An Introduction to the C Sharp Minor Scale

Have you ever wondered how to play the C sharp minor scale?

If you’re brand new to piano, probably not. But if you’ve ever admired rock anthems like, “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” or “Mr. Brightside,” guess what?

They’re all in the key of C sharp.

Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the C sharp minor scale, from the notes to fingerings to a few fun things you can do with it.

What is the C Sharp Minor Scale?

But before we dive deep into the technical stuff, let’s address the most basic question: what is the C sharp minor scale? To answer that, you need to understand what a minor scale is.

Major scales and minor scales are the two main categories of scales that make up Western music [1]. They’re all comprised of eight notes, beginning and ending on the same note.

Minor scales, in particular, usually sound solemn and sad, while major scales tend to sound upbeat.

You’ve been wondering what the C sharp minor scale is, but as with all minor scales, there are actually three types of C sharp minor scale:

  1. Natural
  2. Melodic
  3. Harmonic

Each type of scale comes with its own set of rules and structure, so we’ll break them down individually.

Natural

The easiest place to start is the natural minor scale [2].

Think of the natural minor scale as the point from which the other two scales diverge. If you know the natural scale, you can figure out the other two no problem. For this reason, the natural scale is often referred to simply as the minor scale.

The notes of the C sharp natural minor scale are:

  1. Tonic: C#
  2. Major 2nd: D#
  3. Minor 3rd: E
  4. Perfect 4th: F#
  5. Perfect 5th: G#
  6. Minor 6th: A
  7. Minor 7th: B
  8. Perfect 8th: C#

In this notation, # represents a sharp, thus C# is C sharp.

If you’re new to music, don’t worry too much about the notations (tonic, perfect, etc.)[3]. These refer to intervals or the distance between any two notes.

Fingerings

Now that you know the notes, let’s talk about how to play the C sharp natural minor scale.

First, look at your hands. Think of your fingers as numbered–your thumbs are one, your index fingers are two, all the way to your pinky finger at five.

To play C sharp natural minor on your right hand, the fingering is as follows: 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. In other words, your middle finger starts out on C# and your thumb goes underneath to play E and underneath again to play A.

To play the scale on your left hand, the fingering is: 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3. Or, your middle finger starts on C# and your ring finger goes underneath to play F#, etc.

Melodic

Now that you know the natural scale, let’s jump off the beaten path and talk about the C sharp melodic scale.

Melodic minor scales are a lot like the natural scale. The only difference is the sixth and seventh notes, which are both raised a half step. Melodic scales are also trickier than natural or harmonic scales because they’re played differently depending on whether you’re ascending or descending.

The notes of the C sharp melodic minor scale ascending are all sharps, thus:

  1. Tonic: C#
  2. Major 2nd: D#
  3. Minor 3rd: E#
  4. Perfect 4th: F#
  5. Perfect 5th: G#
  6. Minor 6th: A#
  7. Major 7th: B#
  8. Perfect 8th: C#

And the notes of the C sharp melodic scale descending are:

  1. Perfect 8th: C#
  2. Major 7th: B
  3. Minor 6th: A
  4. Perfect 5th: G#
  5. Perfect 4th: F#
  6. Minor 3rd: E#
  7. Major 2nd: D#
  8. Tonic: C#

If you’re paying attention, you’ll recall that the notes of the C# descending are the same as the notes of the natural minor scale, which makes things easy.

Fingerings

As you can probably guess, fingerings will look different for ascending vs. descending scales and will definitely look different between the right and left hand.

Take a deep breath. Let’s dive in.

The fingerings for C sharp melodic minor on the right hand are: 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 1.

For the left hand, the fingerings are: 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2.

It can seem frustrating to cross your fingers over and under each other to play the scale, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a much faster way to move your hands up and down the keyboard.

Harmonic

Finally, there’s the C sharp harmonic minor scale, the last of the three types of minor scale.

The sound of the harmonic scale is somewhat characterized by the music of the Middle East, which is good to know if you want a particular sound.

Thankfully, the difference between the harmonic minor scale and the natural minor scale is quite easy to remember: the only difference is a sharpened seventh note.

Thus, the notes of the C sharp harmonic minor scale are:

  1. Tonic: C#
  2. Major 2nd: D#
  3. Minor 3rd: E
  4. Perfect 4th: F#
  5. Perfect 5th: G#
  6. Minor 6th: A
  7. Major 7th: B#
  8. Perfect 8th: C#

In more technical terms, we’re raising the seventh note by a half step.

Fingerings

Since the notes of the C sharp harmonic minor scale are almost identical to the natural minor scale, the fingering doesn’t change that much.

Good news for new piano players.

The fingerings for C sharp harmonic minor on the right hand are: 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. In the scheme of things, that’s pretty straightforward–your thumb crosses under your hand twice.

The fingerings for the left hand are: 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2.

Playing the C Sharp Minor Scale

Think you’re ready to conquer the C sharp minor scale?

If you still need a little help, no worries! That’s where we come in.

Check out our blog for A sharp minor and D sharp minor

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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