Music Theory

Exploring the G Minor Piano Scale

By Claire Robertson
The G Minor Piano Scale including the G minor relative major, key signature, harmonic minor & melodic minor scales.

Learn how to play the G minor piano scale! Discover the key signature, notes, chords, finger positions, and some fun songs in G minor.

We’ll teach you how to play the G minor scale on the piano. In this article, we’ll cover building chords from the notes of the scale to play G minor chords. We’ll share with you the notes in the G minor harmonic and melodic scales, as well as the easiest finger patterns for the G minor piano scale.

There are three different versions of the G 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 built with a different combination of half and whole steps on the piano keys, all beginning on G. Once you know the notes of the G minor scale, you’ll have the tools to play songs and chords in G minor. 

Want to learn more about the G minor piano scales and develop the skills you need to play in G minor? Try Hoffman Academy Premium Today!

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

Musicians can determine if a song is in G minor by looking at the sheet music or by listening and deducing what the scale is! If you have the sheet music, G minor’s key signature shows two flats. You can also determine if a piece is major or minor by listening for the unique sound of minor chords. Musicians say a song is in G minor when it is made up of notes from the G minor scale and when it cadences in G minor, which means phrases in the song begin and end with the G minor chord.

To find a song in G minor, look for Bb and Eb in the key signature. To determine if we are in a minor key or a relative major key, look to see what the first note of the piece is. If the first note of the piece begins on G or D, the tonic or dominant of G minor, your sheet music is probably in G minor.  Next, see if you can find the end of a four-bar phrase. If your melody cadences, or ends, on G or D and you have two flats in the key signature, you are in G minor! You can also listen to the song and hear if it uses mostly minor chords.

Sometimes, a piece might not stay in the same key the entire time. Composers 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. G minor’s parallel major starts on the same note and is G major, and G minor’s relative major is Bb major and has the same key signature. Another way musical keys relate to one another is through the Circle of Fifths.  A musician can move to a related scale through the circle of fifths by moving to the related dominant, or fifth scale degree. In this case, moving one key signature around the Circle of Fifths brings us to D minor or D major! 

What are the notes of the G minor scale?

You can use these steps to build a minor scale on any note on the keyboard – the steps are the same for all minor keys and scales. Natural minor is built by stepwise motion from the starting note or tonic–whole step – half step – whole step – whole step – half step – whole step – whole step. Let’s begin by building a G natural minor scale. The G minor piano scale starts with G and has two black keys in the scale. To build the scale of G natural minor, start on G and take a whole step up to A, a half step to Bb, a whole step to C, a whole step to D, a half step to Eb, a whole step to F, and a whole step to G. It’s the same notes descending as coming back up. If you are familiar with solfege, the natural minor scale in solfege is do – re – me – fa – so – le – te – do. 

G Natural Minor Scale.

Next, we will build the G melodic minor scale. To create the melodic minor scale, raise the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale when it’s ascending. This changes the end of your minor scale to la-ti-do, which sounds more like a major scale. Because we are altering two scale degrees, the G melodic minor scale has different notes. The beginning of the G melodic minor scale is the same as it was in natural minor–G, whole step to A, a half step to Bb, a whole step to C, a whole step to D. At the 6th degree, it changes – a whole step to E, a whole step to F sharp and a half step to G. The descending G Melodic minor scale is different and sounds the same as natural minor. The sixth and seventh scale degrees are lowered, just like in natural minor. 

G Melodic Minor Scale: Ascending

G Melodic Minor Scale: Descending

Lastly, there is G harmonic minor scale. The G harmonic minor scale incorporates qualities of both natural minor and melodic minor scales and has a unique sound because of the gap–a whole step plus a half step–between the 6th and 7th scale degree. The final notes are le – ti – do. The distance between le and ti is a whole step plus a half step, which is a unique sound.  The G harmonic minor scale ascending is G, whole step to A, a half step to Bb, a whole step to C, a whole step to D, a half step to Eb, one and a half steps to F sharp, and a half step to G.

G Harmonic Minor Scale.

How do you play the G minor scale on piano?

The G minor piano scale uses the same finger patterns as G major for both the right and left hand. 

  • The right hand, beginning with the thumb on G, is 12341234. 
  • After the thumb plays G, our pointer finger plays A, our middle finger plays Bb. 
  • Our thumb crosses under to C, our pointer finger plays D, our middle finger plays Eb, and our ring finger plays F and our pinky plays G. 
  • The left hand, beginning with the pinky on G, is 54321321. 
  • After the pinky plays G, the ring finger plays A. The middle finger plays Bb, the pointer finger plays C, and the thumb plays D.
  • Next, our middle finger floats over to play Eb, our pointer finger plays F, and our thumb plays G. 

This finger pattern for the G minor piano scale stays the same for melodic and harmonic minor. 

What are the chords of the G minor scale?

The chords of the G natural minor scale use two black keys on the keyboard–Bb and Eb! 

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

The next chord built on A is the supertonic chord, or ii chord. It is a diminished chord, and is made up of A-C-Eb. A diminished chord sounds crunchier than a minor chord, because there are fewer half steps between the middle and top notes of the chord. 

Our next chord in the G minor scale is the mediant chord, or III chord. This chord is major in quality, and is Bb-D-F. It’s the tonic chord in our relative major key, Bb major! 

The next chord is a subdominant; the iv chord is minor and starts on C. C-Eb-G is the fourth piano chord for the G minor scale.

In a minor scale, the fifth degree chord can be a major chord or a minor chord. When the v chord in G minor is minor, it is D-F-A When the V chord is major and used to resolve the song, it is D-F#-A. The change comes with the seventh degree note F#, or ‘te’ changing to ‘ti’. When it is ‘te’ in solfege, it serves as a minor chord. When the note is raised, then it serves as the leading tone in the dominant major chord and helps our ear resolve to A, 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 Eb-G-Bb.

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

What songs are in the key of G minor?

Now that you’ve practiced G minor piano scales and chords, it’s time to put your knowledge to work in a song. A fun, seasonal piece in G minor is “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. You can also practice the musical skill of transposition. Try playing “Wild Horses” from Hoffman Academy Lesson #39 in G minor instead of A minor. To do this, move the starting note to G. To prepare for learning and playing songs in the key of G minor, you should practice your G minor piano scale, finger patterns, and chords. We hope you enjoy playing adding chords to your songs in G minor with Hoffman Academy!

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