Music Theory

Exploring the G Minor Piano Scale

By Claire Robertson
Exploring the G Minor Scale

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

Ready to learn how to play the G minor piano scale? In this article, we’ll show you the three different versions of this scale, plus the easiest finger patterns to learn them quickly.  We’ll also build chords from the notes of this scale so you can harmonize music in the key of G minor.

There are three different versions of the G minor scale: natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. 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 all the notes of each scale, you’ll have the tools to play songs and chords in the key of 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 say a song is in G minor when it uses the notes of the G minor scale. They also know if a song is in G minor by looking at the sheet music. On the page, the key signature of G minor shows two flats. You can also determine if a piece is major or minor by listening for the unique sound of minor chords: very somber, unlike the bright, cheerful sound of major chords. The piece will probably also cadence 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 B-flat and E-flat 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 change keys, 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?

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. You can use these same steps to build a minor scale on any note on the keyboard – the steps are the same for all minor scales. Let’s begin by building a G natural minor scale. The G minor piano scale starts with G and will use two black keys. 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 ascending. 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 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. However, the descending G melodic minor scale returns to the same notes as in natural minor. The sixth and seventh scale degrees are lowered back. 

G Melodic Minor Scale: Ascending

G Melodic Minor Scale: Descending

Last, we have the G harmonic minor scale. This version 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 notes of the scale. The final notes are LE – TI – DO. The big gap between LE and TI creates is a unique sound, making harmonic minor unlike any other scale in Western music.  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 the 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 12312345. 
  • After the thumb plays G, our pointer finger plays A, and our middle finger plays Bb. 
  • Our thumb crosses under to C, our pointer finger plays D, our middle finger plays Eb, our ring finger plays F, and finally 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 crosses 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 in the key of G minor?

In the key of G minor, the chords will use the notes of the G minor scale, including the two flats in the key signature – Bb and Eb.

The G minor chord is the i chord, or tonic, and is made up of G-Bb-D, or DO-ME-SO in solfege. Remember, in minor, “ME” changes to “ME” because the third scale degree is flat.  ME is pronounced “may.”

The next chord, built on A, is the ii chord, or supertonic. 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, built on Bb, is the III chord, or mediant. This chord is major in quality, and it’s spelled Bb-D-F. It’s also the tonic chord in our relative major key, Bb major! 

Continuing up the scale, the next chord is the iv chord, or subdominant. It’s a minor chord and is built on C: C-Eb-G.

In a minor scale, the chord built on the fifth note is called the dominant, and it can be either major or minor. If we’re using the natural minor version of the G minor piano scale, the v chord is minor, with the notes D-F-A. On the other hand, if we use the harmonic minor version of the scale, the V chord is major: D-F#-A, and it can then be used to resolve the song. The change comes with the seventh note in the scale, F being raised to F#, or TE changing to TI. When it’s TI, it serves as the leading tone in our V chord and helps our ear resolve to G, the tonic. 

The next chord is built on E-flat, the 6th note of the scale, making it our VI chord, or submediant. Another major chord: Eb-G-Bb.

At last we come to our VII chord, built on F if we’re using the G natural minor scale: F-A-C.  It’s a major chord, and serves as the subtonic. If we use the G harmonic minor scale, the seventh note becomes F-sharp, and our vii chord becomes F#-A-C.  Now it’s diminished in quality, sounding angry and confused, and serves as the leading tone chord.

G minor chords

If you’d like some handy reference guides for chords and triads in all keys, download these free resources from the Hoffman Academy Store:

What songs are in the key of G minor?

Now that you’ve practiced the G minor piano scales and chords, it’s time to put your knowledge to work by playing a song. You can learn the holiday song, “Carol of the Bells” in G minor with this video tutorial.

Another 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 D minor. To do this, move the starting note to G.

To prepare for learning and playing more 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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