The natural minor scale, also known as the Aeolian mode is one of the most used guitar scales in rock and popular music.
The scale can be formed by using the same notes as a major scale, but starting and ending the scale on the 6th degree of the major scale, and considering this 6th degree as the root.
For example, you can see the relationship between C major and A natural minor in the diagram:
If you look at the notes of the natural minor in relation to the notes of a major scale with the same root, we have the notes:
1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 1
That is, if you flatten the 3rd, 6th and 7th degree of a major scale, you have the natural minor scale with the same root.
The combination of tones and semitones that form the scale are as follows:
Natural Minor Scale = Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone
Guitar Positions for the Natural Minor Scale
Similarly to the major scale, there are five main closed positions to learn for the scale. I always recommend starting with the two positions with the root note under the first finger on the 6th or 5th string.
These positions for the natural minor scale (with the root note circled) are as follows:
You can then progress to the remaining three positions as follows:
When practicing these positions, in addition to practicing the scales ascending and descending, I also like to practice sequences of the scales as well. You can read about practicing scales in sequences in our article on guitar scale sequences.
The Chords Formed from the Natural Minor Scale
You can use a scale such as the natural minor to form a family of chords that often work well together in the same key. To read how this is done, take a look at our article on forming chords from scales. That article takes you through using the major scale as an example, but you can apply the exact same procedure to form chords from the natural minor scale.
You can see the chords formed from this scale when looking at the numbering (or degrees) of the notes of the scale, as well the example in the case of A natural minor in the diagram as follows:
Use of the Natural Minor Scale
The natural minor scale is probably the most used scale in styles such as rock, pop and many other forms of popular music.
Many of the progressions in these styles will be based on the chords of the scale shown above and many popular songs will feature guitar solos over these chord progressions that are entirely built from this scale.
You can practice your soling and improvisation with this scale over our backing tracks designed for the aeolian mode.