How to form a minor chord

Minor chords

How are minor chords formed? The most important characteristic of a minor chord is the minor 3rd interval from the root (starting note) to the second chord note. We can have minor triads and minor chords with a 7th.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Minor triads

A minor triad is made of the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of the minor scale. For example, the C minor triad is formed by the root, the 3rd and the 5th note of the C minor scale. So, the notes of a C minor triad are: C, Eb and G. Notice the minor 3rd interval between the root (C) and the Eb. The Eb is therefore called the minor 3rd in the key of C.

Two more examples:

  • The A minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of A are A, C and E, so the A minor triad is: A    C    E
  • The Db minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of Db are Db, Fb (enharmonic equivalent of E) and Ab, so the Db minor triad is: Db    Fb    Ab

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chords are formed by a minor triad with an extra note: the minor 7th. The minor 7th is the note that makes a minor 7th interval with the root note. The minor 7th in the key of C is Bb. So, the C minor 7th chord consists of the notes C, Eb, G and Bb.

We write the C minor 7th chord as Cm7, Cmin7 or C-7

I will take the 2 other examples from above to give you 2 more minor 7th chords:

  • The A minor 7th chord: the A minor triad (A C    E) with the added minor 7th (G) gives us the A minor 7th chord:    A    C    E    G
  • The Db minor 7th chord: add the minor 7th in the key of Db to the Db minor triad to get: Db    Fb    Ab    Cb   (Cb being the enharmonic equivalent of B)

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chords are almost never used in rock/pop/blues music, but a lot in jazz.

A minor major 7th chord is made of a minor triad with an added major 7th note. At first sight, the name is a bit confusing: is it a minor chord or a major chord? Well, it is a minor chord because of the minor 3rd (it’s built on a minor triad!). The ‘major’ in the chord name refers to the 7th because it is a major 7th note.

We write a C minor major 7th chord as C-∆7 or Cm∆7.

A minor major 7th chord is easy to find when you know the minor 7th chord: just raise the minor 7th by a semitone.

Taking the same examples as before, we get:

  • The C minor major 7th chord: C    Eb    G    B
  • The A minor major 7th chord: A    C    E    G#
  • The Db minor major 7th chord: Db    Fb    Ab    C

All the other minor chords

With the information in this lesson, you can now find out all the other minor chords. Start with all the 12 triads, and then put the minor 7th or major 7th on top to find the minor 7th and minor major 7th chords. If you don’t remember well all the minor scales, then have a look at the lesson about minor scales. For the minor chords that have a ‘black key root’: take the roots that have a minor scale with not more than 6 sharps or 6 flats (see ‘How to form a minor scale’). For the sake of completeness, I will also add the enharmonic equivalents with more than 6 sharps or flats in parentheses.

When you’re finished, check your answers with the solutions below.

Triads

Minor triad Chord notes
Cm C    Eb    G
Dm D    F    A
Em E    G    B
Fm F    Ab    C
Gm G    Bb    D
Am A    C    E
Bm B    D    F#
C#m (Dbm) C#    E    G#    (Db    Fb    Ab)
D#m / Ebm D#    F#    A#  /  Eb    Gb    Bb
F#m (Gbm) F#    A    C#    (Gb    Bbb    Db)
G#m (Abm) G#    B    D#    (Ab    Cb    Eb)
Bbm (A#m) Bb    Db    F    (A#    C#    E#)

 

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chord Chord notes
Cm7 C    Eb    G    Bb
Dm7 D    F    A    C
Em7 E    G    B    D
Fm7 F    Ab    C    Eb
Gm7 G    Bb    D    F
Am7 A    C    E    G
Bm7 B    D    F#    A
C#m7 (Dbm7) C#    E    G#    B    (Db    Fb    Ab    Cb)
D#m7 / Ebm7 D#    F#    A#    C#    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    Db
F#m7 (Gbm7) F#    A    C#    E    (Gb    Bbb    Db    Fb)
G#m7 (Abm7) G#    B    D#    F#    (Ab    Cb    Eb    Gb)
Bbm7 (A#m7) Bb    Db    F    Ab    (A#    C#    E#    G#)

 

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chord Chord notes
C-∆7 C    Eb    G    B
D-∆7 D    F    A    C#
E-∆ E    G    B    D#
F-∆7 F    Ab    C    E
G-∆7 G    Bb    D    F#
A-∆7 A    C    E    G#
B-∆7 B    D    F#    A#
C#-∆7 (Db-∆7) C#    E    G#    B#    (Db    Fb    Ab    C)
D#-∆7 / Eb-∆7 D#    F#    A#    C##    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    D
F#-∆7 (Gb-∆7) F#    A    C#    E#    (Gb    Bbb    Db    F)
G#-∆7 (Ab-∆7) G#    B    D#    F##    (Ab    Cb    Eb    G)
Bb-∆7 (A#-∆7) Bb    Db    F    A    (A#    C#    E#    G##)

 

It’s really important to practice a lot in order to be able to quickly come up with the right minor chord when you’re play a song for example. The exercises below are an excellent way to practice your minor chord knowledge.

If you don’t know what chord inversions are, then do only the exercises in root positions. Otherwise, you can follow the lesson about inversions.

Minor triads:

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Minor 7th chords:

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Mix of all chords (also major!):

If you know how major chords work, you can do also the following exercises. If not, look first at the major chords lesson.

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

I hope you learned a lot about minor chords. Please let us know what you think of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

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Martin Cohen
 

Martin Cohen is a science and piano teacher. He is also a jazz musician and composer.

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