How to Play an A Minor Chord on the Piano
One of the fastest ways to bring depth to a piece in a major key is to introduce minor chords. A minor is a common chord used in music, as the three notes that make up the root triad are found in many major and minor scales.
The scale that is used for a piece of music, called the key, determines which notes and chords sound like they belong in the piece. The A minor chord is one of the most versatile, and it is also easy to learn. You can check out other piano chords for you to fully understand everything.
Listen to Music in A Minor
You’ll frequently hear A minor in many popular songs because it creates a provocative tone.
Popular songs that use A Minor include Fallin’ by Alicia Keys, House of the Rising Sun by The Animals, and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin . Listening to these songs will help you feel how A minor affects a melody with its bluesy undertones.
When you’ve heard what A minor sounds like, it will be easier to learn how to play the root chord and the variants available.
How to Play an A Minor Chord
The root chord of A minor (shown as Am on music tabs) uses the notes A, C, and E .
The scale of A minor has eight notes in it. The notes used in the root chord are called a triad, and will always be the first, third, and fifth note of any scale. Other notes can be added for more complex variations, but for now, let’s look at how to play the root triad.
Find your root note, the A, on your keyboard. This key is the second white key between the set of three black keys.
Your thumb anchors the chord, sitting on the A key. From here, you build on the triad with the rest of your hand.
Right-Hand Middle Finger
Put your middle finger on the second note in the chord, which is the C. This key is always found to the immediate left of the set of two black keys.
The easiest way to find it is to miss one white key from your thumb, then place your middle finger on the next white key.
Right-Hand Little Finger
The final note in the root triad is E, which is found exactly the same way as you located the C. Skip one white key, then place your little finger on the next white key to play the third note in the triad.
Using Your Left Hand
You will need to learn the chord left-handed, too, for the lower piano octaves.
Find the root note, the A, and place your left little finger on it. Your middle finger is on the same key, the C, as your right hand would be. Finally, place your thumb on the fifth note, the E.
Once you’re comfortable finding the root chord of Am, try some variations and listen to how this changes the chord sound .
A first inversion, for example, puts the notes in the order C, E, A. The A on the top end of the chord, instead of the lowest end, can bring a brightness to the sound.
The second inversion is played in the order E, A, C, which again brings a subtle change to how the chord sounds.
Diminished A Minor Chord
The diminished chord is the most simple variation to try after you’ve learned the A minor inversions.
For a diminished chord, you need to lower the third and fifth note by one semitone, or a half step. In the A minor chord, that means your A, C, and E becomes A, B, and D#.
You may think that the B isn’t right, but there are no halftones between B and C. A B# and a C-flat are both, actually, a B. So, while you might want to find a B#, your third note in this chord is B.
It sounds strange at first, as it is totally a very unstable chord. The A and B notes next to each other are discordant. That’s why a diminished minor chord is often used in modern music to create high tension, such as to the soundtrack of a horror film.
You can also create a diminished seventh chord. This builds on the original diminished triad of A, B, and D#, and adds the flattened seventh note of the A minor scale.
In A minor, the seventh note is normally a G. In the A minor diminished seventh chord this would be lowered half a step to F#. So, the full diminished chord is comprised of A, B, D#, and F#.
There are more advanced chord variations that you can learn as you become more confident with your playing.
These could include:
- Augmented chords
- Suspended 2 and suspended 4 chords
- 6th, 11th, and 13th chords
Many of these will come naturally once you discover how A minor fits in with other keys.
Finding A Minor in Other Keys
You’ll quickly notice that the Am chord is found in several other keys, including majors. In C major, for example, it is the 6th chord (VI) and in G major it is the second (II).
C major is known at the relative major chord of A minor. Every major scale has a minor relative. There are three different types, but for now let’s look at the standard minor: the sixth note.
A major scale has eight notes over one octave. To find the relative minor, all you need to do is find the sixth note of that scale. In C major, the sixth note is A.
Using Music Theory to Advance Your Playing
When you know your relative major and minor chords, it becomes easier to see how a piece of music is constructed. A piece in a major key, for example, can still use minor chords to add drama without the need to change the overall key.
Study how the A minor chord fits in with other scales as you play piano and you’ll soon learn how to compose your own music with natural chord progressions. Now here is the C minor chord.