Understanding Minor Key Chords

No matter if you’re playing soulful ballads or rock anthems, understanding minor key chords will enhance your music. Rocksmith+ features several songs which highlight different sounds available through minor chord progressions.

Each major key has a relative minor key that you can find by counting back three half steps, for instance C major’s relative minor is A.


Key is an instrument-specific way of conveying to musicians which notes are sharp (one half step higher in pitch) and which ones are flat (one half step lower in pitch). Knowing the key of a song allows you to play it on any instrument as well as create chord progressions that fit its mood.

Songs typically are written in one of two major keys; however, many songs can also be performed in minor keys. The difference lies in the third scale degree; in major keys this usually corresponds to key tone chords starting on this note; while minor keys use flattened (lowered) tone that alters chord sound significantly.

Diatonic chords in any minor key are composed from notes found within its natural minor scale; for example, A minor’s diatonic iv and vi chords consist of D-F-A and A-C-E notes respectively.

As the v chord is built on a lower scale degree, its tension differs significantly from that of i and iv chords. Played using only left hand, initially playing this chord can often cause some confusion but once understood how minor keys work it becomes much simpler to incorporate this chord into progressions.

Minor keys feature different patterns of flats and sharps than major keys do, so when learning chord construction in minor keys it is essential that you pay close attention to how black and white piano keys appear on your keyboard or piano simulator.

If you are new to functional harmony, begin your studies with lessons on harmonizing major scales and creating major key chord progressions. When comfortable, move on to creating and understanding minor key chords.


A key is an arrangement of notes played together. Music can be broken down into 12 major and 12 minor keys; each major key has an associated minor key that shares its pitch or note (known as key tone) which forms the basis for chord progressions.

Nearly all music is composed in some kind of key. A key tells a musician what chord triads to play, as well as which intervals should exist between chords, as well as whether notes should be “sharp” (half step higher in pitch) or “flat”. For instance, music written in major keys often features dominant chords while pieces written using minor keys typically utilize mostly minor ones.

There are three different minor scales, natural, harmonic and melodic. Each has a distinctive sound; therefore it is essential for musicians to know which scale they are playing in so that they can select appropriate chords for use during performances.

Let’s consider, for instance, the key of A minor. This key features chords derived from the natural minor scale and has an A minor tonic; thus its first chord will typically be major C chord and its third chord a minor D chord. Aside from its primary tonic note (A minor), A minor also offers G sharp as an alternate tone; although modern musical styles rarely utilize its use.

Minor key chords can be created using either the natural or harmonic minor scale, each producing different results. Harmonic minor chords can be created by layering diatonic thirds atop each other while chords derived from natural minor scale have more traditional tones.

One of the most common minor key progressions is descending E minor to D minor pattern. It can be heard across a variety of genres of music and works well both slow and fast songs; often used in ballads, folk songs, and rock music as it creates both an interesting bass line and moving melody.


Triad chords consist of three notes – the root note, third and fifth notes – joined together with no interval between. Triads come in various varieties such as minor, major and diminished chords that may also be open or closed. Every type of triad has its own sound but all have the same basic structure. To identify its quality you can count the half-tones or semitones between its root note and each note on it – for instance the distance between G and B gives this chord the quality of major chord.

Quality of triads can be assessed based on the notes that comprise its third and fifth. A major triad has a major third with a perfect fifth while minor ones feature minor thirds with diminished fifths. To identify your playing triads quickly and accurately, either simply listen or use the method of enharmonic equivalence by respellling chords with their original names, respelliing, and listening again is useful.

Another method for identifying triads is by studying their bass lines, and noting what intervals can be heard between their basses and chord peaks. A diminished triad is defined by minor second and diminished fifth intervals while one featuring major seconds and perfect fifths will constitute a major triad.

Just as major key chords have their own distinct sound, so too do those of a minor key have their own distinct sounds. Most songwriters who write in minor keys tend to go beyond the natural minor scale for more variation and sonority when writing songs in minor keys; two popular choices being the iim7 chord and V to i chord; while many guitarists appreciate its sour quality while some prefer its uplifted quality more than its bitterness.

If you want to change the sound of one of these chords, inversion can help by shifting either its middle note up an octave or by altering its root note triad – creating a new chord which sounds slightly different yet familiar; This technique has been utilized by The Human League when creating their signature “sourness” of their iio and iv chords.

V to i

As a composer, you must possess an arsenal of chord progressions at your disposal. While major key progressions tend to be better-known, minor key chords offer plenty of unique possibilities that range from soothing (George Gershwin’s “Summertime”) to lively (The Commodores’ “Brick House”).

To understand how chords work, you need a little music theory knowledge. One key point to keep in mind is that minor scales use different notes than major ones but still utilize semitone steps – for instance a major key uses C, D, E, F G A as its semitone steps while minor keys utilize A B C D E instead.

Recognizing these basic rules will enable you to get acquainted with each key, then combine the notes into various chord progressions – this process is known as tonality, and its influence can depend on context: for example, depending on whether notes are played together as minor or major chords, their tonality could shift drastically.

Chords written in a minor key have an emotional effect that goes far beyond being simply notes: this is why so many artists utilize minor key chords when writing songs.

A key’s V to i relationship is further strengthened by its parallel relationship to its relative minor, in this instance being C as tonic and A as relative minor for C keys.

Addicing minor key chords can add a unique edge to V-i sequences that is extremely effective, as is seen often in classical music and jazz; you’ll even find this technique used by modern pop and rock acts such as The Human League in their 1981 hit song, “Don’t You Want Me”.

One way to strengthen a V-i progression is by switching it into a major triad or dominant 7th chord, which can be accomplished by raising the third of your minor V chord by half a step and giving it more satisfying resolution back into tonic chords. This strategy is widely used in classical music to give transitions between major and minor keys an aura of continuity and fluidity.