B minor scale

B minor scale

Most piano students don’t start out learning minor scales. But once you’ve got the major scales out of the way, you’ll likely move on to the natural minor scales. Today, we’ll take a look at the B minor scale. It’s important to note that we mean the B natural minor scale.

Getting to Know the B Minor Scale

Composer Christian Schubart wrote some of the most famous characterizations of the major and minor keys. His description of the B natural minor scale sounds pleasant: “This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting one’s fate and of submission to divine dispensation.”

It’s an emotional key that’s somewhat popular in pop music, and there’s no shortage of classical compositions in B minor, either. A few examples are Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1, and Liszt’s Piano Sonata.

Formula, Structure, and Intervals of the B Minor Scale

You may already know the formula you can use to figure out a minor scale. To get a natural minor scale, start with your root note and follow the pattern whole-half-whole-whole-half-whole-whole. If we do that, we get these seven notes: B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A. That’s the B natural minor scale.

Now you know the note names of the scale. But did you know each also has a scale degree name and interval name? Here they are:

  • B tonic (this is the scale degree and interval)
  • C# major 2nd (supertonic)
  • D minor 3rd (mediant)
  • E perfect 4th (subdominant)
  • F# perfect 5th (dominant)
  • G minor 6th (submediant)
  • A minor 7th (subtonic)
  • B (one octave higher) (octave) perfect 8th

As you can see, there are two sharps in the B natural minor scale. If you look at the key signature of a piece of music, you’ll be able to tell if it’s in the key of B minor by looking for these two sharps. When you’re looking at a treble clef, bass clef, alto clef, etc., look for sharp symbols where the C and F normally are.

How to Play the B Minor Scale on Piano

It takes a lot of practice to be able to play a scale from memory. To help you get started on the B natural minor scale, we’ve included a breakdown of how to play it. This video lesson will also show you how to play it correctly on the piano keyboard.

Right Hand:

  • Start with B, the key immediately to the left of C. Use your thumb (1).
  • Next, play C#, the key (black key) to the immediate right. Use your index finger (2).
  • After that, play D (the next white key). Use your middle finger (3).
  • Now move your thumb (1) beneath your fingers and to the right to play E, the next white key.
  • Then play F# (the first black key after E). Use your index finger (2).
  • Now play G (the next white key). Use your middle finger (3).
  • After that, play A (the next white key). Use your ring finger (4).
  • Lastly, play B (one octave above the first B you played) with your pinky (5). This is the next white key.

Left Hand:

  • First, play B. Use your ring finger (4).
  • Then play C#. Use your middle finger (3).
  • Next, play D. Use your index finger (2).
  • After that, play E. Use your thumb (1).
  • Cross your fingers over your thumb and play F#. Use your ring finger (4).
  • Then play G. Use your middle finger (3).
  • Next play A. Use your index finger (2).
  • Lastly, play B (one octave higher). Use your thumb (1).

The B minor natural scale requires a little more finger flexibility than some scales. That’s because when playing the scale with your left hand, you must cross three fingers over your thumb. With most other scales, you only need to cross two fingers.

Parallel and Relative Scales

As you learn, make time to understand how different scales relate to one another. Each minor scale (or minor key) has a relative major scale (or major key). Relative majors and minors have the same notes in their scales but in different orders. The D major scale has the notes D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C#. It’s the relative major of the B natural minor scale.

If two scales have the same root note, they are parallel scales. The B natural minor scale and the B major scale both have B as their root note, so they are parallel scales.

Chords of the B Minor Scale

If you’ve also learned the music theory behind some other scales, you might already know the formula of Roman numerals to find chords in a scale. Lowercase numerals indicate minor chords, uppercase numerals indicate major chords, and the degree sign means the chord is diminished. Here are the chords in the key of B minor:

  • i. Bm
  • ii˚. C#dim
  • III. D
  • iv. Em
  • v. F#m
  • VI. G
  • VII. A

Remember that the chords above are just the basic chords in the key. Extended versions, seventh versions, etc., are still in the key of B minor. Each chord has a scale degree identical to its corresponding note on the B natural minor scale.

Songs in B Minor

The best way to familiarize yourself with B minor’s sound and mood are to listen to some songs in the key. Here are a few to start with:

  • 1. “Disturbia” by Rihanna
  • 2. “Listen To Your Heart” by Roxette
  • 3. “Karma Police” by Radiohead
  • 4. “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga
  • 5. “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5
  • 6. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
  • 7. “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman
  • 8. “Reptilia” by The Strokes
  • 9. “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses
  • 10. “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan

Common Chord Progressions in B Minor

Taking a closer look at some of the songs above can give you an idea of some common B minor chord progressions. The catchy intro to Rihanna’s “Disturbia” has a progression of i-III-VII-VI-i-III (Bm-D-A-G-Bm-D). And the chorus to the iconic “Hotel California” by The Eagles has a surprisingly simple chord progression: VI-III-V7-i (G-D-F#7-Bm). “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan has an intro with an i-iv-v (Bm-Em-F#m) progression.

Check out these other commonly-used progressions in the key:

  • i-iv-v (Bm-Em-F#m)
  • i-VI-VII (Bm-G-A)
  • i-VI-III-VII (Bm-G-D-A)

Final Thoughts

We hope that understanding some of the music theory behind the B minor scale will help you learn and remember it! Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

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