Relative minor scale is really used in improvisation, because it gives more ideas to solo. All improviser that learned to use major and minor scales have to learn, after that, to use the relative minor scale. But what is the relative minor scale?
Example of relative minor scale
Think in some major scale, for example, C major scale. The C relative minor scale will be A minor scale. As a rule, the relative minor scale of a major scale is the minor scale of the sixth degree of this tonality. Saying this way may look confuse, but is really simple in practice. As we were in C, the sixth degree is A, so is just play A minor scale.
Observation: if you are still lost about degrees, read again the article “degrees and music intervals”.
Well, as you can see, we are not learning any new scale here. This scale is nothing more than the natural minor scale that we already saw. Only creating a link of sixth degree in relation to the first, and then you will understand this.
Relationship between major scale and relative minor scale
If you take C major scale and compare it to A minor scale, you will see that they have exactly the same notes. In other words, the major scale has a related minor that is identical to it. Incredible, isn’t it? This is why the name “relative”. Compare below, for example, the scales C x Am and G x Em:
- C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
- A minor scale: A, B, C, D, E, F, G
- G major scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
- E minor scale: E, F#, G, A, B, C
This is extremely useful! It means that we can use A minor scale to do a solo in a song which tonality is C major. In other words, when we have a major tonality, we can think in two scales: the major scale of this tonality and the relative minor scale of it. This increases our options when we are thinking in solo.
In the same way, we could think in the opposite: each minor tonality has a relative major. This major relative is located a tone and a half above the minor tonality. For example, one tone and a half above A is C. Therefore, the relative major of A minor is C major.
Relative minor chord
It is worth to highlight that this concept also exists to the chords. The relative minor chord is the chord of sixth degree of major chord in question. For example, the relative minor of C is the chord of sixth degree in the harmonic field of C major, in other words, A minor. Other example: suppose that the tonality be G major. The relative minor of G will be E.
As the relative chords have affinity among them, they can substitute one another. We will see this with more details in the study of harmonic functions. For now, think in scales; remember that you can always use a relative minor with a major scale. Try to test this taking a song in a major tonality and playing the relative minor on it. You will see as it fits perfectly.
Now that you already learned what you needed about relative minor, try to find the relative minor of all the other chords or major scales. After that, check with the table below:
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