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May 06

ABRSM Introduces the Natural Minor Scale

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The ABRSMThe ABRSM announced this week that they will begin to introduce the natural minor scale into the practical exam syllabuses from 2012.

The natural minor scale will be a requirement for all bowed string instruments from grade 1, and will be an optional scale for all other relevant instruments at grades 1 and 2.

What is the Natural Minor Scale?

The natural minor scale is formed by playing the notes of the scale as dictated by the key signature, without sharpening the leading note. For example, the natural minor scale in A minor is simply the white notes on a piano keyboard from A-A, with no G#.

Natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales

You might be familiar with this scale as being the descending version of the melodic minor scale.

The natural minor scale is actually used frequently in pop music and folk music, and can also be referred to as the “Aeolian Mode”.

Why is the Natural Minor Scale Being Introduced?

Up till now, bowed string instruments (i.e. instruments like the violin and cello, but not the guitar) have not had to perform any type of minor scale at grade 1. This is because the minor scales are particularly tricky for novice players, partly because they require large finger stretches – for example, to cover the interval of an augmented 2nd which occurs in all harmonic minor scales.

The interval of F to G# in A minor harmonic, for example, is an augmented second, or a stretch of three semitones.

The natural minor scale has no such awkward stretches.

The introduction of the natural minor scale is partly so that grade 1 string players can play minor scales, and also because it’s actually a useful “stepping stone” scale for all beginner musicians, who are learning about minor scales in general. Many teachers like to begin by teaching their pupils the natural minor scale before they approach the harmonic and melodic minor scales, and in some countries, for example the USA, it is almost standard practice to do so.

 

 

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5 comments

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  1. aundrey

    Hi i am wondering whether piano grade 1,2,3,4,5,6, have to do natural minor in 2012?I am really confused.Please advice.Thanks.

    1. Victoria

      See http://www.abrsm.org/en/exams/naturalminorsubjects.html For grades 1 and 2 piano you have the choice of natural minor if you want to, but you can’t play them from grade 3 onwards.

  2. kennithson m. sangma

    The formula of Tone , semitone and 3 semitone each step of the minor scales may also be introduced so as to help the student to construct any type of minor scale either natural, harmony or melodic form. kennithson M. sangma

  3. barry waterfield

    I teach the Piano and I think the Natural Minor Scale is only of passing importance. I have always introduced the natural minor scale as a step toward recognising where the raised seventh needs to be placed to give the scale it’s interesting eastern sound. Most children say the natural minor sounds ‘odd’ or ‘uncomfortable’ and this is how I looked upon it as a child, it offended my musical ear, although it does have slightly more interest when included in a song. I ask pupils to tell me ‘where does it sound odd?’ then I play it again and they say ‘there’ when we get to the area covered by the raised seventh. I personally will not be paying any more attention to this scale than I have done in the past, it’s a mere stepping stone and better got over with quickly.

    1. Victoria

      I guess that’s why it’s only for the early grades. I do agree with your sentiments!

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