C Minor Scale

Interested in learning the C Minor scale? The C Minor scale is a great place to start for beginner and intermediate guitar players. It’s relatively easy to learn, and it’s a foundation for more advanced scales.

Once you’ve learned the C Minor scale, you can use it to play chords, chord progressions, and melodies in the key of C Minor. You’ll be able to improvise and create your own music in this beautiful minor key.

Read our full guide below to learn all the related music theory and how to play the C Minor scale on the guitar.

Introduction To C Minor Scale

Like other minor scales, C minor is used to demonstrate sadness and grief. It also shows grit, resilience, determination, and survival instincts. A great example is the song “Eye of the Tiger,” used in the movie Rocky III to highlight these qualities.

C minor has soulful sounds that can be used in genres like jazz and blues. A lot of symphonies have been created in C minor by notable musicians, as this list shows.

Minor Scale Structure and Scale Formula

C Natural Minor Scale is a diatonic seven-note scale with the notes separated by 5 whole step and 2 half step intervals. The scale formula for natural minor scales is given below:

{W H W W H W W} in terms of the whole steps and half steps,

{T S T T S T T} and {2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2} in terms of tones and semitones.

A more detailed representation is:

R – T – M2 – S – m3 – T – P4 – T – P5 – S – m6 – T – m7 – T – R(O), where R(O) is the root an octave higher.

Intervals Of C Minor

From the detailed formula, the intervals of any minor scale are:

P1 – M2 – m3 – P4 – P5 – m6 – m7 – P(O), where

Capital M represents the Major intervals, a Major 2nd in this scale,

Lowercase m represents the minor intervals, a minor 3rd, 6th, and 7th in this case, and

Capital P represents the Perfect intervals, a unison, 4th, 5th, and octave in minor scales.

Notes of C Minor Scale

You may use the above scale formula to find the notes of C natural minor, as shown below:

R – C – T – D – S – Eb – T – F – T – G – S – Ab – T – Bb – T – C(O). This gives the notes as C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C(O), where C(O) is one octave above the tonic.

As you can see, the key signature of the C natural minor scale carries three flats. Hence, if you play it on a piano keyboard, you must play three black keys and four white keys.

Intervals Root M2 m3 P4 P5 m6 m7P8
Scale Degrees12345671(8)
Notes C D Eb F G Ab BbC

As you know, minor scales are comprised of three patterns: the natural minor, the harmonic minor, and the melodic minor. While our article is restricted to the natural minor, you can see the notes of the other two scales for comparison.

Harmonic minor scales have their seventh note raised by a half step compared to the natural minor scales. Hence the notes of the C Harmonic minor scale are C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – B – C(O).

In any melodic minor scale, the sixth and seventh notes are raised while playing it ascending, and it is played the same as a natural minor scale while descending and known as natural minor scale descending. Hence the notes of the C melodic minor scale ascending are C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B – C(O).

Diagram Of C Minor On The Treble And Bass Clef:

The below diagrams show the notes of C Natural minor scale on the Treble clef and Bass Clef:

Treble Clef

C Minor Scale on Treble Clef

Bass Clef

C Minor Scale on Bass Clef

C Minor Scale Guitar Positions

Before attempting to play any scale, it is always recommended to memorize the notes on the guitar fretboard. The diagram below shows the notes of the C minor scale across the entire fretboard. The root note C is shown in orange color while all other notes are in red. You can see the complete C minor scale in one line on the B string.

C Natural Minor Scale Up to 14 Fret

We will use the CAGED system to teach you the various scale positions on the fretboard. The CAGED system divides the fretboard into five distinct scale patterns known as boxes or enclosures. Each box carries a unique name based on open chord shapes, position on the fingerboard, and different note orders. The notes overlap between these boxes.

We have shown you this detailed exercise for the D Major and E major scales. Hence instead of repeating the full exercise, we shall be just showing the diagrams of each of these shapes, and the same explanations as given in the above articles apply to each individual shape.

These boxes are organized based on the positions of the root note, and you must start playing each pattern from the lowest root note position all the way up to the highest string, then back to the lowest note on the sixth string before completing back on the lowest root note.

Pattern 1

C Minor Scale P1(E shape)

Pattern 2

C Minor Scale P2(D shape)

Pattern 3

C Minor Scale P3(C shape)

Pattern 4

C Minor Scale P4(A shape)

Pattern 5

C Minor Scale P5(G shape)

Chords in the C Minor key

The notes and the scale degrees of the C minor scale are shown in the table below.

Scale Degrees1234567
Chord DesignationiiidimIIIivvVIVII
Chord QualityminordiminishedMajorminorminorMajorMajor
Chord NamesCmDdimEb FmGmAb Bb

Building chords from any natural minor scale results in the following seven chords:

  1. Three major chords start with scale degrees III, VI, and VII. For the C minor scale, these are Eb, Ab, and Bb major chords.
  2. Three minor chords starting with degrees i, iv, and v. These are Cm, Fm, and Gm chords for the C minor scale.
  3. One diminished chord, ii°, Ddim.

What Are The Notes In These Chords?

Triad chords are built by stacking the intervals of thirds (major 3rd, M3, or a minor 3rd, m3) above the root. To form a major, minor, and diminished triad that results from the harmonization of any minor scale, we need to stack the following intervals:

  1. R – M3 – m3 to form a major chord
  2. R – m3 – M3 for a minor chord
  3. R – m3 – m3 for a diminished chord

These seven sets of triads are shown in the table below:

Scale DegreesIntervalsChord NotesChord Name
1R – C – m3 – Eb – M3 – GC Eb GCm
2R – D – m3 – F – m3 – AbD F AbDdim
3R – Eb – M3 – G – m3 – BbEb G BbEb
4R – F – m3 – Ab – M3 – CF Ab CFm
5R – G – m3 – Bb – M3 – DG Bb DGm
6R – Ab – M3 – C – m3 – EbAb C EbAb
7R – Bb – M3 – D – m3 – FD F BbBb

Popular Chord Progressions In The C Minor Key

Relative and Parallel Scales

The relative scale of any major and minor scales has the same notes as the original scale. You can find the relative major of any minor scale by

  1. From the 3rd scale degree of the minor scale.
  2. Moving 3 steps counterclockwise in the circle of fifths.
  3. Adding 3 semitones to the minor keys.

Hence the relative major scale for C minor is Eb Major scale with the notes {Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, and D}. Its parallel scale is C Major with notes {C, D, E, F, G, A, B}.

Songs In The Key Of C Minor

Some of the popular songs in the C minor key are

  1. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.
  2. Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna.
  3. Come Together by The Beatles.
  4. Lady by Lionel Richie.
  5. We Are The Champions by Queen.
  6. Its my Life by Bon Jovi.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we looked at the C minor scale. We explored the structure of the scale, as well as its intervals and notes. We also looked at guitar positions for the scale and chords in the key of C minor. Finally, we looked at a chord progression in C minor. I hope you found this information helpful. Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.

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