Essential minor scales for guitar

14 Types of Minor Scales & Modes For Guitar - Shapes and Theory

This guitar lesson sheds light on the different types of minor modes and scales that can be used in jazz music. They are built with different combinations of intervals starting on different steps of several scales as the major scale, the melodic minor, the harmonic minor, the harmonic major, the pentatonic scale and the bebop scale. 

How to Practice Scales on Guitar?

In the following guide, each scale comes with its own guitar diagrams with interval names, formula patterns and related chord types. You will find some good tips in the article How To Practice Pentatonic Scales on Guitar that can be applied to any type of scale. Here are the main ideas:

  • Be sure to practice these scales ascending and descending.
  • In all twelve keys.
  • In 4 Directions.
  • Following the cycle of fourths and cycle of fifths.
  • Using intervals.
  • Try to create melodic patterns.
  • Try to associate them with their related chords.

The following requires a good knowledge of the intervals on guitar.

1 - The Dorian Mode

The Dorian mode is the second mode of the major scale. This is one of most important scale to know when you want to start improvising over a minor chord. It is commonly employed over the iim chord in major 2 5 1 progression for example. 

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - W - W - W - H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - S - T - T - T - S - T.
  • Example with D Dorian  : D E F G A B C.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min7, min9, min11, min13.

2 - The Phrygian Mode

The phrygian mode is the second mode of the major scale. It can be seen as a natural minor scale with a b2. It is less used than the Dorian and Aeolian modes because of the flattened second.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • b2 (minor second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b6 (minor sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula in half and whole steps : H - W - W - W - H - W - W
  • Formula in tones and semitones : S - T - T - T - S - T - T
  • Example with D Phrygian  : E F G A B C D
  • Related Chords : min, min7, minb9, min11, minb13.

3 - The Aeolian Mode

The aeolian mode is the sixth mode and third minor scale (with Dorian and Phrygian) of the major scale. It is better known as "Natural Minor Scale" relative minor of the major scale (aka Ionian mode). It has a sad and dark sound.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Half and whole steps formula : W - H - W - W - H - W - W
  • Tones and semitones formula : T - S - T - T - S - T - T
  • A Aeolian would be : A B C D E F G
  • Related Chords : min, min7, min9, min11, minb13.

4 - The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic scale is THE scale that any guitar player knows. It is very employed, easy to play and sounds very well. As its name implies it is made of five notes:

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W + H - W - W - W + H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T + S - T - T - T + S - T.
  • Example with D minor pentatonic  : D F G A C.
  • Related Chords : min, min7, min11.

5 - The Dorian Pentatonic Scale 

This pentatonic scale is derived from the Dorian mode previously seen in this guitar course. To play the Dorian pentatonic scale just leave out the fourth and minor seventh of the Dorian mode.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - W + W - W - W + H 
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - T + S - T - T + S
  • Example with D Dorian pentatonic : D E F A B.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min9, min13.

6 - The Pigmy Scale (Dorian Pentatonic)

The Pigmy scale is a variation of the previous Dorian pentatonic scale. It can be considered a minor pentatonic scale without 4th and with a second added. It comes from Africa and derived from the Dorian mode.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • The formula (Half and Whole Steps) is : W - H - W + W - W + H - W.
  • The formula (Tones and Semitones) is : T - S - T + T - T + S - T.
  • D Dorian (pigmy) pentatonic would be  : D E F A C.
  • The related chords are: min, min7, min9.

7 - Minor 6 Pentatonic Scale

As its name implies, the minor 6 pentatonic scale is made of five notes including the 6. It's a variant of the classic minor pentatonic scale. It has no minor seventh but a sixth instead.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (Sixth).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W + H - W - W - W - W + H.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T + S - T - T - T - T + S.
  • Example with D minor 6 pentatonic  : D F G A B.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min11.

8 - Minor Blues Scale

Now let's add a supplementary note to the common minor pentatonic scale. Here is the minor blues scale made of sixth notes, including a passing tone (b5) between the fourth and the fifth.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • Flat fifth (b5)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W + H - W - H - H - W + H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T + S - T - S - S - T + S - T
  • Example with D minor blues  : D F G Ab A C.
  • Related Chords : min, min7, min11.

9 - The Dorian Bebop Scale

The Dorian bebop scale is the Dorian mode with an added note between the minor third and the fourth that is the major third. Like all the bebop scales, it built with eight note making it a hexatonic scale.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • Major third (3)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - H - H - W - W - H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - S - S - S - T - T - S - T.
  • Example with D Dorian Bebop  : D E F F# G A B C.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min7, min9, min11, min13.

10 - The Dorian Bebop Blues Scale

The Dorian bebop blues scale is a hexatonic scale containing a passing tone (b5) between the fourth and the fifth. It is a sort of mix between the minor blues and the Dorian mode.

  • Interval Pattern is :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • b5 (flat fifth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - W - H - H - W - H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - S - T - S - S - T - S - T.
  • Example with D Dorian bebop blues scale  : D E F G G# A B C.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min7, min9, min11, min13.

11 - The Melodic Minor Scale

The melodic minor scale is a very important scale in jazz music, it is commonly used to build lines over minor 2 5 1 chord progressions. Its composition is very close to that of the Dorian mode, the main difference is that it has a major seventh in place of a minor seventh.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • 7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - W - W - W - W - H.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - S - T - T - T - T - S.
  • C melodic minor scale would be : C D Eb F G A B.
  • Commonly employed over min(Maj7) chords.

12 - The Dorian b2 Scale

The Dorian b9 (or Dorian b2) scale is the second mode of the melodic minor scale. It sometimes called Phrygian #6 because it has some similitaries to the Phrygian mode (another minor scale previously discussed in this lesson).

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • b2 (minor second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : H - W - W - W - W - H - W.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : S - T - T - T - T - S - T.
  • Example with D Dorian b2  : D Eb F G A B C.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min7, min11, min13.

13 - The Harmonic Minor Scale

The harmonic minor scale is built the same as the Aeolian mode but has a major seventh instead of a minor seventh. It can also be compared to the melodic minor scale that has a major sixth instead of a minor sixth.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • 4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • b6 (minor sixth)
    • 7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - W - W - H - W+H - H.
  • Formula (Tones and Semitones) : T - S - T - T - S - T+S - S.
  • C harmonic minor scale would be : C D Eb F G Ab B.
  • Commonly employed over min(Maj7) chords.

14 - The Dorian #11 Scale

The Dorian #11 (or Dorian #4) is the fourth mode of the harmonic minor scale. It is a minor type scale with an augmented eleventh. Be careful of its use, the #11 clashes with the fifth when employed over min chords. Be sure to use it as an approach tone to target the fifth.

  • Interval Pattern :
    • 1 (root)
    • 2 (second)
    • b3 (minor third)
    • #4 (fourth)
    • 5 (fifth)
    • 6 (sixth)
    • b7 (minor seventh).
  • Formula (Half and Whole Steps) : W - H - W + H - H - W - H - W.
  • Formula in tones and semitones : T - S - T + S - T - S - T - S.
  • Example with D Dorian #11 : D E F G# A B C.
  • Related Chords : min, min6, min7, min9, min13.

PDF Methods & Audio Files

  • Guitar Scale Dictionary

    This E-book is a printable PDF method including over 700 guitar scale diagrams and formula charts.
  • Guitar Chord Dictionary

    This PDF eBook provides over 550 guitar chord shapes. This is the perfect reference guide to understand how chords are built and how to play them on guitar.
  • 172 Arpeggio Shapes For Guitar

    This printable PDF is a method dedicated to guitarists of all styles who want to learn the most important types of arpeggios.
  • 126 Triad Chord Shapes

    This handbook for guitar players is intended both for teachers and students. It includes 126 guitar shapes for mastering triads.
  • 30 Minor Arpeggio Licks

    This package provides a printable PDF method containing 30 exercises (tab / audio files) for practicing minor arpeggios on guitar.
  • II V I Bundle - 170 Exercises

    This bundle contains 4 PDF methods for a total of 170 exercises with tabs & audio files for practicing scales, licks & chords over the famous 2-5-1 progression.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • 30 Smooth Jazz Guitar Licks

    In this package you'll get a printable PDF Method with tabs, notation, analysis, scale shapes and audio files related to 30 smooth jazz guitar licks.
  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains fourteen 2 5 1 jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This printable PDF guitar method provides 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab & standard notation for practicing chords over the major 2-5-1 progression.
  • 40 Minor 2 5 1 Chord Voicings

    This PDF method contains 40 exercices with tabs, scores and audio files for practicing jazz guitar chords over the minor 2 5 1 progression.
  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor 2 5 1 jazz patterns.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    PDF guitar method with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians. Tab, standard notation, audio files & analysis.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant Patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson. These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.
  • Guitar Arpeggios Poster

    This giant guitar poster for any guitar player, student or instructor contains colorful arpeggio diagrams. Giant size 24 x 36 inches (60 x 90 cm).
  • Guitar Scales Poster 24*36

    Guitar posters and wall art with eighteen neck diagrams representing the most used scales in music.
  • Jazz Guitar Chords Poster

    This printed color posters contains 63 guitar chord diagrams for jazz players, students, teachers and schools.
  • Guitar Modes Poster

    Guitar reference posters and wall art about modes of the major scale for guitar teachers, students and music schools.
  • Melodic Minor Modes Poster

    Educative and decorative giant guitar poster with neck diagrams, interval names about the seven modes of the melodic minor scale.
  • Pentatonic Scale Guitar Poster

    This guitar reference poster shows the positions and intervals of the major pentatonic scale.
  • Guitar Notes Poster

    This is a giant poster showing the notes on the guitar fret board and their positions on a musical staff.
  • Triads Guitar Poster

    This reference poster show the positions and intervals of the main triads used on guitar. This is a useful tool for guitarists, teacher and students.
  • Four Archtop Guitars Poster

    This is a decorative poster with four archtop jazz guitars. Several size and colors in landscape format available on Teespring and redbubble.
  • Intervals On Guitar - Poster

    This giant poster for guitar provides neck diagrams with interval positions.

guitar scales jazz modes improvisation beginners guide list of minor scale

Add a comment