A song in a major key is likely composed using happy, upbeat chords with dominant tones that tend to come to rest on major chords; conversely if the tone seems downbeat or saddening it could be in a minor key.
Music written in a minor key utilizes notes that follow a distinct sequence than those found in major scale, giving the song its unique and emotionally intense quality.
The I chord
Minor chord progressions can create a sad, melancholy or menacing atmosphere in music, as they draw upon chords rooted in minor scale which sound different than their major counterparts. Understanding minor key chords is critical, yet so is understanding how they should be integrated into a progression that uses them effectively.
A chord progression is a set of chords played together in order to evoke an emotion or mood. While variations exist, certain patterns are visible across songs – for instance the IV VI progression often found in popular songs because these chords provide both resolution and tension at once.
While typically used in minor keys, this progression can be used across any genre of music. A perfect example of its use would be in Gotye’s “Someone That I Used To Know”, where its opening features both major and minor chords to create an interesting dynamic between major and minor chords that works great when writing minor key songs.
To create a minor iv – vi chord progression, first identify the root notes of the minor scale. While there are various kinds of minor scales available to you, natural minor is one of the most frequently employed ones; it doesn’t contain sharps or flats and uses notes A through G to form its scale.
Once you understand the root notes of the minor scale, it’s time to compose chords using this scale. Starting off is always with an i chord – always minor in a minor key – followed by a V chord in which is also always minor; adding major 7 to an i chord creates the dominant of this minor scale and creates tension due to being inversions with dissonant intervals between them.
The V chord
The V chord, commonly referred to as the dominant, is an essential component of any song. It can often be found in popular tunes that feature key changes from major-to-minor; however, even minor-to-major key transitions can take advantage of a good V chord progression for added tension or resolution in songs with minor keys.
The minor viii chord is another popular chord found in minor-key music. Similar to its counterpart, the minor iio, it features its own distinct sound that adds depth and emotion to songs. Furthermore, this chord may often follow another V7 chord so understanding its intervals between these types is key for successful songwriting.
An alternative way of creating cadences that work well in minor keys is the iio-V-i cadence. This technique may work less frequently due to its need to raise the leading tone when used with minor key instruments – otherwise the chord will sound too flat and cause dissonances within it.
One interesting variation on the classic iv-V progression is bVII-V-i progression, typically used to add drama or create more upbeat soundscapes, especially popular among blues and rock music. Although not found within natural minor scales, harmonic minor scales make bVII chord easily found, since its notes form part of it.
Minor-key chord progressions offer numerous possibilities to songwriters, and every musician should explore them. From soothing (George Gershwin’s “Summertime”) to funky (“Brick House” by the Commodores), or upbeat rocking (“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits), minor-key progressions should become part of every musician’s toolbox; hopefully this guide can help you use them more effectively when writing. Happy writing!
The IV chord
If you’re a songwriter looking to keep their songs on a minor tone, pay special attention to the IV chord – like its counterparts the i and V chords, it can either major or minor and must be recognized for this reason alone! Doing so gives you an option of resolving into vi chord of relative major key before returning back into minor key progression.
The IV chord is an integral component of minor key songs, though its tone differs significantly from that of its tonic chord: instead of being F, it usually falls on Gm or F#dim because in minor keys scale steps are reduced by half-steps compared with major keys.
So why is this happening? There are various explanations, some pertaining to an accidental of the harmonic minor scale (or its third mode in melodic minor) while another suggests modulation as being responsible. Whatever its source may be, knowing about this chord is helpful when writing minor songs.
This chord also works well in longer minor-key progressions, like the descending i-bVII-bVI sequence in “Stray Cat Strut.” Another great way to utilize this chord is playing it together with a major chord from its relative major key; this creates a bright, unexpected sound within a minor song.
You can hear this move in many popular songs, from the Beatles’ Revolution and Hotel California to Trey Anastasio of Phish and Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger – each band used this move regularly in their songs.
You’ll find this move in almost all styles of music – from rock to pop and jazz – but especially popular in ballads and slow songs, where it adds drama. A common chord progression for both minor and major keys, but especially effective for minor songs. Even popular jazz forms like Rhythm Changes use this progression based off George Gershwin’s tune I Got Rhythm as inspiration!
The V7 chord
Minor key seventh chords resemble major chords in some ways, yet are distinct in others. First of all, in order to use all notes from the minor scale and avoid major thirds altogether, V7 must utilize all notes found within it and not root on any leading tones as this would create dissonant intervals with the tonic of the key; minor scales use natural minor modes whereas major scales utilize harmonic minor modes.
Happily, this means you can still create all your favorite chord shapes from the major scale in a minor key – just raise the seventh of an iv chord up half-step so it has the same effect as major V7 in minor key. This seventh chord is called viio and can be seen below in C minor.
Seventh chords can be constructed on any note in the minor scale, and most will contain both a major triad and minor seventh. Chords built upon do and fa (1 and 4) typically contain minor triads while those constructed around sol and ti have major ones; occasionally you might come across one with raised leading tone that features both minor triads and diminished sevenths; this kind of seventh chord often used as part of an Ii-V-I turnaround, and sometimes known by its name “James Bond chord”.
Another method for creating a dominant seventh chord in minor is using a “vii dim 7 chord,” an unusual chord without a root note that’s often less-than-common among musicians but useful when shifting from fourth to first inversions.
Finally, you can create a minor major seventh chord by raising the third of a minor iv chord. This creates an extremely dynamic sound which can add dramatic tension or resolution in an instant!