Relative Minors On Guitar

In this guitar lesson we are going to talk about relative minor keys on the guitar. First, we will define what a relative minor key is and then we will show you how you can use this information to enhance your guitar playing. For this lesson we will be in the key of D major.

The D major scale is spelled D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C#. If you start on D and count up to the 6th scale degree you would land on a B note. The relative minor key of D major is B minor. When we say that a minor key is relative to a major key that just means that those two keys share the same key signature. The key signature for D major is two sharps, F# and C#. The key signature for the key of B minor is also two sharps, F# and C#. Remember if you want to find the relative minor of a major key just go to the 6th degree of that major scale.

This also works the other way around. If you start in a minor key and go up a minor 3rd from the root note of the scale, you would have the relative major key of that minor key. For example, the key of B minor is spelled B, C#, D, E, F#, G, and A. The third note in the key of B minor is a D. The interval from a B to a D is a minor third. D is the relative major key for the key of B minor.

This is cool, but you may be wondering how to apply this to your playing and make it useful to you. First of all, if you know your major key signatures this can help you to memorize your minor key signatures. The second, and more exciting, thing that you can do with this idea of relative minor keys is scale substitution. Here is what I mean. If you have a vamp or a groove that is in the key of D major you can use a D major pentatonic scale to improvise over that chord. If you know that B minor is the relative minor key for D major, you could use a B minor pentatonic scale to improvise over the D major chord as well.

Go through each major key that you know and find the relative minor key. You can write out all of your major keys and go through and circle the 6th note of each scale. You can also try recording a groove with just one major chord. Play the recoding over and over and try improvising with the relative minor pentatonic scale of the major chord that is on the recording. You will find that the more you work at this and quiz yourself you will start to automatically know the relative minor key of quite a few major keys.