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The major's moody twin can effectively double your playing field by recycling familiar scales and patterns. The relative minor scale is more a "different point of view" than an independent form with no background. Theoretically, everything we play, scales, chords, whatever, can be backtracked to a primary source.

The idea is that every musical function is somehow related to or drawn from the C major scale. To make a point, here's a statement to ponder; the A Minor Pentatonic scale comes from the A (Relative) Minor scale which comes from the C Major scale! ...... Say What?

Let me give you an analogy - think of the C major scale as the trunk of a tree from which all music stems. Even the most bent or far-reaching branches have a connection to this fundamental support.

That being said, let's look at how a "relative minor" scale finds it's roots.

Here's an example of a C Major scale indicating some points of interest.

C Major Scale

First off, let's gain a little fundamental information. Notice each note in turn is a certain distance to the one before and after it. This is what gives a scale it's particular sonic character when played from a given starting point and why in this case starting on C, you get that "doh ray me" sound.

The numbers illustrate how each note has a value or degree with respect to the one we started on (the root). In a typical C Major scale, C is number 1 and considered the root or center of attention. What we're going to do is take the same family of notes and put the emphasis on the 6th note - A.

The A Minor Scale

It's important to note that we haven't added any sharps or flats and haven't changed the distance of each note to the one before or after it. The ingredients and internal connections are exactly the same. What has changed is our original starting point or the note to which we apply emphasis.

Because this scale is made of the same family of notes drawn from C, it's said to be relative or more specifically in this case "A Relative Minor".

Notice that C still maintains a position in the new structure and therefor has a relationship to A. This is called "C Relative Major".

Up to this point, this is all rather conceptual but if you play each scale as shown, you will here a tonal difference. C Major will tend to sound bright or happy and A Minor dark or moody.

If you've managed to grasp the idea so far, congratulations!, you've entered the dark side. Now it's time to deal with form and function.

Your Typical A Minor Scale.

Here's one of my favourite scale forms. Your garden-variety A Minor scale pretty much right out of a textbook. I consider it both major or minor depending on how it's applied. By emphasizing the A, it sounds dark and moody like an A Minor scale should.

The Same Scale Form But Considered C Major.

This second diagram is exactly the same scale illustrating where you'd find C. Giving C the emphasis makes this same pattern sound brighter, happier. This duality comes in real handy and uses a lot less brain power - if I don't have to think too much, my head doesn't hurt!

To make things a little simpler, let's see how this idea affects the humble pentatonic form.

A Basic A Minor Pentatonic Scale Form
By golly, they're just stripped down versions of the same scales! (which by the way means the relative minor idea still applies).

A Basic C Major Pentatonic Scale Form!
I felt compelled to give an example of pentatonic here in case some of you are a little overwhelmed by the "fully diatonic" patterns. Not to worry, I'll elaborate more on pentatonic stuff and the inner workings of scaley things in general with upcoming articles.

Back to some scalular intricacies. The full scales above are rooted on the 6th string, a logical place to start from when first building a 6 string pattern. Now for your playing enjoyment and brain exercise, here's a couple of patterns rooted from the 5th string.

An A Minor Scale Rooted On The 5th String The Same Scale Showing The Relative Major Root

Well, this all great for C and A, but what about other keys? Do the same principals apply? Can I reuse a pattern that I'm already familiar with?

You better believe it! Through necessity, you may find a need for a darker (or brighter) sounding scale. Here's a perfect opportunity to take a form you already know and make it do something different simply by adjusting your point of reference.

As long as you understand the relationship between major and minor, the patterns can be applied from any root source regardless of the key. All you need to do is find the root you want to apply them from.

You can consider these individuals as being joined at the hip, kind of like Siamese twins where one personality is cheerful and the other somber. For example, in the key of G Major, G could be considered the nice guy (major) and E the bad guy (minor).

Take some time to digest this stuff and noodle it out on the guitar. Before you know it the lights will come on and the guitar will seem that much less mysterious.

Guitar Divider

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