Music Theory

 All About the F Minor Piano Scale

By Claire
F Minor Piano Scale

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

In this article, we will show you how to play the F minor scale on the piano, and how to use the notes of the scale to play F minor chords. You’ll learn how to build the F minor harmonic and melodic scales, as well as the easiest finger patterns for the F minor piano scale that will help you to master playing songs in F minor.

To understand how to play songs in F minor, it is important to learn the building blocks of the scale and practice the F minor scale finger patterns along with chords. F minor uses the same building blocks of major and minor piano chords as any other piano key! 

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

Musicians say a song is in F minor when it is made up of notes from the F minor scale and when it cadences in F minor, which means phrases in the song begin and end with the F Minor chord.  The F minor scale is indicated with 4 flats in the key signature. To find a song in F minor, look for  Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db flat signs in the key signature. Next, let’s make sure that we are in F minor, and not the parallel major key (Ab major). To do this, look to see if the first notes of the piece begin on F or C, the tonic or dominant respectively of F minor. You can also listen to the song and hear if it uses mostly minor chords.

There are three different versions of the F minor scale you may hear in music – the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale. Each type of scale is different, because each one is built with a different combination of half and whole steps on the piano keys. This gives each version of the F minor scale a special and unique sound, and gives musicians more options for chords to harmonize with the scale. Once you know the notes of the F minor scale, you can learn how to play F minor chords that fit the quality of the piece you are learning! 

It’s important to note that composers in one piece may modulate, or move, through a related key as they journey through the piece’s emotional landscape. Keys can relate to each other as relative major or minor, or parallel major or minor. F minor’s parallel major starts on the same note and is F major, and F minor’s relative major is Ab major and has the same key signature. Another way musical keys relate to one another is through the Circle of Fifths. To move around the circle of fifths through your key signature, you can add or subtract an accidental note. C major and minor are related to F minor through the Circle of Fifths. 

What are the notes of the F minor scale?

Let’s start with the building blocks of natural minor – you can use these with any starting note to make the minor scale! The F minor piano scale starts with F. Natural minor begins with the starting note and travels whole step – half step – whole step –  whole step – half step – whole step – whole step. To build the scale of F natural minor, start on F and take a whole step up to G, a half step to Ab, a whole step to Bb, a whole step to C, a half step to Db, a whole step to Eb, and a whole step to F.  If you are familiar with solfege, natural minor is do – re – me – fa – so – le – te – do. 

F natural minor

Next, let’s make the F melodic minor scale! To make the melodic minor, raise the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale when it’s ascending. This makes the melodic minor scale sound more like major, because the end of the scale is now la – ti – do. So, the F melodic minor scale ascending is F, whole step to G, a half step to Ab, a whole step to Bb, a whole step to C (the same as F natural minor). At the 6th degree, it changes – a whole step to D natural, a whole step to E natural and a half step to F. The descending scale for F Melodic Minor is the same as in F natural minor described above – the 6th and 7th scale degrees are flat coming back down.

F melodic ascending and descending

 

The final version of the F minor scale is F harmonic minor. Harmonic minor incorporates qualities of both natural minor and melodic minor scales, and has a very special sound because of the large step – a whole step plus a half step – between the 6th and 7th scale degree. F harmonic minor is the same scale as F natural minor, but the 7th scale degree is raised, so the final notes are le – ti – do. The F harmonic minor scale ascending is F, whole step to G, a half step to Ab, a whole step to Bb, a whole step to C, a half step to Db natural, one and a half steps to E natural and a half step to F.

F harmonic minor

How do you play the F minor scale on piano?

F minor uses the same finger patterns as F major for both the right and left hand. It will be easiest to practice the finger patterns of the F minor piano scale if we work to keep our thumb on the white keys instead of the black keys. 

  • The right hand, beginning with the thumb on F, is 12341234. 
  • After the thumb plays F, our pointer finger plays G, our middle finger plays Ab, and our fourth finger plays Bb. 
  • Our thumb crosses under to C, our pointer finger plays Bb, our middle finger plays Eb, and our ring finger plays F. 

 

  •  The left hand, beginning with the pinky on F, is 54321321. 
  • After the pinky plays F, the ring finger plays G. The middle finger plays A, the pointer finger plays Bb, and the thumb plays C.
  •  Next, our middle finger floats over to play Db, our pointer finger plays Eb, and our thumb plays F. 
  • This finger pattern for the F minor piano scale stays the same for melodic and harmonic minor, but be sure to check whether you are playing a flat, or black key, or a natural, or white key, using our graphics above.

What are the chords of F minor scale?

The chords of the natural minor scale in F minor are as follows:

The F minor chord is the i chord, or tonic chord, and is made up of F – Ab – C,  or Do – Me – So in solfege. Remember, in minor, “mi” changes to “me” because the third scale degree is flat.  

In F minor, the next chord built on G is the supertonic chord, or ii chord. It is a diminished chord, and is made up of G – Bb – Db. A diminished chord sounds crunchier than a minor chord, because there are fewer half steps between the middle and top notes of the chord! Take a moment and sit at your piano and count the half steps between G and Db. You’ll see they are not as far apart as the distance between F and C. 

Our next chord in F minor is the mediant chord, or III chord. This chord is major in quality, and is Ab – C – Eb.

 The next chord is a subdominant; the iv chord is minor and starts on Bb.  Bb – Db – F is the fourth F minor piano chord for this scale. 

The next chord in F minor starts on the fifth scale degree, which is C. In a minor scale, the fifth degree chord can be a major chord or a minor chord, depending on how the songwriter uses the chord in the song. When the v chord in F minor is minor, it is C – Eb – G. When the V chord is major and used to resolve the song, it is C – E – G. The change comes with the note Eb. When it is Eb, or ‘te’ in solfege, it serves as a minor chord. When the note is changed to E natural, then it serves as the leading tone in the dominant major chord and helps our ear resolve to F, the tonic. 

The next chord is the submediant, or 6th degree of the scale and it is major in quality. The notes in this chord are Db – F – Ab.

The final chord in F minor is the subtonic (or leading tone, if it uses the notes from the F minor melodic minor scale). 

Using the F minor piano scale with songs

Two of our favorite classical pieces in the key of F minor are Vivaldi’s Winter from the Four Seasons and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture

Remember, a song might be in the key of F Minor, but borrow chords from relative major or minor keys. This means that not every chord in a song in the key of F minor is one of the chords above – it might be a different chord ‘visiting’ from a related key! Be sure to check your sheet music to see if there are places where the key signature changes, and also check for any accidentals (flats, naturals, or sharps) that change the quality of a chord. 

With the building blocks in this article, you can explore the F minor piano scale, practice your F minor finger patterns, and practice F minor chords. We hope you enjoy adding chords to your songs in F minor with Hoffman Academy!

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