms. As you go up the scale, raise the 6th and 7th pitches. On the way down, lower them again, employing the pitches from the g minor natural scale.

Ascending, the scale looks like this:

G, A, B-flat, C, D, E, F#, G

Descending, we get this instead:

G, F, E-flat, D, C, B-flat, A, G

Composers will employ a particular minor scale for a specific musical reason. For example, you can see the last five pitches of the g minor melodic scale look similar to a G Major scale.

The last half step, from F# to G, can provide a stronger harmonic resolution if that’s what’s desired. That drive to the tonic isn’t present in the natural minor scale, which has a whole step between the last two pitches.

How To Learn the G Minor Scale

Now you know how to build the g minor scale in all three of its versions. You can also recognize music written in the key of g minor. These are excellent first steps towards playing music in this key.

The best way to become proficient in any key is to practice your scales and arpeggios. They will help you become comfortable with the key’s accidentals.

What’s more, if you play a harmonic instrument, don’t hesitate to practice chords in g minor. The notes that make up this chord will train your ear, helping you to recognize that melancholy g minor sound.

Don’t stop yet, you have lots of things to learn. Have you heard about the pentatonic scale? If not, read our article here.

Stephanie Su
 

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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