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#.
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.