Using “Old King Cole” and “Greensleeves” as Exemplars for an Inductive Approach to Teaching the Harmonic and Melodic Forms of the Minor Scale

Author(s): 
Paula Telesco
Year: 
2019
Material: 
Abstract: 

Teaching minor scales is more complicated than teaching major scales, and students invariably have more difficulty with them. I offer an approach using several versions of “Old King Cole” and “Greensleeves” to demonstrate the inherent richness of minor keys, and the generation of the resulting three minor scale forms (natural, harmonic, and melodic). 

This approach helps clear up a common misconception among students—that there are three minor keys for every pitch (e.g., a key of G natural minor, a key of G harmonic minor, and a key of G melodic minor), and demonstrates instead that a minor key includes nine discrete pitches (or seven diatonic pitches, with two chromatic alternatives). This further leads to an understanding of how and when those diatonic or chromatic alternative notes are used in context, and why minor keys contain both a minor and a major v/V chord, something that often perplexes students. 

This approach can be used with music majors or non-majors in anelective general-education class. It can be modified by instructors to accommodate students with either weaker or stronger backgrounds.