Most of the music that stems from Western European traditions utilizes either major or minor scales. There are three basic minor scales: natural, melodic, and harmonic.
The Natural Minor Scale
Like major scales, the natural minor scale is a diatonic scale, so no letter names will be repeated or skipped. It uses a whole step and half step pattern of W H W W H W W. Here is a simple step-by-step process to create natural minor scales accurately. The B flat natural minor scale will serve as an example.
1. Write all of the scale degrees under the staff.
2. Write the pattern of whole steps and half steps as they occur between each scale degree (W H W W H W W).
3. Write in the pitches for that diatonic scale. Start on the note B flat and write each successive note for every scale degree. Do not skip any pitches and do not repeat any pitches. Make sure that your last note is exactly one octave above the first note of the scale. For this scale, the last note should be B flat.
The term “natural” minor can be confusing. Remember that with natural minor scales, the word “natural” has nothing to do with the accidental that we call natural. The B flat natural minor scale begins on the note B flat, not B natural.
4. Check every whole step and half step in the scale and write in the necessary accidentals. By checking each whole step and half step we can determine all pitches of the natural minor scale.
Scale degrees 1 to 2 is a whole step. A whole step above B flat is C, so no accidental is needed.
Scale degrees 2 to 3 is a half step. A half step above C is D flat, so you must write a flat sign in front of the D.
Scale degrees 3 to 4 is a whole step. A whole step above D flat is E flat, so you must write a flat sign in front of the E.
Scale degrees 4 to 5 is a whole step. A whole step above E flat is F, so no accidental is needed.
Scale degrees 5 to 6 is a half step. A half step above F is G flat, so you must write a flat sign in front of the G.
Scale degrees 6 to 7 is a whole step. A whole step above G flat is A flat, so you must write a flat sign in front of the A.
Scale degrees 7 and 8 is a whole step. A whole step above A flat is B flat, so you must write a flat sign in front of the B, to make it B flat.
Things to remember, and ways to check yourself:
The first and last note of the natural minor scale should be the same pitch an octave apart. For example, if your first pitch is a B flat, and your last pitch is B natural, an error has been made.
You will never have both sharps and flats in the same natural minor scale. For example, if you have written out a natural minor scale and you have an F sharp and an A flat, there is an error and you should check your whole steps and half steps again.