The Aeolian mode (natural minor scale) | Guitar lesson diagrams, patterns and theory

The Aeolian mode

What's the Aeolian mode 

The Aeolian mode (also called "natural minor scale" or "relative minor scale) is the sixth mode of the major scale, it is known as a relative minor to the major scale (Ionian mode). This mode can be formed by using the same notes as the major scale, but starting and ending with the 6th degree of the major scale. You can consider this 6th degree as the root. This is the third of the three minor modes (Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian) of the major scale and a very important minor mode to master. It has a minor third (b3), a minor seventh (b7) and a minor sixth (b6).

A Aeolian mode A B C D E F G
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Intervals W H W W H W W

(W = whole step ; H = half step)

You can play the Aeolian mode over these minor chords :

min, min7, min9, min11, min7#5

The Aeolian mode in twelve keys

How to play the Aeolian mode in twelve keys

Here is the Aeolian mode in twelve keys. Each jazz guitar student must memorize the structure of this minor type scale that is W-H-W-W-H-W-W and be able to play it in any key on the guitar. The parent major scale is also shown in this chart, it is located a minor third above the tonal center (root). For example, it means that the A Aeolian mode contains the same notes as the C major scale. These two modes are made up of the same tones, but they have a different tonal center.

Mode Tones Parent major scale
A Aeolian Mode  A,B,C,D,E,F,G C major 
Bb Aeolian Mode  Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab Db major
B Aeolian Mode B,C#,D,E,F#,G,A D major
C Aeolian Mode  C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb Eb major
Db Aeolian Mode  C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A,B E major
D Aeolian Mode  D,E,F,G,A,Bb,C F major 
Eb Aeolian Mode  Eb,F,Gb,Ab, Bb, Cb, Db Gb major 
E Aeolian Mode  E,F#,G,A,B,C,D G major
F Aeolian Mode  F,G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb Ab major
F# Aeolian Mode  F#,G#,A,B,C#,D,E A major
G Aeolian Mode  G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F Bb major
G# Aeolian Mode  G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E,F# B major

Other minor scales

Modes of the major scale:

  • Dorian mode : 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7
  • Phrygian mode : 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7
  • Aeolian mode : 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7

Modes of the harmonic minor scale

  •  harmonic minor scale : 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7
  • Dorian #11 : 1-2-b3-#4-5-6-b7

Modes of the melodic minor scale

  • melodic minor scale : 1-2-b3-4-5-6-7
  • Dorian b9 (melodic minor II) : 1-b2-b3-4-5-6-b7

Aeolian guitar patterns

How to play the Aeolian mode on the guitar

Here are two recommended patterns to play the Aeolian mode (natural minor scale). To understand and hear this mode, it is recommended to play these guitar patterns starting with the root "R".

The root note gives its name to the scale, each scale has a root.

To play the A Aeolian mode using the first position you have to put your fourth finger (pinky finger) on the sixth string at the fifth fret.

To play the A Aeolian mode using the second pattern you must put your fourth finger on the fifth string at the twelfth fret.

To practice the Aeolian mode in different keys you have to move the root (R) to the desired note keeping the same intervals.

Position 1

(roots "R" on the sixth, third and first string)

Aeolian mode guitar diagram pattern

Position 2

(roots "R" on the fifth and the second string)

Aeolian mode guitar diagram pattern 2

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Last edited: 25/05/2018