Music Theory

Learning about the B Minor Piano Scale

By Hoffman Academy Team
B minor piano scale

Learn how to play the B minor piano scale! Explore notes, chords, finger positions, similar minor scales, and some fun songs in the key of B minor.

Meet the B Minor Scale

The B minor scale is a musical scale that starts on B. Its relative major key is D, which means it will have the same key signature as D Major, with a C sharp and F sharp marked on the staff.

B minor key signature

But, if the key signatures are exactly the same, then how do you know if the song is in B minor or in D Major? One quick trick is to look at the very lowest note the song ends on. If this note is a B instead of a D, you’re probably in B minor.

 

Chopin Prelude in B minor last three measures.

 

A song in B minor will also have a “minor” sound. If you listen to the song, you’ll hear minor chords and an emphasis on the important tones of the B minor scale, which are B (tonic), F sharp (fifth), E (fourth), and D (minor third).

As with all minor keys, B minor has a relative major key that starts one and a half steps higher on the keyboard. To find the relative major key of any minor, start on the first note of the minor scale and go up a whole step and then a half step. In B minor, that’s B to C sharp, then C sharp to D. For another example, A minor is the relative of C major. Start on A, go up a whole step to B, then a half step to C.

 

What does it mean when a song is in B minor?

In classical music, B minor was considered to be a key that gave a song a feeling of deep and thoughtful sadness. It could also convey patient expectation and hope. This is in contrast with its relative key, D Major, which was considered to be one of the most joyful key signatures.

What are the notes of the B minor scale?

The B minor scale is a musical scale that starts on B and has from two to four sharps, depending on which minor mode you’re playing in. In natural minor, the sharps will be C sharp and F sharp. The notes are B, C sharp, D, E, F sharp, G, and A.

 

 

For the B harmonic minor you’ll add an A sharp. The notes are B, C sharp, D, E, F sharp, G, and A sharp.

 

 

In melodic minor you’ll have both an A sharp and G sharp on the way up but use A natural and G natural on the way down. Notes are B, C sharp, D, E, F sharp, G sharp, A sharp going up, then B, A natural, G natural, F sharp, E, D, C sharp, and B going down.

B minor melodic scale

How to play the B minor scale on piano.

Because there is a sharp on the fifth tone of the B minor scale, the fingering will be a little different than most scales you’ve probably learned. You want to avoid playing that sharp note with your thumb, so in your left hand you’ll start with finger four and then cross over to play the sharp note.

B minor Pentascale

For your right hand place your fingers like this:

1 on B
2 on C sharp
3 on D
4 on E
5 on F sharp

For your left hand place your fingers like this:

4 on B
3 on C sharp
2 on D
1 on E
And then cross over with finger 2 on F sharp

As mentioned before, you’ll start on finger 4 and cross over with 2 on the last note to avoid playing the sharp with your thumb.

B minor one octave scale:

Right hand:

1 on B
2 on C sharp
3 on D
Cross under 1 on E
2 on F sharp
3 on G (sharp for melodic minor when going up)
4 on A (sharp for harmonic minor and melodic minor when going up)
5 on B

Left hand:

4 on B
3 on C sharp
2 on D
1 on E
Cross over 4 on F sharp
3 on G (sharp for melodic minor when going up)
2 on A (sharp for harmonic minor and melodic minor going up)
1 on B

To play the natural minor scale, G and A should not be sharp. In the melodic minor scale, play G sharp and A sharp when going up, then G and A natural when going down.

Want to watch and learn how to play a two octave B minor scale, along with B minor arpeggios and chords? Check out this lesson from Mr. Hoffman.

What are the chords of the B minor scale?

Music written in B minor will usually focus on the three most important chords of the B minor scale, the i chord which starts on B, the iv chord which starts on E, and the V chord which starts on F sharp.

B minor i chord: B – D – F sharp

B minor iv chord : E – G – B

B minor V chord : F sharp – A sharp (harmonic minor) – C sharp

 

common chords in B minor

 

Notice that the number names of the minor chords are written with a lower case Roman numeral. 

There are also three more major chords in the key of B minor. They are the III chord, the VI chord, and the VII chord.

B minor III chord: D – F sharp – A

B minor VI chord: G – B – D

B minor VII chord: A – C sharp – E

 

Take a look at the III, VI, and VII chords in B minor. Do you recognize them? They’re the I, IV, and V chords in the key of D Major!

In B minor, the diminished chord is the ii chord, which starts on C sharp.

B minor ii chord: C sharp – E – G

 

What songs are in the key of B minor?

Some famous classical pieces in B minor include Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony, Mozart’s Adagio in B minor, and even Wagner’s exciting Ride of the Valkyries.

Popular songs in B minor include “Hotel California” recorded by The Eagles, “When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Alexander Hamilton” from Hamilton.

If you’d like to learn a song in B minor on the piano, Mr. Hoffman has a series of lessons on Dimitri Shostakovich’s “The Mechanical Doll.” Give it a try!

 

We hope you’ve had fun exploring the B minor scale! To learn more about minor scales and how to play them, check out Hoffman Academy’s Minor Scales Guide.

 

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