The C minor scale is a very intense combination of keys which are all within the key of C minor. Like all minor scales, they often give off an “emotional” or “melancholic” tone when played together.
The C Minor Scale includes: C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭, and then repeats the cycle back at C.
Like with any other piano scale, the C minor scale consists of 7 keys, starting with the signature key (this case being “C”), and then moving down the piano until it reaches the end of the respective octave.
Moreover, you can play the C minor scale in any octave on the piano. As long as you use the keys C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, and B♭, then it doesn’t matter if you’re playing on the far left-end of the piano or the very right-end of the piano. The result will be the same, although the pitch will be much different, of course.
Now, while you can use the chart above to help you memorize the C minor scale, you can also use the formula below to help you work your way through each key starting at C.
How to Find the C Minor Scale
The minor scale formula is W-H-W-W-H-W-W. What do these letters mean and how do they help us to find the C minor scale? Well, for starters, the “W” stands for Whole-step and the “H” stands for Half-step.
A Whole-step refers to the distance between two pitches that are two Half-steps apart. For example, the distance from the key of A to B, is 1 whole-step since to get to B from A we need to travel one half-step to the black key touching A (we can call this key A♯) and then one more half-step to finally get to B.
So to find the C minor scale in any octave, start at the key of C, and then, following the aforementioned formula, work your way down toward the right of the piano.
Let’s do it here together (remember to reference the minor scale formula: W-H-W-W-H-W-W, as well as the image above if needed):
Starting at C, we will move one whole-step over to D (i.e., from C to C♯, and then to D). Then we will move a half step over to E♭ (i.e., from D to E♯). From here, we will move a whole-step to F (i.e., from E♭ to E, and then to F). Then, another whole-step from F to G (i.e., F to F♯, and then to G). Next, we’ll move a half-step to A♭ (i.e., from G to A♭). Then, another whole-step from A♭ to B♭ (i.e., A♭ to A, and then to B♭). And then another whole-step to C to repeat the cycle (i.e., from B♭ to B, and then to C).
So, there you have it! That’s how you find the C minor scale by using the minor scale formula. And trust me, while it may seem confusing, once you use the formula 5 or 10 times, you will begin to memorize the keys in the C minor scale.
Keep at it long enough and you’ll know the C minor scale by heart. This can definitely come in handy if you’re wanting to improv without using a reference chart or without taking the time to go through the aforementioned formula.
Benefits of Learning the C Minor Scale
There are many reasons as to why learning the C minor scale could benefit you as a pianist. As mentioned before, knowing the C minor scale by heart will allow you to more easily improvise on the piano as you’ll already know which keys are available to press within the key of C minor.
Not only can it help you to improvise on the fly, but it can also greatly help you to create new melodies and songs. Now, while there’s surely nothing stopping you from having a piano scales chart handy or by having this blog post up so you can reference the C minor scale chart at the top of the page, the reality is that this isn’t always practical.
This is to say that in some instances, it may be more practical and convenient for you to have just memorized the C minor scale as you may not have your computer, phone, or downloaded scales chart near you.
Knowing a particular piano scale will make creating new melodies and songs easier because you will know which keys you can press, keys that are ostensibly guaranteed to sound beautiful when played in unique patterns or chords because they all belong to the key signature of C minor.
Another great benefit of learning the C minor scale is that it can make it much easier to learn and play songs from sheet music that are in the key of C minor. When you know the keys in the scale, then you can have a better understanding as to why the composer made certain decisions by putting certain chords here or certain note patterns there. In short, it allows you to tap into the mind of the pianist who used the C minor scale to create their song.
The C minor scale is a beautiful piano scale which is often used to make songs that are considered “deep” or “emotional.” The keys included in the C minor scale are C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, and B♭.
To find these particular keys, we need only use the minor scale formula, which is W-H-W-W-H-W-W. Starting at C (in any octave), we can easily find each key in the C minor scale by navigating through various whole- and half-steps, respectively.
There are many benefits to learning the C minor scale, such as improving your ability to improvise, making it easier to create new melodies and songs, as well as improving your ability to read and play from sheet music.
With that said, I hope this article has helped you along your piano journey! Feel free to check out all of my other free resources in the blog section of this site. Additionally, if you’re ready to start learning how to play the piano once and for all, then you should also check out my online piano course.