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The Aeolian Mode - Or the Natural Minor Scale

This week I’m going to look at the more familiar Natural Minor Scale, otherwise known as the Aeolian Mode. As with the other Modes covered, Aeolian is based on the Major (Ionian) Scale and is built from the 6th note of the Major Scale.

It is made up of the following notes in relation to the corresponding Major Scale:


This means that C Aeolian would be made up of the following notes:


Aeolian is obviously one of the ‘Minor’ sounding modes. Along with the Minor Pentatonic Scale it is the most common Minor Scale in Rock and Metal. It is used almost universally, it evokes a melancholic/dark/sad emotion. This feeling can be related to by everyone, we’ve all been there!

It has been used in so many classic songs, for example – Nothing Else Matters by Metallica, Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. The characteristic note that really gives the scale its sound is the b6. Target this whilst playing to get the feel.

The chords that are built on the notes of Aeolian always follow the same pattern (if you remember the Major Scale chord sequence, just start from the 6th and loop!).


As usual the position of the dominant 7th chord will help you identify an Aeolian chord progression. The 7th is located on the VII chord and is easily found a tone below the I chord. The V – I chord movement isn’t as strong as in Ionian, but we will cover this in future articles. A classic progression is I – VI – VII or I – III - VII.

As always, try playing some Aeolian chord progressions to get the feel for yourself.


Below is a link to an Aeolian Chord Progression that you can listen to and get the feel of it. Have a jam over it too and get moody!!

C Aeolian Chord Progression Play Along Track


Try improvising in C Aeolian or C Minor Pentatonic and try adding/targeting the b6.

Work hard and most importantly, have fun!!


-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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