Theory for Producers

The White Keys and Minor Modes

Build on your knowledge of music theory by mastering the minor modes on the white keys.

45-60 Minutes
6 Sections

Created in partnership with

Welcome to the third installment of our Theory for Producers series! This series is all about unearthing the music theory hidden within popular songs — and how we can use these common musical concepts to improve our own tracks. In part one we looked at the black keys on the keyboard. In part two we explored the white keys and the major scales you can make with them. Now let's dive deeper into the white keys and the minor modes. 

By the end of this course, you'll be able to make your own grooves using four different minor scales. We’ll look at the songs of Mary J. Blige, Miles Davis, Missy Elliott, and Björk to bring these modes to life and show how you can use them to create your own great music.

This course was made in partnership with NYU's Music Experience Design Lab (MusEDLab). Visit their site to find out more about the great work they do! 

Ethan Hein

Music Technologist & Theory Nerd

Ethan Hein is an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University, and a founding member of the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, under the leadership of Alex Ruthmann. You can follow all his explorations of music theory, music education, and pop music at

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ethan hein
theory for producers: the white keys and minor modes
song analysis
natural minor

Course Outline

  1. Section 1


  2. Section 2

    "Family Affair"

  3. Section 3

    "So What?"

  4. Section 4

    "Get Ur Freak On"

  5. Section 5

    "Army of Me"

  6. Section 6



Who is this course for?

This course was created specifically with producers in mind, but it could be helpful for any musician looking for a better grasp on music theory. Students don't need to know how to read sheet music. Students should be familiar with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and should understand notes presented on a piano roll (frequently used in Ableton Live and Logic).

Are there requirements?

While you do not need to take these three courses in order, this is the third course in a three part series. If you haven't signed up for The Black Keys or The White Keys and Major Modes yet, check them out!

As with all the courses in this series, it will help if you have a basic knowledge of music production and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to follow along on.

How long does it take?

This section of the Theory for Producers series takes about an hour to get through. As with any music learning, the more time you can give to practicing the concepts you've learned, the more you'll get out of it.

What can I expect to get out of this course?

By the end of this mini-course, you'll have a solid grasp and understanding of some important minor-tonality scales, based on the white keys of the keyboard. You should be able to use the scales to make your own grooves and melodies, and potentially even identify it in songs you hear.

What's next in this series?

This is the final installment in this series, but if you're enjoying what you're learning, consider signing up for six-week Soundfly Mainstage course, Unlocking the Emotional Power of Chords, also taught by NYU's Ethan Hein!