You’re getting two for the price of one in this guitar lesson as we look at both the minor Neapolitan scale and the major Neapolitan scale. This is a continuation of our scale world tour which has included the Hindu scale, the Hungarian minor scale and the Hirajoshi scale. Those are all interesting and great sounding scales but I have a couple of special scales for you today. Are you looking to expand your scale vocabulary? Are you looking to diversify your sound and make your music more interesting? If so, this is definitely the guitar lesson for you. We will look at how both of these scales are made as well as the modes of both scales and some of the chords that are built with them. Let’s get started.
Minor Neapolitan scale
We will start this two-part guitar lesson with the minor Neapolitan scale. The minor Neapolitan scale is very easy to both build and understand. You could think of it as exactly the same as the harmonic minor scale, but with the second degree of the scale lowered by a semitone. Or, you could think of it as the same as the natural minor scale with both a lowered secund degree and a raised seventh degree.
Let’s take a look at an example. Here are the notes of the A minor Neapolitan scale.
A Bb C D E F G#
Compare this to the notes of the A natural minor scale (ABCDEFG) and the notes of the A harmonic minor scale (ABCDEFG#). As you can see, there isn’t a great deal of difference and like both the natural minor scale and the harmonic minor scale, you have a bunch of modes to learn.
Modes of the minor Neapolitan scale
In this section, you will see all seven modes of the minor Neapolitan scale and in addition to this, you’ll see a full map of the scale how it appears on the guitar fretboard (all the modes merged together). The full map is an example in the key of A and the first mode starts at fret five. The second mode starts at fret six. See if you can figure out where the other modes fit.
The modes are the same in any key. It’s only their location on the fretboard that changes. For example, if you wanted to play the first mode of the minor Neapolitan scale in B, you’d start your first mode at fret seven instead of fret five.
Here are the images of the modes.
Modes merged together into one map
Here is the full minor Neapolitan scale map that I talked about earlier (in A).
Chords of the minor Neapolitan scale
Next, we are going to take things to the next level. We’ve learned the notes and modes of the minor Neapolitan scale and now we’re going to learn the chords that are built with the scale. You can use these chords to build minor Neapolitan scale chord progressions.
Here are the three note chords that are made with the minor Neapolitan scale. Examples in A.
A minor / B flat major / C augmented / D minor / E augmented / F major / G sharp augmented
Naturally, we have one chord per degree of the scale but there is something interesting. Kind of a fun fact that’s worth knowing. So, the C augmented, the E augmented and the G sharp augmented chords are actually the same thing. Interesting right? Take a look at the notes of those three chords.
C augmented – C E G#
E augmented – E G# C
G# augmented = G# C E
Can you make some cool and interesting chord progressions with the chords of the minor Neapolitan scale? Give it a try and see what you can come up with.
You can obviously continue to develop this by creating the seventh chords. An example of this would be the first chord (A minor) turning into an A minor major 7th chord but what we have above is enough to get you started.
Major Neapolitan scale
Next, we shall look at the major Neapolitan scale. This is also a simple scale to understand but there is something that you should know before we look at the building blocks and that’s the small fact that the major Neapolitan scale isn’t actually major…
More on that in a moment but for now, let’s look at how we build the scale. The easiest way to learn how to build this scale is by using the minor version we learned above as a reference.
The major Neapolitan scale is exactly the same as the minor version but with one different note and no, it’s not the third that gets changed. It’s the sixth. We simply raise the sixth by a semitone. This means that the notes of the A major Neapolitan scale are this.
A Bb C D E F# G#
The scale is called major but it isn’t really major due to that minor third. The name comes from the raised sixth… Just go with it. I’m aware that it’s stupid.
As you would expect, just one note alteration has provided us with a whole bunch of new modes. Let’s take a look at those next.
Modes of the major Neapolitan scale
Just like we did with the previous scale, next, you’ll see the seven modes of the major Neapolitan scale as well as a full map of the scale. Here are the seven modes. Once again, the first mode starts with the A note on the fifth fret on the low E string. Another tip. With both of these scales, the seventh mode can be played starting at the fourth fret on the low E string (the G# note).
Modes merged together into one map
Here is the full map of the major Neapolitan scale (example in A). Find where each of the above modes lives on the fretboard using the map and remember, the mode shapes stay the same no matter what key you’re in but when you change key, the mode locations change.
That concludes the mode/note work for these scales today. We’re almost at the end. We just need to work on the chords for the major Neapolitan scale which we will do next. I know that some of these modes look a little confusing or complex but if you find that you really like the sound of these scales, you can learn them in the same way that you learned the natural minor scale modes for example. A little hard work never hurt anyone right?
I know that the mode images could have been a lot easier to digest but I’ve kinda made them a little harder on purpose so that you have to study more. Sorry.
Chords of the major Neapolitan scale
Just like we did with the previous scale, we are now going to take a look at the different chords that are made with the major Neapolitan scale and once again, these can be used to create chord progressions but this time, for the major Neapolitan scale instead. Here are the chords in question. Examples in A once again.
A minor / B flat augmented / C augmented / D major / E augmented / F sharp diminished / G sharp augmented
Remember in the last section where we found out that some of the chords used the exact same notes? Guess what. The same happens here too. The C augmented chord, the E augmented chord, and the G sharp augmented chords still all share the exact same notes (C E G#).
Like the previous section, we won’t go any further than this in this lesson but I gave you the first seventh chord for the minor Neapolitan so I shall do the same for the major Neapolitan. Here goes. It’s still a minor major 7 chord.
Once again, try and create some interesting chord progressions with this set of chords from the major Neapolitan scale.
That about wraps up this basic introduction to both the minor Neapolitan scale and the major Neapolitan scale. The key word there is basic. This guitar lesson introduces these scales at the fundamental level. There’s plenty more to learn about these scales if you find them interesting but this lesson is just a taster and I wanted to keep it digestible for all guitarists. Perhaps I’ll cover these two scales in more depth in the future but for now, I’m quite tired of typing the word Neapolitan.
One quick tip. When you’re working with these scales, I would try to emphasise the notes which make the scales unique as these are the notes that will make your playing the most interesting/diverse.
Now it’s over to you. Can you use either the minor Neapolitan scale or the major Neapolitan scale to make your music more interesting? Only one way to find out.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.