Minor Scales: A Simple Piano Pattern For Beginners

Beginner Minor Scales On the Piano

While many people know about Major scales, what about minor scales? These are incredibly common throughout Western music. And they are ones that beginner piano players should also learn since they add interest to what they are playing as well.

This is part 2 of our looking into beginner scales! If you’ve missed the start of this beginner piano series on scales, I highly recommend reading about how to put Major scales together here so you have a better understanding of what is covered here.

Major vs. Minor Scales

There are a lot of different types of scales. And, it can start to feel confusing quickly. Especially if you don’t analyze or understand the patterns that group each of these types of scales together.

When I was younger, this was not necessarily a strength of mine. It wasn’t until I began teaching that I truly discovered the power of memorizing patterns rather than specific scales.

To keep the pattern simple for you, we are sticking to half and whole steps so you can start playing right away. Rather than waiting to learn and master full scales, 5-note scales like this minor pentascale make it easier on finger dexterity and getting playing quickly.

Major vs. Minor Scales Pattern

On the piano, the big difference between the Major and minor pentascale is just ONE note. That’s it! Easy peasy, right?

Take a look at the following patterns:

  • Major Scale Pattern: W – W – H – W
  • Minor Scale Pattern: W – H – W – W

Notice that the middle switches. This small change in pattern creates a whole new sound for the minor scale!

Minor Scale Pattern

Let’s take a look at the minor scale pattern written fully out …

Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step

This small change will not only sound different, but also feel a little different under your fingers.

To see exactly what this looks like, I recommend watching the video below or clicking here.


How To Practice Minor Scales

As always, we want to start with the basics. If you are a visual person, using gems, Legos or small blocks (anything that won’t fall between the keys) can make it easier to visually see which notes are part of the minor scale.

One of the first minor scales students typically learn is the A minor scale: A, B, C, D, E

Play the scale going up, to the right. Then, play the scale going down, to the left.

Repeat this for each hand. Then, challenge yourself to play both hands together!

Most people are predominantly right-handed or left-handed. To improve in piano, the aim is to become more ambidextrous … at least when it comes to piano! Practicing with each hand on its own builds up the strength and dexterity of each hand. Playing together trains your brain and hands to work together to play more complex music.

Remember, you can practice minor scales starting on ANY note so long as you follow the W – H – W – W pattern!

A Fun Way To Play Minor Scales

While practice is important, scales in particular can get boring quite quickly. That’s why adding other ways to practice, like improvising, are so important!

Improvising is just creating music on the spot. In this case, still playing all the notes within the minor scales you are learning. But, with a couple of twists

Idea 1:

Create a simple melody that uses all the notes within the scale.

Play your minor scales:

  • Add some repeated notes,
  • Go up a few notes, change direction, play a few notes, switch again
  • Repeat until you have played all the notes of the scale going up and down.

Idea 2:

Once you can change directions, add a little rhythm by adding longer and shorter notes. This can take your mini song from okay to wow quickly!

To see what each of these ideas looks like in action, watch the video above or click here.

Quick Review of Minor Scales On The Piano

Rather than memorizing each minor scale on their own, work on memorizing the pattern. This is the key to learning these scales quickly and easily. At least from an thinking point. They’ll still need practice on the piano to really come together.

The pattern for minor scales is “Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step” or W – H – W – W.

Rather than playing the scales the same way every time, create a mini song with repeating notes and some rhythm. Not only is it more fun, but it helps you avoid injury in the long run.

What was the most challenging part of learning minor scales?

If you like this approach to learning piano, click to set up FREE meeting with me to join our online piano studio!

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