How to Play Minor Scale on Guitar

Creating music that touches hearts and expresses deep emotions, is often linked to the magic of the minor scales!

To play a minor scale on the guitar, learn the scale pattern (natural minor scale: w, h, w, w, h, w, w; w = whole tone and h = half/semitone), and follow it, starting with the root note. Every major key has its relative minor (same key signature, starting on the 6th scale step of the major scale, i.e. C and a, G and e, F and d)

Learning these scales opens up a world of musical possibilities. Let’s embark on a musical journey to master the beautiful and expressive minor scales on your guitar!

How to Play Minor Scale on Guitar – The Minor Scale Formula

The minor scale is a diatonic scale characterized by its melancholic and introspective sound. It is constructed using a specific formula of intervals: whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step.

This sequence creates the distinctive sound of the minor scale, differentiating it from the brighter and more jubilant major scale.

Difference between natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales

There are three types of minor scales: natural, harmonic, and melodic. The natural minor scale strictly follows the mentioned formula.

The harmonic minor scale alters this by raising the seventh note, creating a one and a half step interval between the sixth and seventh notes, which gives it a more tense and dramatic sound.

The melodic minor scale, interestingly, ascends with a raised sixth and seventh note (like a major scale from the fifth note onwards), but descends like a natural minor scale, offering a softer, more lyrical quality.

Learning the A Minor Scale

The A minor scale is a great starting point for learning minor scales on the guitar. Begin at the open 5th string (A), then play the second fret (B), third fret (C) on the same string. Move to the 4th string, playing open (D), second fret (E), and the third fret (F). Then play the fifth fret (G) or the open 3rd string (G) and the second fret of the 3rd string (A). Then you can go back or go on another octave.

Two octaves in A minor

The notes in the A minor scale are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and back to A. Each note corresponds to a specific fret and string combination, creating the unique tonal qualities of the A minor scale.

Every minor scale can be played in various positions across the fretboard, each offering a different texture and tone.

For instance, playing the A minor scale starting from the 5th fret of the 6th string (A note) involves a different fingering pattern, allowing access to higher notes.

Whether you start at the open fifth string (A) or the 5th fret of the 6th string (A), both positions cover one octave and provide a full range of the scale’s notes.

Pattern and Position Practice

To master the minor scales, practice playing them in different positions and patterns. Start slowly, ensuring accuracy in finger placement and note articulation.

Gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable. Memorization comes with repetition. Practice regularly, and try to visualize the scale pattern on the fretboard.

Use a metronome to maintain a consistent tempo and gradually challenge yourself with faster speeds. Additionally, playing along with backing tracks can help in internalizing the scale in a musical context.

Connecting Minor Scale Shapes Across the Fretboard

One of the key skills in mastering the guitar is the ability to connect scale shapes across the fretboard.

This involves understanding how the same scale patterns shift and overlap at different positions. By learning these patterns, you can navigate the fretboard more fluidly, allowing for more expressive and varied solos.

For instance, in the A minor scale, if you start with the open position pattern and then shift to the pattern starting on the 5th fret of the 6th string.

Recognize how some notes are repeated in adjacent patterns. Practicing these transitions helps in developing a seamless approach to scale playing.

Using the Minor Scale in Musical Context

The minor scale is a versatile tool in improvisation and songwriting, offering a rich palette of emotional tones. Use it to create moody, introspective solos or to add depth to your chord progressions.

Experiment with the scale over different chord progressions to understand its mood and color. Try using the minor scale in response to major chords for a contrasting effect in your solos or songwriting.

Extended Pentatonic Minor and Relative Major Scales

Extended pentatonic scales are a great way to work with scales for improvisation across multiple octaves. They offer more note choices and can add complexity and richness to your playing. I found this video, which shows easy patterns for the A minor pentatonic across the fretboard.

Every minor scale has a relative major scale that shares the same notes but starts on a different root. For example, the A minor scale is the relative minor of the C major scale. Understanding this relationship can broaden your improvisation options.


The minor scale is an essential part of a guitarist’s vocabulary, offering a wide array of expressive possibilities. Its understanding and application can significantly enhance your musical expression and creativity.

Continuously practice and explore the minor scale in different contexts. Embrace the journey of discovering its nuances and making it an integral part of your unique musical voice.

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