The Ultimate Guide to Learning How to Play Minor Chords

No matter your musical education or instrument of choice, anyone can learn to play minor chords [1]. Minor chords are the companion to major chords. There are just as many minor chords as there are major chords, and they are equally as numerous within the seven chord positions of any given key.

When you start to learn piano, major and minor chords work together to form the structure of many simple songs. Even in the popular music realm, major and minor chords are the foundation of everything you hear in contemporary music [2].

Quick Review of Chord Structures: Major and Minor Triads and 7ths

Learning to play the piano is not supposed to happen overnight. Review some of the basics on chords before delving into minor chords. It’s better to know why you are doing something, rather than to blindly obey.

Major Triads

A chord is made up of three to four notes, depending on whether it is a triad or a seventh chord.

Triads are the foundation of major and minor chords. They are constructed of three notes: the root note, third interval, and another third interval.

In the key of C, a C major triad consists of the notes C, E, and G. To make it a C major seventh chord, add another major third above the G, which is a B.

Minor Triads

From the root note, major chords are played with a major third interval, whereas minor chords feature a minor third interval. So, a C minor (Cm) triad consists of C, E flat (Eb), and G. The C minor seventh (Cm7th) chord features the same notes as the Cm triad, with an additional B on the top.

When talking about chord structure, you express the intervals in terms of the root note. From the root or the first note, a major third is three piano keys away. A minor third lowers the second note a half-step or one piano key to the left.

A minor chord triad is the root note, a minor 3rd, and a major fifth.

Minor Chords: The Ultimate Player’s Guide

Minor chords are learned in terms of the key signature and chord positioning. For learning purposes, assume that you are in the key of C minor and use the C minor scale as a reference.

As opposed to major chords, a minor chord sounds sad. Now, in composition, the mood of the music depends on the overall structure, whether or not there are minor chords in it.

A minor chord is a triad. It consists of three notes, or keys on the piano.

The root of a chord is always the name of the chord. If it is a C minor chord, C is the root. If it is a G minor chord, G is the root, etc.

How to Play Minor Chords on the Piano

When looking at the keyboard, the root of the triad is the first note your thumb plays.

In the key of C, your thumb plays the root note, which is the C note. Your middle finger or third finger plays the flat third, or minor third up from the root note of C. Flats and sharps lower and raise the notated tone by a half step.

Two sharps or flats on any given note would augment it a whole step, but this is rarely seen.

To lower the second interval of the chord by a half step, your middle finger plays the Eb, instead of the E. As is true with a C major triad, your fifth finger, or pinky still plays the major fifth above the root note, which is the G.

In any key, a minor chord is the root, followed by a minor third, finished with a perfect fifth interval. Practice switching from the C major triad to C minor, and back and forth. Listen to the difference and feel it in the muscles of your fingers. Once you feel comfortable, try it in a different key.

Minor Chords in Every Key

By changing the root of the chord, you change the chord being played. That is, in terms of standard chord positioning. Chords can be played in many positions which moves the chords root note to an alternate fingering position, however, that’s fancy stuff.

On Sharps and Flats

Every note on the piano can be express, at least, two ways. The simplest way is always the right one, but it can change depending on the key you are playing in. For example, the D# can be accurately expressed as an Eb. They are the same note.

The number of sharps and flats in a key signature determine which notes receive those accidentals. If you are in the key of Bb, any notated B in your music is played as Bb. This principle applies to any accidentals in the given key signature.

Get used to playing the minor chords of every key on the piano. No matter the key, minor chords have three notes: the root, a flat third, and a perfect fifth.

Cm – C, Eb, G

C#m – C#, E, G#

Dbm – Db, E (Fb), Ab

Dm – D, F, A

D#m (Ebm) – D# (Eb), F# (Gb), A# (Bb)

Em – E, G, B

Fm – F, Ab, C

F#m (Gbm) – F# (Gb), A (Bbb), Db

Gm – G, Bb, D

G#m (Abm) – G# (Ab), B (Cb), Eb

Am – A, C, E

A#m (Bbm) – A# (Bb), C# (Db), E# (F)

Bm – B, D, F# (Gb)

Final Thoughts

Minor chords are played with the same pattern, in any key. They are the root note, a minor third, and a major fifth. Once you are confident in how they translate into all 12 keys, practice, practice, practice. Finally, practice switching from major to minor.

Here’s the complete link for the minor scale:

b minor scale
c minor scale
d minor scale
e minor scale
f minor scale
g minor scale
pentatonic scale
chromatic scale piano

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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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