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  • Candice Alderfer

Finding Relative Minors

Inside the circle of fifths, we place the relative minors to each of the corresponding notes on the outside of the circle. To find the relative minor of a note, you count up six scale steps from the note you are finding the relative minor for. You can also count down three scale steps from the starting note. C natural's relative minor is A natural because they share the same key signature, meaning both keys share the exact same notes placed in different positions in their scales. In the included diagrams below, you can see how to count up six to find the relative minor and how the notes are shared.


Before you take a look at the diagrams, take a moment, and lets say in your head right now, you choose to find the relative minor to E major. Lets count up six, "E, F, G, A, B, C." Great! BUT WAIT... Is the answer JUST C natural. Is it flat? Is it sharp? From what we know from the information above, E major and C minor must share the exact same notes in each of their scales. So lets refer back to the key of E major. "E natural, F sharp, G sharp, A natural, B natural, C sharp, AHAA!" We just discovered that the relative minor to E major MUST be C "sharp"


As I've mentioned before in my previous post of "Intervals: Whole and Half Steps" , one of my biggest suggestions is to try your best to memorize the major scales to all the notes on the circle of fifths. This will make a world of difference with learning other concepts in theory, and in this case, finding relative minors If you have the major scale of E natural memorized, you'll automatically know that C is sharp for its relative minor. If you didn't know the major scale by heart, you'd probably have to take a few seconds to think back to the formula of a major scale (whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half), and apply it to E natural. Save yourself the time and energy in the long run and try your best to familiarize yourself with key signatures and scales as much as possible.


TIP: Each day, pick one note on the circle of fifths and commit that day to memorize its major scale. Draw yourself a small circle on a piece of paper and leave it in your wallet to refer to on your train or bus ride home.






To find the relative major to a minor scale, count up three scale degrees from the starting note of your minor scale. Each of the corresponding notes for relative minors on the inside of the circle are 3 scale degrees away from each other. Lets look at the last diagram above and concentrate on F natural outside of the circle. What's the relative major to D minor? "D, E, F." And since F is natural in the D minor scale, the relative major is F natural.


And just for your convenience, the formula to a minor scale is: whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole.


Awesome! We've covered everything we need to know about finding the relative minors to complete the inside of the circle. If you've read my previous post about the circle of fifths, you should now be able to create your own circle from scratch! Practice drawing the complete circle of fifths every day.


As I always say, I'm open to any questions, comments suggestions. Hope you're enjoying your own journey to learning music theory!



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