Chords in a Minor

Chords in a Minor

Chords in a Minor


How did you learn the chords to a song that you’ve loved for years? If you’re like me, you memorized them. And then, inevitably, when that song came up yesterday in your practice time, the ones you knew were gone from your head and you weren’t able to play.


The chords from a scale are strictly related with the notes on a scale; an A minor scale is made by the notes A B C D E F G (see our previous lesson on that, linked above). The chords associated with the A minor scale are A minor, B diminished, C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major. In other words, every note in the scale is associated with a chord.

As you can see, some of the chord numerals, on the first row of the table, have a flat sign in front. In particular, the 3rd, 6th, and 7th chords are marked with the flat sign. Why is that? Well, to understand it you have to know that everything in music theory is written in respect to the major scale, not the minor scale. Let me explain this with an example. Here are the notes for the C major and C minor scale: (Source: www.musictheoryforguitar.com)


As you see, the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes in the minor scale are “flatted” respect to the major scale. The chords symbols just refer to this fact, warning us that their root notes are lower than what we would expect from a major scale. In other words, with the symbol III we would indicate an E major chord, so we need to specify the flat in front of it as bIII to indicate the Eb chord.

The chord progression we just found is a bit difficult to play on the guitar, due to the fact that all these chords are bar chords. We can make it simpler by keeping the same numbers but using a different key. The same progression (i bVII bIII v) in the key of Am becomes Am G C Em, which is way easier to play. One of the important principles in music theory is that as long as the numbers of the chords are the same, you can change key and the progression will sound the same, just higher or lower in pitch. (Source: www.musictheoryforguitar.com)


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