Minor scales are an effective tool for crafting moody and brooding music. They also lend a song an intense emotional feel, often found in pieces dealing with sadness or grief.
When learning how to play minor chords, it’s essential that you grasp the fundamental principles of minor chord progressions. Once you understand these foundational concepts, creating beautiful and effective chord progressions should become second nature!
1. The I chord
The I chord is popular across a number of music genres, particularly R&B and jazz. It adds an edge and intensity to songs while being equally at home in funk songs, pop songs, and rock tunes.
The I chord can be found in several scales. It may be derived from either a major or minor scale, or it can be created using relative minor chords.
Relative minor chords are chords that contain the same scale notes as a major key, but in a different order and context. In some cases, these minor chords can serve both tonic and dominant functions; these are commonly the brooding, gloomy, and sad minor progressions found in sad songs.
Three types of minor scales exist: natural, harmonic and melodic. Each minor scale is composed with its own set of notes to produce its distinctive sound.
Minor keys tend to emphasize tension, dissonance and melancholy feelings more than major keys do. This is because minor scales have a characteristic minor third interval away from their root, giving them an eerie vibe.
The leading tone is another important element in creating minor chords. This note sits a half step above the tonic, creating an inherent pull back towards its origin as the song ascends in pitch.
Natural minor scales lack a leading tone, but harmonic and melodic minor scales do. Harmonic minor uses the same scale as natural minor, but raises the seventh degree to create an exotic third interval between sixth and seventh degrees.
2. The IV chord
Some of today’s greatest artists use minor chords to craft powerful and poignant songs. Think of classic hits like Johnny Cash’s Back to Black, Amy Winehouse’s Hurt or Green Day’s Smells Like Teen Spirit – these artists are unafraid to express heartache, despair, frustration and anger through their music.
Music theory often relies on the IV chord as a starting point when determining which chords sound best in any key. This is because the fourth scale step can either be major or minor depending on which key you’re playing in.
Generally speaking, the most prevalent IV chord in pop and rock music is built upon the root note of a minor scale. That explains why chords based on D (dim) are so prevalent when playing D minor music.
There are other ways to construct the IV chord, especially when in a major key. For instance, Green Day’s iconic “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” contains an iconic IV in F minor that utilizes the Bb major chord from within the F major scale.
To master the IV chord, begin by practicing with whole notes – C, F, G and then back to C.
Once you’ve mastered this, try playing chords like D, G and A minor. Additionally, add a fifth or seventh to the progression if it is in a different mode than what you are currently using.
Practice makes perfect, and as you become more proficient, you’ll notice this chord sounds great in nearly all songs – even those without it! It’s an excellent way to make your music stand out from the rest!
3. The V chord
The V chord is one of the most widespread minor scale chords, appearing in various songs. Generally associated with neoclassicism, it can also be heard in pop songs as part of V-i and V7 progressions.
Utilizing the V chord in your songs can give them a distinct sound and make them stand out from other compositions. It is also an effective way to build strong resolutions from the tonic chord.
Another important note about V chords is that they can also be played with either a root located one whole step below the I chord (bVII), or one half step above it (bIII). Combining these sounds will create more complex and thrilling songs!
However, it’s essential to be aware that both sounds are distinct. The bVII chord has a more dominant tone while the bIII one has a subdominant quality.
It is essential to remember that a V chord can also be played with a leading tone, which usually falls at the seventh degree of the key. Usually, this tone is half a step below the tonic but may occur a full step away from it.
It is essential to learn how to play a V chord in various keys and how it differs from other major chords. Doing so will enable you to craft songs that are more captivating and distinctive while remaining accessible on the guitar.
Learning how to incorporate the V chord into your songs requires familiarizing yourself with the formula for a minor scale. This formula is straightforward and can be easily mastered even by those just starting out on guitar.
4. The VI chord
The VI chord, also referred to as a minor sixth or augmented sixth, has many uses in jazz and other types of music. It consists of three minor triads with an added tone above the root – usually either a major sixth or perfect fifth – for added harmonic interest.
This augmented sixth above the bass note can resolve to either the dominant or subdominant (the second position in a minor key progression), depending on how it is used. It may also resolve to the tonic note of that key.
When creating a minor chord progression, it’s essential to comprehend the minor scales and their relation to one another. Doing this will allow you to craft melodies that sound organic rather than artificially constructed.
As previously discussed, minor scales come in two varieties: natural minor and melodic minor. No matter which one you select, they share certain similarities and will produce the same basic set of chords.
However, they have some distinctions that can make them more challenging to use when composing. For instance, natural minor does not feature a leading tone, so you cannot build a progression using the lead tones of notes within the scale.
To solve this issue, you can replace the lead tones of notes within a scale with similar notes in its relative minor key. For instance, E major contains D# as its lead tone; this corresponds to D# in E’s relative minor key of D.
You can also combine these chords with other chords. For instance, V and VII chords could be combined with bVII and bIII to form a more complex i-bVI-bVI-bVII progression.
One of the most famous and beloved i-bVII-i-bVII sequences can be heard in songs such as Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” or “Ain’t No Sunshine.” While i-bVII-i has a melancholy quality, the i-bVI-i-bVII is brighter and more upbeat – it’s easy to understand why these combinations are so popular in minor key songs.
5. The VII chord
The VII chord is a minor triad with its 7th interval above the root. This chord occurs naturally in both major and minor scales, and its dissonant nature allows it to create more dissonant sounds within a progression.
The dominant seventh chord is the most frequent type of seventh chord, composed of a major triad and minor seventh. This key feature of the major scale can often be heard in popular music.
Another type of seventh chord is the diminished seventh, composed of a diminished triad and minor seventh. This chord can be used for highly expressive passages in jazz music, especially.
It is essential to be aware that a diminished seventh can only be formed on the seventh scale degree of a major scale and the second scale degree of a natural minor scale. This is because a diminished triad has two tritones, making it even more dissonant than its dominant counterpart.
A half-diminished seventh, on the other hand, is composed by pairing a diminished triad with a minor seventh. These chords are commonly referred to as minor-seventh-flat-five chords and can often be heard in jazz music.
Begin your exploration of seventh chords by playing some examples in a progression and seeing how they feel to you. They may seem challenging at first, but with practice comes confidence as you create and perform your own chord progressions.
The diminished seventh is an effective chord for conveying doom, tension and fear. It also serves to create passing chords and adds an interesting layer to a progression.