Along with major chords, minor chords are the first type of chords one learns as a piano or keyboard student. They are among the most basic and easiest of chords to play on the piano. When learning to play piano, start with major then move to minor triads or chords.
This type of chord is called a triad due to the fact that it has only these three notes: a root, a minor third and a perfect fifth. For example, the chord A minor consists of the root note, A, a minor third, C, and a perfect fifth, E. The minor third is 3 half steps above the root note, while the perfect fifth is 7 half steps above the root note, or 4 half steps above the minor third.
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To build a minor chord using semitones, start with the root note of the chord or the note which gives the chord its name. Then go three semitones higher than the root to get your second note. To get the third note in the chord, add the note that is 7 semitones higher than the root note. The formula is R + 3HS + 4 HS (root plus 3 half steps + 4 half steps).
Minor chords are represented by the symbols “m”, “min” and “-“. For example, Bm, Bmin and B- all mean the same, although, B- is less common than the other two.
A minor triad can also be described as a minor third interval with a major third interval on top. For instance, for the chord A minor (Am), the interval from A to C is a minor third interval, while the interval from C to E is a major third interval.
If you already know how to play a major chord, it’s very easy to play the minor. All you have to do is move that middle note, one semitone lower. For instance to make C major a minor chord, instead of playing C – E – G, play the note that is one semitone lower than E. Play the black key immediately to the left of E, the note, Eb (E flat). This results in the chord, C minor.
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Minor chords in all 12 keys (Chords and notes that make up that chord starting with the root, followed by minor third, then perfect fifth)
- C minor: C – Eb – G
- C sharp minor: C# – E – G#
- D flat minor: Db – Fb (E) – Ab
- D minor: D – F – A
- D sharp minor: D# – F# – A#
- E flat minor: Eb – Gb – Bb
- E minor: E – G – B
- F minor: F – Ab – C
- F sharp minor: F# – A – C#
- G flat minor: Gb – Bbb (A) – Db
- G minor: G – Bb – D
- G sharp minor: G# – B – D#
- A flat minor: Ab – Cb (B) – Eb
- A minor: A – C – E
- A sharp minor: A# – C# – E#
- B flat minor: Bb – Db – F
- B minor: B – D – F#
Some of the notes/chords have different names but on piano you play the same keys. These are known as enharmonics. For instance, C# is the enharmonic equivalent of Db, F# is the enharmonic equivalent of Gb, Eb is the enharmonic equivalent of D#, and so on.
Minor chords are said to create a sad mood when used in a song, while major chords give you that happy feeling.
Root Position and Inversions
Until now, we have only looked at this chord in root position. In root position, you start with the root note, then play the minor third, then the perfect fifth. For example, E minor in root position is E – G – B (1 – 3 – 5). Let’s now look at two inversions of minor chords.
For the first inversion of the chord, the notes are held in the order (3 – 5 – 1). For example, for the E min chord, the first note would now be G, then B, followed by E. In other words, play the note, E one octave higher. This gives you G – B – E.
For the second inversion of the chord, the notes are held in the order 5 – 1 – 3. Using the same E min example, the notes are B – E – G.
There are patterns that can help you recognize all 12 minor chords.
Three of these chords follow the pattern white key, black key, white key, They are C min, F min and G min.
The second three chords are made up of white keys only. They are D min, E min and A min.
The third set of chords follow the pattern, black key, white key, black key. These are Db minor, Ab minor and Gb minor.
The fourth set of chords are odd. Eb minor is made up of black keys only. Bb minor is made up of the pattern black key, black key, white key. While B minor is made up of the pattern white key, white key, black key.
Hope you enjoyed this lesson.