Chords in the Minor Scale

If you are curious about how to use the chords from the major scale in the context of a song, feel free to skip to the next chapter. You can come back to read about chords from the minor scale later.

We can make chords on the minor scale in the same way that we made chords using the major scale. The one-chord contains the first, third and fifth note of the minor scale, and this creates a minor chord. Moving the “one, three, five” pattern up gives us the second, fourth and sixth notes of a minor scale, and this creates a diminished chord. In this way, you can create a chord starting on each note of a minor scale. If you have experimented with this using the major scale, the minor scale won’t be difficult. The results, from the one-chord to the seven-chord look like this: minor, diminished, major, minor, minor, major, major.

However, if you read chapter 9, you know that there are different kinds of minor scales. These other kinds of minor scales are quite common, and songs will use chords from these other scales as well. Sometimes, a song will seem to be using the chords from the minor scale (often called the “natural” minor scale), but then you’ll hear a chord from the melodic minor scale later in the song. This is common enough that it is useful to think of the minor scale as a combination of all three types of minor scales: the natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. Doing so is easier than it looks. Let’s look at the A minor scale as an example. First, the regular minor scale:

Then, the melodic minor scale:

Now, if we combine the two scales we get this:

Let’s call this the “A Everything Minor” scale. Using the number system, it might be tempting to label this scale with numbers one through nine, but it’s important not to think of it that way. In this scale, there are two sixes and two sevens. This scale has a minor sixth (the F) and a major sixth (the F#, since F# is the sixth note of A major). It also has a minor seventh (G) and a major seventh (G#). So when making chords, you have two options for the sixth and seventh notes of the scale.

For example, the four-chord uses the fourth, sixth, and first note of the scale. In A minor, this would be D, F, and A. This creates a D minor chord, which will occur often in songs in the key of A minor. But, remembering that you have two options for the sixth note of the scale, instead of F you can use F#, creating a D major chord. Some songs in A minor use a D major chord. The five-chord could also be a major or a minor chord. I’ll let you explore the other possibilities for yourself if you want to. Again, learning this in all the minor keys would be beneficial.