# 2.6: Minor Scale Variants

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# 16.1 Introduction

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We refer to the scale shown above as the natural or diatonic minor since it consists of only those pitches specified by the key signature. In practice, however, composers tend to make small melodic and harmonic adjustments to make the minor scale sound and function more like its major counterpart. There are, in other words, several commonly used variants of the minor scale.

In this chapter, we will describe two adjusted forms of this scale. In each case, we will discuss the various musical contexts in which it appears as well as the factors motivating a composer to use it. As we will see, these variants incorporate tonality-defining characteristics of the major scale.

# 16.2 The seventh scale degree in minor

In Chapter 7 we discussed how the diatonic minor scale differs from the major scale. The differences become apparent when the natural minor scale is used in melodies and harmonic progressions. Consider, for example, the following example:

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Now listen to the passage again, but with diatonic E§s replacing all of the E#s:

Compared to Example 16–2, Example 16–3 lacks the strong pull of E# to F#. The melody seems off. The listener’s sense of closure in m. 4 is not nearly as strong. The reason for the lack in pull toward the tonic—both in Example 16–3 and in the diatonic minor scale in general—is the absence of a leading tone.

Look again at Example 16–1 and note that the seventh scale degree is a whole step away from the tonic. The half-step relationship between the leading tone and the tonic in the diatonic major scale has a clearly perceptible directional force, while the analogous scale degree in the diatonic minor lacks that force. Because of its tendency to resolve to the tonic, the leading tone is one of the most important pitches of the major scale. Since the diatonic minor scale lacks a leading tone, the tension and pull toward the tonic are absent.

Note: In the sections below we will use the term “composite” to define and describe a pair of adjustments often made to the minor scale. This term is not commonly used outside of this book. Nonetheless, we feel it conveys an accurate sense of both the historical origins of these idioms as well as the listener’s experience.

# 16.3 The harmonic minor composite

Consider the following chord progression which uses only the diatonic pitches of C minor:

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The following example reproduces Example 16–4, this time with the leading-tone adjustment:

As you can hear, the presence of the leading tone in Example 16–6 creates a stronger, more satisfying sense of resolution at the arrival of the tonic.

The following example shows the triads built with the leading-tone adjusted harmonic minor scale:

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Activity 16-1

Activity 16–1

The harmonic minor composite incorporates a leading tone to give a stronger sense of tonality. In this activity, you will be presented with a series of chords in minor keys. Some of these chords require a raised leading tone while others do not. Adjust the notes to incorporate a raised leading tone where appropriate.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

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G should be G#.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

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No change needed.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

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C should be C#.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

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A should be A#.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

$\hat5$

No change needed.

### Question

Does this chord require any adjusted notes? If so, adjust the notes where necessary to reflect the harmonic minor composite.

Hint

$\hat5$

F should be F#.

# 16.4 The melodic minor composite

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Compare the sound of Example 16–10 with that of Example 16–11, which uses only diatonic pitches:

Here, the music in mm. 1-2 feels heavy and meandering. It seems to lack direction when compared to the unaltered version above where the melody incorporates the melodic minor.

Activity 16-2

Activity 16–2

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### Question

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### Question

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### Question

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### Question

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