One-Octave Minor Triad

What is a Minor Triad?

After the major triad, the minor triad is the next most common chord you’ll encounter in music. It is one of the four basic triads, or three-note chords, found in music.

The minor triad is constructed with a root note and the intervals of a minor third and perfect fifth. (See intervals.)

If you look at the minor triad as a pair of stacked thirds, you’d have a minor third interval from the root to the third and a major third interval from the 3rd to the 5th.

The Minor Triad vs. the Major Triad

The minor triad differs from the major triad by one note – the third. The minor triad has a flatted, or lowered, third. The three notes of a minor triad are then described as: root, flat 3rd and 5th.

Again, flat third means it is one note lower than the third of a major triad not that it is spelled with a flat note name. The flat third could be spelled with any possible note in the musical alphabet. For instance, an A major triad is spelled A C# E. If you flat the third you get A C E – an A minor triad. The C is a flat third in comparison to the C#.

The flatted third of the minor triad gives this minor chord its darker, sadder sound.

Minor Triad Fingering

The easiest and first fingering you should learn for the minor triad starts with your first finger on the low root note. Using a one-finger-per-fret position play the flat 3rd with your 4th finger on the same string. Be sure to reach all the way to the fret with your 4th finger to avoid fret buzz. (See the fretting lesson.) Play the fifth and high root note with your third finger.

Hey, Those Roots and Fifths Look Familiar!

If you’ve studied my lesson on the root and fifth pattern you might now understand why that pattern is so useful and universal. It’s useful because, whether a chord is a major triad or a minor triad, the root and fifth are the same. That covers music’s two most common chords (not to mention many, many others that also have the same root and fifth pattern).

12 Minor Triads

Just as with the major triad, there are twelve minor triads, too. You can build a minor triad on each of the 12 notes we use in music.

If you wanted to play a G minor triad you’d play the pattern starting on the note G. It would contain the notes G, Bb and D. Starting on an E root note gives you an E minor triad. It would be spelled E, G and B.

You can shift this pattern all over the fretboard to start on any note giving you all 12 minor triads.

Minor Triad Notation

The chord symbol for a major triad was just its root note like E for an E major triad or D for a D major triad. All other chords have a suffix attached to the root note to describe what type, or quality, of chord it is.

The most common chord symbol for a minor triad is the root note followed by a lower case ‘m’. An A minor triad is notated Am. A C# minor triad would be notated C#m.

An alternate chord symbol meaning the same thing is the root followed by a dash (-). For instance, A- or C#-. This can be hard to read in low light situations and I encourage you to not write it like this.

Other common minor chord symbols are a root followed by “mi” or “min”. Both of these are common and easy to read since they unmistakably mean minor.

You will run into all of these variations that mean the same thing – a plain old minor triad. Choose the suffix you like best when writing your own chord charts. Always strive to make them clear and legible.

Applying the Minor Triad

In some songs you’ll encounter only minor chords. But, most times you’ll encounter a combination of major and minor chords throughout the course of a song.

Just as with the other chords found in this section, you can construct very supportive basslines by outlining and emphasizing the notes of the chord. The chord tones are always the main notes to emphasize.

Though this “rule” can be and often is broken, in the early stages of crafting basslines you will want to emphasize the chord’s root on beat one of the bar. You won’t ever go wrong doing that. From there you can mix up the other notes of the chord however you like.

Minor Triad Examples

In the minor triad exercises I’ve applied the pattern in a number of different styles. This simple chord occurs in every style of music. You need to be very comfortable with it no matter what you intend on playing.

Minor Triad Details
Chord Symbol Notation: Cm, C-, Cmi, Cmin
C minor triad spelling: C, Eb, G
Intervallic construction: Root, m3, P5
Thirds construction: m3, M3