An Introduction to the D Sharp Minor

What do Kanye West’s “Power” and Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along The Watchtower” have in common? No, this isn’t a trick question or some sort of zen koan.

Apart from both being empowering anthems to the people, both songs are in the key of D sharp minor.

What does that mean, exactly? Let’s find out all about this deep, dark, and disturbing key signature.

Intro To D Sharp Minor

D Sharp minor is the relative minor scale of F# major. That means it’s in the Aeolian Mode, with a flatted third, sixth, and seventh.

Let’s start off by looking at the D Sharp minor scale to see how this manifests.

The D Sharp Minor Scale

To start, let’s look at the regular D Sharp major scale. Then we’ll look at how D Sharp minor differs from the major mode.

The D Sharp Major Scale is:

D# – E# (F) – F## (G) – G# – A# – B# – C## (D) – D#

As you can see, D# minor is kind of a funky one. It has six sharps, including two double sharps. This is largely due to its enharmonic equivalency as Eb minor. The fact that D Sharp minor has two names, in addition to a staggering six sharps, can lead to a fair share of confusion [1].

Don’t worry, we’re here to cut through the mystery of this convoluted key signature. Remember, we mentioned that, as a minor key, D Sharp minor falls under the umbrella of the Aeolian Mode.

The Aeolian Mode is a major scale but with the third, sixth, and seventh flatted. That means the D Sharp Minor scale looks like:

D# – E# (F) – F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D#

We know, that’s a lot of sharps to keep track of. Just to help you keep track, let’s look at the scale using the enharmonic equivalencies.

E Flat Minor Scale:

Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb (B) – Db – Eb

Hopefully, that should make things a little less confusing for you. There’s only one unusual flat signature in E Flat minor (Cb, or B). Try and do the mental transposition if you find yourself getting lost or confused when playing or reading in D Sharp minor.

Just for the sake of completion, let’s take a look at some of the other variations of D Sharp minor. We’ll mostly be focusing on D Sharp natural minor but there are other variations you may run across that are worth mentioning.

D Sharp Melodic minor (flatted 3rd, flatted 6th):

D# – E# (F) – F# – G# – A# – B – C## (D) – D#

D Sharp Melodic minor ascending (flatted 3rd):

D# – E# (F) – F# – G# – A# – B – C## (D) – D#

D Sharp Melodic minor descending (flatted 3rd, flatted 6th, flatted 7th):

D# – E# (F) – F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D#

Now that we have a firmer grasp of the D# minor scale, let’s take a look at the chords that can be derived from it.

D Sharp Minor chords

The basic chords from any given key signature are built around a triad. That means the root, third, and fifth, with the root note (generally) being the lowest note in the chord.

The common chord progressions of minor scales are minor – diminished – major – minor – minor – major – major

The basic chords of the D Sharp minor scale are:

I – D# minor

II – E# diminished

III – F# major

IV – G# minor

V – A# minor

VI – B major

VII – C# major

In addition, sometimes chords have an additional note, a third above the fifth, to create more complex ‘jazz chords’.

In the case of D# minor, that looks like:

I – D# minor7

II – E# diminished flat five

III – F# major7

IV – G# minor7

V – A# minor7

VI – B major7

VII – C# major7

Why D Sharp Minor?

With the beguiling, head-spinning complexity of having six sharps in its key signature, D Sharp minor is one of the rarest key signatures in Western music. It’s almost unseen in pop and jazz music, and not much more prevalent in classical music.

However, a brief listen to Bach’s Fugue In D Sharp Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier reveals the magic and mystery of this under-utilized key signature [2].

In Christian Schubart’s influential text on music theory Towards An Aesthetic Of Music, the German author describes the emotional affect, or experience, of D Sharp minor as ‘feelings of the soul’s deepest distress.’ He also describes the sensation as ‘brooding despair,’ or ‘the most gloomy condition of the soul.’

While we’re not entirely sure Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” or Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” are speaking for ‘the approximation of ghosts speaking,’ if you’re looking for a key signature to express confusion, alienation, or other such shadowy sensations, D Sharp minor will give voice to the shades and specters of your heart and soul.

Songs In The Key Of D Sharp Minor

There is nothing more motivating to learning music than playing a song that you love. Some popular songs in the key of D Sharp minor include:

  • Imagine Dragons “Demons”
  • David Guetta “Titanium”
  • Coldplay “Fix You”
  • Band Of Horses “The Funeral”
  • Elton John “Your Song”
  • Amy Winehouse “Valerie”
  • Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing”
  • Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams”

While they might all look and sound quite different, on the surface level, spend a moment with any of these tracks and you will notice a plaintive, yearning, dare we say haunting quality.

This is the heart and soul of D Sharp minor. Learn to harness it to express your own longing, questing, pain, and confusion.

Ready To Incorporate D Sharp Minor?

Good for you! Complicated key signatures and chord voicings can be tricky to learn and memorize. They’ll make your musical vocabulary infinitely richer, deeper, and more complex, however.

Once you’ve mastered D Sharp minor, come back and browse the rest of our blog! We’ve got tips, tricks, and tutorials for nearly every instrument in every key signature. And for more min0r information here are the C sharp minor scale and G sharp minor.

Stephanie Su
 

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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