Minor Scales - Natural Minor
There are several different versions of the minor scale: natural (or modal) minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. The latter are really variations of the natural minor scale, so we will consider that version first.
The natural minor scale uses the same pattern of whole and half steps as the major scale, but begins in a different place in the sequence. To put it another way, if you play a major scale, but begin and end on the 6th scale degree, you will find yourself playing a natural minor scale. Our first example of a minor scale will be the A minor scale because it uses only the white keys on the piano (like the C major scale), but the pattern of whole and half steps is the same in all 12 minor scales.
|Natural Minor Scale:||W||h||W||W||h||W||W|
A minor scale with note names and whole and half steps
Since scale degree 7 is a whole step below the tonic note, it is called the subtonic. When it is raised by a half step so that it is only a half step below the tonic (which happens in the melodic minor version of hte scale), then it is called the leading tone just as the 7th scale degree of a major scale is a leading tone.
Relative and Parallel Scales
The C major and A minor scales share the same collection of pitches. They are therefore considered to be relative scales. For example:
|A natural minor:||A||B||C||D||E||F||G||A|
|G natural minor:||G||A||B-flat||C||D||E-flat||F||G|
But there is another way that scales can be related to each other. Major and minor scales are considered parallel if they share the same tonic. In these cases, the two scales will not share the same collection of pitches: the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees will differ. For example:
|C natural minor:||C||D||E-flat||F||G||A-flat||B-flat||C|
|B-flat natural minor:||B-flat||C||D-flat||E-flat||F||G-flat||A-flat||B-flat|