Learn How to Play Minor Chords on Keyboard

minor chords on keyboard

No matter your level of experience in playing piano, mastering minor chords is key to creating rich music that conveys depth and emotion.

Minor chords can be created by taking a major chord and shifting its third note by one key or semi-tone – this applies across every major scale.

Natural Minor

Natural minor is the most ubiquitous of minor chords and scales, as well as one of the most melodic modes. Also referred to as subtonic mode, its ascending and descending scales mirror those found in major scales in bass clef. However, scale degree 7 drops by one tone when ascending (unlike harmonic minor which raises it).

It makes it much simpler to resolve to the tonic, giving a much more “natural” sounding progression. Additionally, this scale can also be found used with iv and vii chords as well as more uncommon ones such as the iio6 chord.

Minor pentatonic is often taught using solfege syllables similar to major scales – do, re, mi, fa, la. This system, sometimes referred to as la-based minor scale, can be an excellent way for beginners to learn scales and keys; however, to make use of this scale most effectively requires having both melodic and harmonic minor under one’s command.

Melodic Minor

Melodic Minor is one of the more frequently employed minor scales in jazz, featuring both major and minor tones for an eerie yet melancholic sound owing to chord voicings that arise (see diagram).

This scale can be used to form minor chords with major sixths and dominant seventh chords as well as creating melodies moving through the tonic minor scale (as illustrated above).

Another intriguing use for melodic minor scale is its ability to produce a Lydian sound when used over dominant chords. To accomplish this effect, utilize its fourth mode and play it over either a dominant 7th chord (or sus chord), similar to how Lydian works over major keys but with a different flavor; this can help bring out more eastern musical vibes in your music.


Minor key chords use dominant triads as resolution chords for most cadences; authentic cadences end with dominant chords while less conclusive cadences typically use plagal progression (iv-v-i).

Chords constructed on scale degrees 2 or 4–iio(7) and IV(7) in major keys and iv(7) and iio(7) in minor keys–have a tendency towards pitching of the dominant triad, making them useful tools for mediating between tonic and dominant harmony harmonies. Such chords are commonly known as predominant chords.

Franz Schubert’s “Herzlich tut mich verlangen” contains an intriguing G-major triad in measure 2, composed by combining elements of the Phrygian Dominant scale. Assuming it serves as an effective predominant chord, isolate each boxed sonority for tonic and dominant functions before assigning them into each voice according to voice-leading conventions.


Suspensions are non-chord tones which accent strong beats and resolve downward by one step, often tied backwards to the preparation note of their preceding chord.

Suspended minor chords are those in which their third (sus3) has been replaced with either the 2nd (sus2) or 4th (sus4) interval from its root note, thereby deviating from both major and minor harmonic structures. Sus chords tend to resolve up into either major or minor triads that share their root note as their roots.

Classical counterpoint refers to this kind of suspension as retardation; dissonant suspension is held over from its previous sonority before finally giving way to consonance. But in modern music we frequently encounter suspended chords simply for their unique sound – for instance Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy features an opening chord progression featuring G sus 4 to G that emphasizes space lyrically; an excellent example of how subtle variations in chord progressions can create emotion in songs.