(4.3)  Major and Minor Keys

As we noticed in the previous topic, the A Natural Minor scale contains the same notes as the C Major scale, with just a different starting note.  This is a very important property of the Natural Minor scale.

Every Major scale has a relative Natural Minor scale, starting on its sixth note, which contains the same notes.  This means that music in a Natural Minor scale can be written on staff lines in the key signature of its relative Major scale without any accidentals.

Some examples of equivalent Major and Natural Minor keys are shown below.  You can assume that when a minor key is referred to, it is the Natural Minor scale, unless one of the other minor scales is specifically mentioned.

So how do you know when music is in a major key, or the related minor key?  The starting or ending chords in the song often give the best clues.

Music in a major key has the characteristic major sound, and tends to use more of the related major chords of the scale (such as Cmaj, Fmaj and Gmaj in the C Major scale).

Music in the related minor key has the characteristic minor sound, and tends to use more of the related minor chords of the scale (such as Am, Dm and Em in the A Natural Minor scale).

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