How Chords Work in the Minor Key | Hub Guitar

How Chords Work in the Minor Key

In a previous minor scale lesson, we examined the minor scale closely. We stacked thirdThis can mean any kind of third, including major or minor. It often refers to whichever third would be normal when constrained by limits of the current key.s from the scale in order to create chords (or “harmonies”.) This process can be used to understand how harmony works in a minor key.

Unlike major keys, a minor key will not always be limited to seven notes. Historically, minor music has been richer than major music and has featured more complex and dissonantThe quality of harmonic conflict between two tones or groups of tones. The minor 2nd and the minor 9th are considered two of the most dissonant intervals in music. harmony.

Let’s start by spelling out a C minor scale. Remember that it will have a flat third, a flat sixth and a flat seventh.

The C Minor Scale

The next step is mechanical: we’ll stack each note into thirds using the pitch material from the C minor scale.

The Chords in C Natural Minor

The chords are of the same types that would occur within a major scale, but in a different order. If we’re playing a minor song using these chords, we have a problem: we’ve lost our cadenceA resolution, or feeling of finality, created by moving from a strongly tense and unstable chord, to a stable one. Usually supported by the notes in the melody as well. The most common cadence is V–I., which mostly comes from the strong sound of the V chord resolving to the tonic chordThe chord built on the first degree of the key. C major is the tonic chord in the key of C. A minor is the tonic chord in the key of A minor.. In a minor key, the V chord is a minor seventh, and when it resolves to the tonic minor chord, the sound is weak sauce. (Try it yourself!) To solve this problem, composers began raising the third note of the fifth chord. This sound is actually transplanted from the major scale. The raised note is the seventh note of the minor scale. When this note is raised, the result is called the harmonic minorA natural minor scale whose seventh degree has been raised, originally for the specific purpose of allowing the construction of a Vmaj chord in the minor key. Hence the name. scale; it is harmonic because it has been created for the purpose of a stronger harmony.

The raised seventh gives itself “permission” to be used in other areas besides the V chord; give a musician an inch and he takes a mile.

The Chords in C Harmonic Minor

New chord structures are appearing: chords that cannot be created in a major key or a natural minor key: a minor-Major7, which is a minor triad with a major seventh on top; a major7♯5, which is a major seventh chord with a raised fifth and a diminished 7th chord, which is a minor seven flat five chord with the seventh lowered again (double-flatted).

We can also raise the sixth and the seventh of the minor scale, which results in the melodic minorA natural minor scale whose sixth and seventh degrees have been raised by one-half step. Or, a major scale whose third degree has been lowered by one half step. scale. We can create new harmonies from this scale as well:

The Chords in C Melodic Minor

No new chord types emerge, but new possibilities do. Harmonies built using this scale are less common than those built using the harmonic minor.

Key Tasks

Use a pencil and paper.

  1. Identify the following chord progression in the following keys: IIm7♭5, V7, Imin
    • In Am
    • In Cm
    • In Fm

  2. In what harmonic system(s) or scales do the following chords appear? (Choices are major, minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor.)
    • Maj7 chord
    • Min7 chord
    • Dom7 chord
    • minMaj7 chord
    • min7♭5 chord
    • Dim7 chord
    • Maj7#5 chord

  3. Write out the chords that occur in the following scales:
    • A minor
    • A harmonic minor
    • A melodic minor
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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