Last Updated on May 15, 2019 by Klaus Crow
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Once I learned how to build chords of a major or minor scale, the logic of chord progressions made much more sense.
I became more efficient in analyzing and memorizing chord progressions and it was also a helpful tool for song writing and understanding how to improvise over these chords.
As a young kid I underestimated the knowledge of music theory.
It don’t matter how musically gifted you are as a person, music theory makes the life of a musician a lot easier. So benefit and enjoy!
In this post you’ll learn how to build chords of the minor scale, create your own chord progressions and analyze the chord progressions of famous songs in a minor key.
For building chords of the natural minor scale we can use the same approach as building chords of the major scale
Like the major scale we can also build 7 chords of the minor scale. In fact the minor scale is relative to the major scale. When you play the major scale starting on the 6th degree and play seven notes ascending (going up) in the scale you are actually playing a minor scale.
C Major scale = C D E F G A B (C D E F G A B C)
It’s relative (natural) minor scale = A B C D E F G
So C Major is relative to A minor.
G major scale = G A B C D E F# (G A B C D E F# G)
It’s relative (natural) minor scale = E F# G A B C D
So G major is relative to E minor.
Now let’s take the A minor scale for example.
A minor scale = A B C D E F G
To build the first chord of the minor scale we stack 2 thirds on top of each other. So if you start at “A” you take the 1st note (A) then stack a third (C) and stack another third (E)
So now you have A C E
A C E = A minor chord
Then we build a chord of the second degree of the minor scale “B”
Again from the B chord we stack 2 thirds on top of each other.
So from “B” take the 1st, 3rd and 5th note = B D F
B D F = Bdim chord
Build a chord from the 3rd degree of the minor scale “C”
Stacking thirds: C E G
C E G = C major chord
Chord from 4th degree is “D”, stacking thirds: D F A = D minor
Chord from 5th degree is “E”, stacking thirds: E G B = E minor
Chord from 6th degree is “F”, stacking thirds: F A C = F major
Chord from 7th degree is “G”, stacking thirds: G B D = G major
So we got:
A minor, B diminished, C major, D minor, E minor, F major and G major.
All these chords can be used to create an A minor chord progression.
Now we can derive a formula from this pattern of chords.
Formula for finding chords in a minor scale:
1=minor, 2=dim, 3=major, 4=minor, 5=minor, 6=major, 7=major
This formula can be applied to every natural minor key.
For example if you take the E minor scale: E F# G A B C D
Apply formula and you get these chords:
E minor, F# diminished, G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major
So if you wanna write a song with an Em chord progression you can use all these chords randomly and they will all sound perfectly well together.
BUILDING CHORD PROGRESSIONS:
In music we use roman numerals to indicate the order of chords in a chord progression.
So let’s take the chords built of the E minor scale for example:
i = E minor, ii = F# dim, III = G major, iv = A minor, v = B minor, VI = C major and VII = D major.
Now we can write down chord progressions with help of the roman numerals. Here are some of the most common chord progression in a minor key in pop, folk, rock and blues music:
Progression: i – iv – i
In the key of E that is = Em Am Em
In the key of A that is = Am Dm Am
Song examples: I shot the Sheriff – Bob Marley
Progression: i – v
In the key of E that is = Em Bm
In the key of A that is = Am Em
Song examples: Losing my religion – REM
Progression: i – iv – v – i
In the key of E that is = Em Am Bm Em
In the key of A that is = Am Dm Em Am
Song examples: So familiar, but can’t come up with a tune right now.
Progression: VI – VII – i – i
In the key of E that is = C D Em Em
In the key of A that is = F G Am Am
Song examples: Chorus of “Don’t cry” – Guns n Roses
Progression: i – VII – VI – VII
In the key of E that is = Em D C D
In the key of A that is = Am G F G
Song examples: All along the watch tower – Bob Dylan
Progression: i – VII – VI – V7
In the key of E that is = Em D C B7
In the key of A that is = Am G F E7
Song examples: Hit the road jack – Ray Charles, Happy together – Turtles, Stray cat strut – Stray Cats
“The jazz chord substitutions in a country song… that was another thing that bent people’s ears. I guess that my favorites are the unique ones. It’s not how fast you play. It’s that unique blending of different stuff I’m most proud of. ~ Brian Setzer
Do you know any songs with one of these progressions? Please share in the comments. Thanks!