The Aeolian Mode aka Natural Minor Scale | Guitar Lesson With Diagrams and Theory

The Aeolian mode, also known as the natural minor scale, is a musical scale that has a unique and emotive character.

Derived from the sixth degree of the major scale, the Aeolian mode features a distinct pattern of intervals, resulting in a melancholic and introspective sound.

Aeolian Mode Construction

The Aeolian mode can be formed by using the same notes as the major scale, but starting and ending on the 6th degree of the major scale. You can consider this 6th degree as the root note of the Aeolian mode. 

In terms of its construction, the Aeolian mode follows the pattern of whole and half steps: whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole.

This sequence of intervals results in a minor scale, and the starting note determines the specific Aeolian mode (e.g., A Aeolian, B Aeolian, etc.).

Its key characteristic is the minor third interval between the first and third degrees, making it a minor scale and contributing to a somber and reflective mood. 

As shown in the chart below, the interval pattern is : 1 (tonic) - 2 (second) - b3 (minor third) - 4 (fourth) - 5 (fifth) - b6 (minor sixth) - b7 (minor seventh). 

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)

Difference Between Aeolian and Dorian Mode

The Aeolian and Dorian modes belong to the category of minor scales, their distinct interval patterns contribute to differences in mood and emotion.

The Aeolian mode is more somber, with a minor third interval, while the Dorian mode features a major sixth, giving it a brighter and more upbeat character.

Here below a short comparison between the A Dorian and A Aeolian modes.

Difference dorian and aeolian on guitar

How To Apply The Aeolian Mode

You can play the Aeolian mode over minor chord types as min, min7, min9, min11, min7#5, minb6, minb13.

Aeolian Mode on Guitar - One Octave Shapes

These four shapes represent the Aeolian mode positions on the guitar neck.

It is recommended to play these patterns starting with the tonic (1), in order to hear correctly the color of this scale.

It is important to practice the Aeolian mode in twelve keys. For this, you just have to move the tonic to the desired tonality while keeping the same position.

Let's take an example : To play the A Aeolian mode using the shape 2 you must place your first finger on the fifth string at the twelfth fret.

Aeolian mode shapes for guitar

Aeolian Mode Two Octave Shapes

Contrary to the four previous diagrams, the next couple of shapes show the Aeolian mode covering two octaves. Once again, try to play these shapes in all twelve keys.

Aeolian Mode and Minor triad Chord - Audio file

Aeolian mode guitar diagrams

Aeolian Mode | 7 Positions | 3 Notes Per String 

Here are 7 shapes to play the Aeolian mode all over the guitar neck.

Aeolian mode guitar shapes
Aeolian mode music theory

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 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 shown in this chart, it is located a minor third above the tonal center. For example, 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

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