Major and Minor Scales

Major and minor scale practice and it’s shortcomings

The adapted exercise with random chord changes (cf. end of section) is an exercise for beginners that will help them to:

  • learn minor and major scales
  • internalize the weight and direction of each scale
  • understand and hear the relationship between relative major/minor
  • experience the weight the lowest bass note which will change the perceived harmony (minor or major)

The major scale and its relative natural minor scale are a minor third apart and share the same notes. A typical scale practice exercise uses a G major or an E natural minor scale in one position up to the octave ascending and descending.

In this situation although the repeated G in bar 3 is quite common it is not a very musical way to practice scales over a playback because chord tones in the second half will not fall on strong beats. In the last bar the F# is played before going back to G which smoothes out the line. For the E minor scale the final E is doubled which breaks the flow.

Furthermore although the same notes are to be played in the two scales no connection is revealed to the student. The following exercise is an adapted version where the flow is kept throughout and the two shortcomings of the base exercise taken into account:

  • chord tones now fall on strong beats on the descending scale
  • the two scales are linked visually and practice wise
  • the exercise becomes musically circular


A seven bar circular version of the same exercise. The harmony starts to be blurred with the lowest note influencing the perception of minor/major. This exercise could also start on E:


The accompaniment track with guitar and piano either plays a G chord in a slow tempo (80 bpm):

or an Em7(add 11) voicing:

Learning Objectives with Randomized Chords

This is the randomized exercise. Every 2 bars either a Em7(add 11) or a G will be played on guitar and piano. The main objective for a beginner will be to use the right fingering and aim at legato playing at a slow tempo. A more advanced student can focus her attention on the sound and emotional effect produced by randomly changing chords.

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