Minor chord progressions are progressions that are built off a minor scale. Contrary to popular belief, minor progressions are more than just sad. Minor keys can be used to express emotions ranging from angst and mischief to longing and sorrow. On a larger scale, songs written in the minor mode allow society to express its shadow.
That could be why minor keys make appearances in every genre. Pop, blues, country, classic rock, indie, and alternative just to name a few.
The A Minor Guitar Chords
In a minor key, the diatonic chords are the chords that naturally occur within that specific key. The chords are built using the notes from the minor scale associated with the key. Here are the diatonic chords in a natural minor key:
In the key of A minor (A B C D E F G), the diatonic chords are:
i. Am (A C E) – the tonic chord
ii. Bdim (B D F) – the supertonic chord
III. C (C E G) – the mediant chord
iv. Dm (D F A) – the subdominant chord
v. Em (E G B) – the dominant chord
VI. F (F A C) – the submediant chord
VII. G (G B D) – the subtonic chord
Each chord has a Roman numeral associated with it, and the lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii°) are used to denote the minor chords in a minor key. The chord built on the first degree of the minor scale (i) is usually the tonic chord, and the chords built on the fifth (v) and seventh (vii°) degrees are commonly used to create tension and lead back to the tonic chord (i). The diatonic chords in a minor key provide the harmonic foundation for compositions and improvisations in that key.
Note: Using a major V chord in a minor key is a common harmonic device that composers use. The same can be said for the VII being exchanged for the viio. This derives from the harmonic minor scale.
Common Minor Chord Progressions
These essential musical sequences serve as the backbone of countless songs across various genres, guiding melodies and evoking powerful feelings within listeners. Let’s learn some common minor chord progressions.
i iv V
This progression is widely used in various genres of music, ranging from pop and rock to blues and folk. The i-IV-V progression in the key of A minor would be Am – Dm – Em. A famous tune that uses this song is “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
i VI III VII
The i-VI-III-VII progression in the key of A minor would be Am – F – C – G. This progression is widely used in various musical genres, including rock, pop, and alternative music. It has a melancholic and introspective quality, evoking a sense of contemplation and emotion.
The song “Mad World” by Tears For Fears uses this progression in the key of E minor.
i VII VI V
The i-VII-VI-V progression, also known as the “minor plagal cadence” or the “Andalusian cadence,” is a distinct chord sequence commonly found in flamenco music, as well as in various other music styles.
The i-VII-VI-V progression in the key of A minor would be Am – G – F – E. One famous song that uses the i-VII-VI-V progression is “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis.
iim7b5 V7 i
The iim7b5 – V7 – i progression, also known as the “minor ii-V-i,” is a fundamental chord sequence commonly used in jazz improvisation and songwriting, and it serves as an excellent starting point for musicians looking to explore and understand the harmonic language of jazz and other related genres.
The iim7b5 – V7 – i progression in the key of A minor would be Bm7b5 – E7 – Am.
A popular jazz standard that features the iim7b5 – V7 – i progression is “Autumn Leaves” in the key of E minor.
In minor keys, the i-IV-V-vi progression can evoke a different emotional quality compared to its major key counterpart. It often conveys a sense of melancholy and introspection, and it is frequently used in ballads and emotionally expressive songs.
The i-IV-V-vi progression in the key of A minor would be Am – Dm – E – F.
In “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” the i-IV-V-vi progression is played in F# minor, and the chords are F#m – B – C# – D#m throughout the majority of the song.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common minor chord progression?
In a minor key, one of the most common chord progressions is the “i – iv – V – i” progression.
Additionally, other chord progressions, such as “i – VI – VII – i” or “i – III – VI – VII – i,” are also commonly used in minor keys, but the “i – iv – V – i” is considered one of the most recognizable and prevalent.
How do you write a chord progression in a minor key?
Writing a chord progression in a minor key involves selecting chords that belong to the minor scale of the chosen key. Here are the steps to write a chord progression in a minor key:
- Determine your key
- Identify the chords in the key
- Choose which chords you will use
- Play with how they sound
What is the best chord progression ever written?
The answer is relative. I cannot answer it for you. The “best” chord progression is subjective and depends on personal preferences and the emotional impact a particular progression has on each individual.
Related: Circle Of Fifths Chord Progressions
What is the easiest minor scale?
The easiest minor scale is the natural minor. The best way to learn these scales is to actually listen to how they sound.
Minor chord progressions offer a vast array of emotions and creative possibilities, contrary to the common perception of being solely “sad.” Minor keys play a vital role across all genres of music, from pop and blues to rock, indie, and alternative.
Throughout this article, we’ve uncovered various common minor chord progressions, each with its distinctive character and impact. Whether writing jazz, rock, or pop music, the power of minor chord progressions will continue to captivate listeners and inspire creativity for generations to come.
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