4 Easy Lessons to Play Minor Family Chords

If you’ve ever wanted to add a little bit of flair to your guitar playing, minor family chords are a great way to do it. These chords add a slightly different sound to your playing, and can really help to spice up a song.

How to Play Minor Family Chords on the Guitar

Introduction to Minor Family Chords

Minor chords, as previously said, are simply made by taking the first, flatted third, and fifth notes of a major scale: 1-♭3-5. A minor scale is made up of a flatted 3rd, 6th, and 7th note of a major scale: 1, 2, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭6, ♭7. This is why minor chords are sometimes referred to as “sad” sounding chords.

Let’s start building our minor family chords with these minor changes.

  • Minor Scale Interval: W – H – W – W – H – W – W
  • Minor Scale Quality: i, ii°, III, iv, V, VI, VII
  • Fret Notes: A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab
Keyiii°IIIivvVIVII
A minorAmCDmEmFG
A#/Bb minorBbmDbEbmFmGbAb
B minorBmC#°DEmF#mGA
C minorCmEbFmGmAbBb
C#/Db minorC#mD#°EF#mG#mAB
D minorDmFGmAmBbC
D#/Eb minorEbmGbAbmBbmBC#
E minorEmF#°GAmBmCD
F minorFmAbBbmCmDbEb
F#/Gb minorF#mG#°ABmC#mDE
G minorGmBbCmDmEbF
G#/Ab minorG#mA#°BC#mD#mEF#

Now that you know how to form minor family chords, let’s look at some of the most popular Minor chord progressions used in guitar playing. These progressions will sound familiar because they are used in many popular songs across multiple genres.

Popular Minor Chord Progressions

A minor chord progression is simply a series of minor family chords played one after the other. 

One of the most popular minor chord progressions is the i-VI-III-VII progression. This progression is found in countless songs in virtually every genre of music. 

i-VI-III-VII progression:

  • Key of Am: Am F C G
  • Key of Bm: Bm G D A
  • Key of C#m: C#m A E B
  • Key of Em: Em C G D
  • Key of F#m: F#m D A E

As you can see, this progression uses the root, sixth, third, and seventh chords of each key. This progression is so popular because it sounds good in virtually any context.

i-iv-v progression:

  • Key of Am: Am Dm Em
  • Key of Bm: Bm Em F#m
  • Key of C#m: C#m F#m G#m
  • Key of Em: Em Am Bm
  • Key of F#m: F#m Bm C#m

This is another very popular Minor chord progression. It uses the root, fourth, and fifth chords of each key. As you can see, the chords in this progression are all minor.

i-VII-VI progression:

  • Key of Am: Am G F
  • Key of Bm: Bm A G
  • Key of C#m: C#m B A
  • Key of Em: Em D C
  • Key of F#m: F#m E D

This progression uses the root, seventh, and sixth chords of each key. The seventh and sixth chords are both Major chords, which provide a little of contrast to the Minor chord in the progression. The three-chord progression, as you’ve seen, allows you to play in minor family chords early on.

VI-VII-i progression:

  • Key of Am: F G Am
  • Key of Bm: G A Bm
  • Key of C#m: A B C#m
  • Key of Em: C D Em
  • Key of F#m: D E F#m

This progression is similar to the i-VII-VI progression, but it starts on the sixth chord. This can provide a little bit of variety to your Minor chord progressions.

Feel free to look at other progressions you may get from the chart. As a beginner guitar player, you might want to listen or perform progressions utilizing simple guitar chords. Experiment with different Minor chord progressions until you find one you like.

Minor Key Easy Guitar Songs

To better appreciate how a minor key song sounds, playing these simple guitar songs in a minor key is a good way to do it.

  1. Hurt by Johnny Cash | Am

He wrote some of the most heartbreaking songs ever. His music reflected on themes such as sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption. As he grew older in his career it became more prevalent for him to sing about these things reflecting what went wrong with him and other people as well.

“Hurt” is a great example of one of his more simple compositions. The lyrics are written in first person as an apology to someone he has wronged. The minor key gives the song an ominous feeling, which allows the listener to feel the sorrow and regret that Cash is singing about.

  1. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin | Am

Many regard this as one of the greatest and most iconic rock songs of all time. “Stairway to Heaven” was written by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for their band Led Zeppelin. The lyrics speak directly towards how we can find ourselves climbing higher than expected when life gets tough.

The song starts in an acoustic style and eventually builds into a huge electric guitar solo by Page which is widely considered to be one of the best rock guitar solos of all time.

The minor key gives the song a feeling of melancholy which helps to emphasize the lyrics about taking the journey through life together.

  1. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 | Capo 2, Am

“Moves like Jagger” is a disco and electro pop song with synths as its backbone, which also includes electronic drums. The lyrics refer to how this male can impress his love interest by doing what he does best – showing off some moves on the dancefloor just like Mick Jagger did back in 1972!

The Minor key gives the song a more funky feel which allows it to stand out from other disco songs of the time.

  1. Sing by Ed Sheeran | G#m

Sure, you can’t go wrong with Ed Sheeran’s folk rock sound. But if there is one thing we know about him it’s that he isn’t afraid to switch things up! “Sing” is a song written alongside Pharrell Williams and produced solely by the latter. The song’s about a “night out in Vegas.” The track has pop influences similar to those found in Timberlake’s music while still maintaining some R&B elements.

The Minor key gives the song a more sensual feeling which is perfect for a night out in Vegas!

As you can see, Minor family chords are used in a wide variety of songs across multiple genres. Now that you know how to form them and some popular progressions to use, try incorporating them into your own playing. Play around with different keys and progressions until you discover something you enjoy.

You may be surprised at how easy it is to write a great sounding Minor chord progression. Thanks for reading!

Minor Scales: Using a Variety of Sounds

When you’re playing Minor family chords on the guitar, it’s important to understand the different flavors of Minor available. There are three main types of Minor scales: Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic.

Natural Minor

The natural minor scale is one of the most commonly used minor scales in music. It is often the first minor scale that guitarists learn, and it forms the basis for many popular songs in a variety of genres. The natural minor scale has a dark and sad sound to it. It can be used to create a moody atmosphere in a song which makes it a popular choice for ballads and other slow-paced songs.

Harmonic Minor

The harmonic minor scale is similar to the natural minor scale, but with one important difference – the seventh degree of the scale is raised by a half step. This gives the harmonic minor scale a slightly brighter sound than the natural minor scale, and it is often used in faster-paced songs with a more upbeat sound.

Melodic Minor

The melodic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale, except that the sixth and seventh degrees of the scale are raised by a half step when ascending (going up in pitch). This gives the melodic minor scale a brighter and more hopeful sound than the natural minor scale, making it a popular choice for songs with uplifting and a more positive mood.

To conclude, Natural Minor chords are the most common type of minor chord, and are typically what people think of when they think of Minor chords. Harmonic Minor chords are a bit more rare, but can add a nice sound to your playing. Melodic Minor chords are the least common, but can really help to add some flavor to your guitar playing.

Spice Up Your Songs

The Natural Minor is the “true” minor sound, and has a relatively somber feeling. The Harmonic Minor gives your music a slightly spooky sounding edge, while the Melodic Minor sounds more hopeful.

The variety of sounds from minor chords creates MORE THAN just a sad song. Minor family chords are a great way to add interest and spice up your guitar playing. Minor chords can give your songs a fresh sound that will keep listeners engaged.

With just a few simple changes, you can give your music listeners something new to listen to and appreciate. So, experiment with minor family chords in your own music. Be creative and have fun with it!

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