All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
SYOS

ABRSM minor scales - why no natural minors?

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
Browsing through an ABRSM scale book I've had for quite a while, not really used it for anything, I just noticed that there are no natural minors in the required scales. The melodic minor scale ascends as what I understand as the melodic minor (example: C D Eb F G A B), but descends as a natural minor (C D Eb F G Ab Bb), whereas the harmonic minors ascend and descend as the same harmonic minor.

What is the reasoning behind this? I've always played mostly natural minor scales, since they're far more common than melodic ones. As a matter of fact, I can't really name any tunes off the top of my head that go in melodic minor. (But could probably list hundreds in natural or harmonic minor or dorian scales.)
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Melodic minors are written with # 6th and 7th as they sound easier on the ear in ascending meolodies, but it doesn't notice so much descending so the natural minor is reverted to. Harmonic minors are used, as the name suggests, in harmony parts. That's what the theory books say anyway. I suspect it's more true of music other than contemporary styles. ABRSM are now allowing natural minor at grade 1 , so perhaps the idea is to gradually extend it to higher grades. The ABRSM jazz grades have minor pentatonics, among othes, rather than full minor scales.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,944
If you look at baroque music for example, you will almost always see composers such as JS Bach or Handel sharpening the 6th and 7th on the way up and not on the way down. I think it's a euphony thing as otherwise you end up with that 'full of eastern promise' sound.
 

littleplum

Member
Messages
441
Abrsm are meant to be bringing natural minors back in to the early grades soon. Trinity used to have them for grades 1 and 2 I believe but they have now stopped them. Maybe only one exam board can use them at a time???

Dave
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
Thanks for the link TV.

It is indeed strange for me, since if I recall correctly, the natural minor scales were introduced right after the first few major scales when I attended piano lessons when I was young.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
ABRSM Jazz Grades use Natural Minor as well as Modes. Best just to stay away from the classical music crew!
 

AndyWhiteford

Senior Member
Messages
454
i tend to think of scales as "sets of notes" , so the idea of a minor scale that's different "on the way down" grates with me.
as an illustration- try to follow this exercise:
"Play C melodic minor scale ascending from the first degree to the seventh degree. Now go down one note."
some of you will now be playing an Ab since you're "descending" , and some of you playing an A natural., since you played it just before the B. Or some of you might hit a Bb, since thats the next nearest note "in the scale" as it descends..........

I think it's best to know these 3 "bi-intervallic" scales (or note-sets), which all have only two kinds of intervals
- natural minor/ aeolian minor/ relative minor / 6th-mode minor (= melodic minor 'descending')
- dorian
minor / 2nd-mode minor
- melodic minor (= melodic minor 'ascending')
and also know this scale
- harmonic minor , which has a minor 6th and a major 7th , [ so has a augmented-second interval between these two notes ]
 
Last edited by a moderator:

BenJT

New Member
Messages
15
I've always understood it that classical music for a long time didn't like natural minors. For years, when the church was powerful the minor 3rd (I think... something 3rd at least) was banned as it was meant to be evil. Therefore, when the western scales were starting to become standardised, they sharped the 7th to prevent the evil whatever 3rd being played, making the harmonic and melodic minors.

This then has stuck for a long time, and only just now is the ABRSM Classical is starting to change.

I think that's a bit right at least. I'm awful at theory so I broke into sweat and cried a bit when I wrote that, despite its simplicity.
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
I often wondered myself as a child why Melodic Minor is as it is :confused: but I just did as I was told and learnt them :thumb:
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,000
I often wondered myself as a child why Melodic Minor is as it is :confused: but I just did as I was told and learnt them :thumb:
The harmonic minor raises the 7th (leading tone) creating a step and a half interval between 6 and 7. This is what gives this scale an "Eastern" sound.

To produce a minor scale with a raised 7th (leading tone) that does not have this "Eastern" sound, one must eliminate this step and a half by raising 6 as well. When a scale descends there is no "leading tone" per se, so the 7th goes back down. When there is no longer a step and a half to correct, the 6th reverts to normal as well.

It is fortunate Paul McCartney knew the melodic minor scale or we wouldn't have the beautiful melody we know as Yesterday. :D
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Ben
No, that was the b5th/#4th, the devil in music, as it was known. The tri tone interval, cutting the scale in half, was hated by early music scholars. TVs complimenting what I said earlier about melodic minors is still about right I think.
YC
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
The harmonic minor raises the 7th (leading tone) creating a step and a half interval between 6 and 7. This is what gives this scale an "Eastern" sound.

To produce a minor scale with a raised 7th (leading tone) that does not have this "Eastern" sound, one must eliminate this step and a half by raising 6 as well. When a scale descends there is no "leading tone" per se, so the 7th goes back down. When there is no longer a step and a half to correct, the 6th reverts to normal as well.

It is fortunate Paul McCartney knew the melodic minor scale or we wouldn't have the beautiful melody we know as Yesterday. :D
Oh I get harmonic that makes perfect sense it creates a sound with a character and it's the same ascending and descending, it's melodic I could never fathom the reasoning behind......why not just play natural minor?! :thumb:
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Oh I get harmonic that makes perfect sense it creates a sound with a character and it's the same ascending and descending, it's melodic I could never fathom the reasoning behind......why not just play natural minor?! :thumb:
Because the V chord (a minor 7th if you use natural minor) doesn't have enough tension in it (for certain purposes). I think that's the main idea, anyway.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,000
Good answer. The major 3rd and flatted 7th of a V7 creates a tritone which has a strong pull back to i or I as the case may be (pun unintentional). The major third is the leading tone and resolves upward to the tonic. The flatted 7th pulls downward to the 3rd above the tonic.
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
That makes sense I suppose - my piano teacher used to say "stop asking questions and just play it" she was quite terrifying so I did as I was told ;}
 

Reed Warbler

Senior Member
Messages
618
As a junior bandsman, RAC, one of the first exams that brought a pay rise was fluency in all 12 scales, major, melodic minor and harmonic minor. That was a good start for a musician. Melodic minor was good enough for JSB, who am I to differ with the daddy of them all? It works or it doesn't. You dont need any theory to enjoy hearing music.
 
Saxholder Pro
Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom