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

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