A9 | Minor tonality (intervals)

A1: ‘The scale’ focusses on the major scale.

Tunes based on the major key are usually happy ones. In this component, you will be using the minor scale. You could say that tunes based on the minor key are usually sad ones. Each degree of the scale has a technical name just like the ones in the major scale: the 1st note = tonic, the 2nd = supertonic etc.

The pattern of intervals of the major scale is T-T-HT-T-T-T-HT.

The pattern of intervals of the minor scale is T-HT-T-T-HT-T-T.

Compare the sound of the two scales below:

  • The first one is a major scale and the first half tone (HT) occurs between the 3rd and 4th notes, then again between the 7th and 8th.
  • The second one is a minor scale and the first half tone (HT) occurs between the 2nd and 3rd note, then again between the 5th and 6th notes.

Fig. 1

Major key

Minor key

When composing in the minor key, it is usual in classical music to raise the leading note by half a tone. This changes the pattern of intervals in the scale as follows:

Fig. 2

The leap from the submediant to the leading note becomes an interval of 3 x half tones. This interval is called an augmented 2nd.

For a discussion on harmonic and melodic scales, see Unit B, component 5.


A9 Exercises

Composition task

A9 Composition task