Transforming Major Melodies Into Minor Keys

Overview

You can reinvent major key songs like “Oh Susanna” by playing them in a minor key. This is a fun way to improve your mental map of scales, melodies and the fingerboard. Plus, it’s a creative practice which gets you into the mindset for improvisation.




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Learning Steps 

Start by playing a  D Major scale with a D drone.

D0-1-2-3-A0-1-2-3

Lower the third, sixth and seventh steps to get the D Minor scale.

D0-1-L2-3-A0-L1-L2-3 

Practice going between the two scales with a D Drone.

How do they feel different? 

Enjoy the sound and the emotional contrast as you switch.

Going from major to minor on songs

Now let’s play a familiar song like Oh Susanna in D Major. Here’s the first chunk:

(D0-1)-2-A0-0-1-0-D2-0-1-2-2-1-0-1-1

Sing then play: Well I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee

 

To transform a whole song from a major to minor key, just switch out the third, sixth and seventh notes where they occur.

Let’s do it on the first Chunk of Oh Susanna.

D0-1-L2-A0-0-L1-0-DL2  -0-1-L2-L2-1-0-1 

That’s it! Simply Repeat the process on the remaining Chunks.

Further Practice

Once you get this for Oh Susanna, try it on other familiar songs you know, like Mary Had A Little Lamb, Twinkle Little Star, etc.

This will make these old melodies fresh again. 

Transposer

I made a Transposer tool to help you transpose scales from major to minor in the keys of G, D, A and E. 

Scale StepsSolfegeG MajorG MinorD MajorD MinorA MajorA MinorE MajorE Minor
3Mi------GL1G0
4Fa --G0G0--G1G1
5So --G1G1--G2G2
6La--G2G2--GH3G3
7Ti --GH3GH3GL1G0D0 (G4)D0 (G4)
1DoG0G0D0 (G4)D0 (G4)G1G1D1D1
2ReG1G1D1D1G2G2D2D2
3Mi G2GL2D2DL2GH3G3DH3D3
4Fa G3G3D3D3D0 (G4)D0 (G4)A0 (D4)A0 (D4)
5So D0 (G4)D0 (G4)A0 (D4)A0 (D4)D1D1A1A1
6LaD1DL1A1AL1D2DL2A2AL2
7Ti D2DL2A2AL2DH3D3AH3A3
1DoD3D3A3A3A0 (D4)A0 (D4)E0 (A4)E0 (A4)
2ReA0 (D4)A0 (D4)E0 (A4)E0 (A4)A1A1E1E1
3Mi A1AL1E1EL1A2AL2E2EL2
4Fa AL2AL2EL2EL2A3A3E3E3
5So A3A3E3E3E0 (A4)E0 (A4)E4E4
6LaE0 (A4)AL4E4EL4E1EL1--
7Ti E1EL1--E2EL2--
1DoEL2EL2--E3E3--

If you take this Major To Minor journey, you might feel your brain growing!

Examples

Twinkle Little Star Klezmer


Further learning

Once you get this for Oh Susanna, try it on other familiar songs you know, like Mary Had A Little Lamb, Twinkle Little Star, etc.

Easy Song, Skills Strong / Harness the power of familiar songs.

Takeaways

1. Transform a major scale to a minor scale by lowering the third, sixth and seventh steps.

2. Alter the same notes in major key tunes to create minor key versions.

3. Start on super simple songs.


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