Each Major chord and Major scale has a Relative Minor chord and scale. The term "Relative" refers to the fact that the two chords and scales share notes in common. In fact, the two chords and scales have all of the same notes except for one. The root of the relative Minor is the 6th of the Major's root, which means the notes in the their respective chords and scales are inverted (they're not in the same order).

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If you look at the table in Figure 14-1 below you will see that the 6th note in the Major scale of G is an E. Figure 14-2 is a table showing the 12 MINOR scales and their intervals (including the Dominant (or 'Minor') 7ths, and the Major 7ths). Find the MINOR scale of E in the table and compare the notes with those of the G Major scale (in Figure 14-1). You can see that both scales consist of the same notes in a different order and obviously the roots are different as well. It doesn't matter which root you choose in Figure 14-1; The 6th of any Major scale is the root of the relative minor. It's useful to know that, because many songs use Major and their Relative Minor chords and scales. The two go together well because they provide a variety of melodic "moods" and options when played in combination with each other, and with other chords or scales. Read the lesson Common Chord Progressions for more information about chords that are often used together.


Table showing showing the 12 Major scales and their intervals, including the Dominant 7ths and Major 7ths


Table showing the 12 Minor scales and their intervals, including the Dominant (or 'Minor') 7ths, and the Major 7ths

You needn't memorize the two tables to find relative Minors and/or their Majors on your fretboard. To find the relative Minor of any Major chord, move the root of the Major chord down 3 semitones (3 frets) and make that note the root of the Minor chord. For example, if you play a standard C chord the root (C) is in the 3rd fret of your 2nd string. So, move down three frets and you get an A note from the open string. Play an A Minor chord and you have the relative Minor chord (Am) of C Major. If you use barre chords it's even simpler than that. Just move the Major barre formation down three frets and change it to a Minor barre formation to get the relative Minor chord. Read the lessons: Barre Chords (Part One) and Barre Chords (Part Two) for more information about forming barre chords.


Figure 14-3 shows the E Minor scale being played on the top string. There are only two notes in a Minor scale, which distinguishes it from a Major scale. They are circled in green in the figure. These two notes would both be a semitone higher (one fret up) in the Major scale. In other words, the 3rd and 6th are "flat" (not flat as in "off-key"!) in a Minor scale.


Guitar fretboard showing the E Minor scale being played on the top string

Using the shorthand expression a Minor Scale can be described like this:

T.S.T.T.S.{3S}.S, or T.S.T.T.S.{T+S}.S

Notice that you must step 3 semitones, (which equals 1 and 1/2 Tones) between the 6th and 7th notes in the Minor scale.


Figure 14-4 shows the E Major scale can be played at 4 fretboard locations, on three adjacent strings. Notice that in each set the notes are the same as those played when you only used your top string to play the scale. The blue series of notes can be played by using your index finger for 2, 5, 7, & 8 and your ring finger or pinky playing 3 & 6. Notes 1 and 4 are "open" so they obviously don't require fingering. For the green series you should practice using your index finger to play 3 and 6, and use your middle finger to play 1 and 4. Your ring finger plays 7 and your pinky plays 2, 5, and 8. The idea behind using those particular fingers to play the notes is to practice using your fingers efficiently. The notes closest to the fretboard nut can be played using your index finger and the notes closest to the body of the guitar can be played with your pinky. That way, you don't have to move your hand at all to play the entire scale.


Guitar fretboard showing the E Major scale can be played at 4 fretboard locations, on three adjacent strings

The orange series requires a slight change-up. Try to play it using your index finger on 1,3, & 6, your middle finger on 4, your ring finger on 2, 5, &7, and your pinky on 8. The red series is very straight forward. Your index finger plays 1, 3, 6, your middle finger plays 4, your ring finger plays 2 & 7, and your pinky plays 5 & 8.

Figure 14-5 shows the E MINOR scale. Like the E Major scale, The E Minor scale can be played at 4 locations on your fretboard, using three adjacent strings. Use the most efficient fingering method to play the scale. Remember, use your index finger to play the notes closest to the nut of the guitar and use your ring finger or pinky to play those closest to the body of the guitar.


Guitar fretboard showing the E Minor scale can be played at 4 fretboard locations on three adjacent strings

Now that you understand the idea of using numbers to represent the position of any note in a scale, we can also use this same method to describe changing from one chord to another. For example, if you are playing an E chord and you are told to play a chord that is its' 4th, then you simply need to know what the 4th note in the scale of E is and play the chord by that name. You will learn more about this subject in these lessons:



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